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BP Executive and COSAM alumna to give keynote at SWSM Symposium

Published: 04/13/2015

As the executive vice president of Response and Environmental Restoration for BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, Laura Folse, geology ’80, leads the operations, scientific, and technological programs within the multi-billion dollar cleanup and restoration effort BP initiated in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident. Her team’s strategic priorities include progressing completion of the response to the accident, in collaboration with key stakeholders, and providing scientific and technical support in four key areas: the Deepwater Horizon accident response, environmental restoration, economic recovery, and building public trust in the Gulf Coast’s natural resources. Her leadership style was profiled in D. Michael Abrashoff’s book Get Your Ship Together, and she was featured in Lori Silverman’s book Wake Me up When the Data is Over. Additionally, news journalist Auberi Edler developed a French television documentary about her business and personal life titled, Something Has Really Gotta Give. Folse is active with the Auburn University Department of Geosciences’ Advisory Board, and on May 7, she will come to campus as the 2015 Marie W. Wooten Distinguished Speaker at the Society for Women in Sciences and Mathematics Symposium luncheon. 

What is it about your leadership style that is so unique, it draws folks to write about and document you, and what lessons do you hope the public received from the books and/or documentary?

I have been surprised and honored by the interest some authors and journalists have had in my personal leadership style. I certainly do not claim to have mastery of this subject. However, I am happy to share with others what I am continuing to learn about the importance of not trying to be something you are not, and to embrace that just as there are many different ways to be a good student, so too are there many ways to be a good manager and leader. For me, it is about being clear on expectations, providing team members with the tools they need to do their jobs, and being willing to have honest and kind conversations with them when they make mistakes.....and to do the same for myself.

Of what in your career, thus far, are you most proud?

I am most gratified by the fact I have continued to learn and develop new skills throughout my career. Graduating from college was not the end of studying and learning - it was just the beginning. I am also quite proud to know that I may have, in some small way, helped others along their paths of personal and career growth.

What are your hobbies?

For relaxation, I dabble with painting (acrylics and pastels) and I am embarking on a new hobby of small-scale metalworking, thanks to a marvelous gift from my son this past Christmas. And, of course, I love following and watching any sporting event featuring my beloved Auburn Tigers.

Is there a particular area of COSAM that holds significant interest for you? If so, what is it and why?

The Department of Geosciences, of course! All four siblings in my family attended Auburn for our bachelor's degrees. Three of us - my two older brothers and me - have degrees in Geology and our younger sister received her degree in Sociology. I think that for many people, their only encounter with geology is the basic class they took as a science elective. Unfortunately, this may not always give them a true appreciation for the importance of geology. As the scientific study of the origin, history, and processes of the earth, geology is of critical importance to human progress, because almost everything we do or create is in some way related to the earth.

Why did you agree to be the keynote speaker for the Society for Women in Sciences and Mathematics Symposium Luncheon, and what, if anything, are you most looking forward to?

I was honored to be invited to be the keynote speaker at the Society for Women in Science and Mathematics Symposium and delighted to accept. I am looking forward to the opportunity to travel to Auburn and meet young women with an interest in a wide range of technical fields. I also look forward to sharing with them what I am continuing to learn about the importance of science and mathematics in all aspects of career and life. Most importantly, I want to reinforce what they hopefully already know - that science and math are definitely for girls!

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