Geosciences at Valdosta State University
by Paul Vincent
Strengths & Weaknesses
There are several strengths of the Environmental Geosciences Program at Valdosta State University. I feel that the one aspect is the diversity in our department. This is reflected in the different departmental programs and the diversity of faculty. The program is housed within the Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences. This offers us the opportunity to regularly interact with variety of professors with expertise in fields very different than our own. Faculty within the geosciences program are very diverse in both their cultural backgrounds as well as their academic pursuits. This diversity provides many different viewpoints and serves to strengthen the experiences of our students.
The other strength of our program is the undergraduate research experience that our students have to complete during their senior year. Each student is expected to complete an entire individual project from a proposal to the final written document and poster presentation at an appropriate venue.
On the down-side, out biggest weakness is that we are short two tenure track faculty members. This leads to a series of difficulties within the program. The first is that the current faculty are over-extended. As such, we have to devote a majority of our time to fulfilling our teaching obligations. This leads to individual faculty members operating in isolation and isolation leads to limited communication. The end result is that we are reactive, as opposed to proactive, to issues that may arise.
Departmental Planning Process
Our department head takes the responsibility for the majority of operational planning. He ensures that academics are on track and an adequate budget is in place to meet the needs of the department. Beyond the operational aspects of planning there is a university-wide strategic initiative system. This allows each unit of the University to submit proposals that, if implemented, further the mission of the University. Our department has a committee that collects ideas from the other faculty. These are submitted to the Department Head who then submits the initiatives to the Strategic Planning Database.
Most Recent Departmental Review
During the academic year 2003-2004, the Environmental Geosciences Program underwent a seven-year periodic review by the Board of Regents. Below is the Department Head summary of that review.
The Environmental Geosciences Program at Valdosta State University is strong and viable. Our program is a credit to Valdosta State University and to the University System of Georgia. Furthermore, the future and continued success and vitality of the program is now assured. The University system of Georgia has recently made a very important commitment to the Environmental Geoscience Program with a nearly $5 million dollar renovation project for the building that houses the geoscience program. The renovation will provide state of the art facilities with numerous smart classrooms, smart laboratories, and research facilities for faculty and students. The newly renovated space will attract and accommodate many new students to the major, and the excellent research facilities, such as the GIS Center, will expand the opportunities for faculty consulting and undergraduate research.
Furthermore, one of the Department's Strategic Planning Initiatives was funded for FY04, providing the program with a high-end GPS unit, associated software, and supporting instrumentation needed to upgrade our capabilities to industry standard.
The program has always had excellent faculty members dedicated to quality teaching and research, but has been limited in its efforts to expand by the inadequacy of available laboratory and classroom space. As we move into the renovated facilities, we can envision a second degree program in Geographic Information Sciences, and a Master's Program in Environmental Geography within the next ten years.