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Essays on Geoscience at Two-Year Colleges

Participants in several workshops have contributed essays touching on various challenges and opportunities of teaching at two-year colleges.


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The AGU, its Fall Meeting, and a niche for two-year colleges part of SAGE 2YC:Workforce, Transfer, and Careers:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Pranoti Asher, American Geophysical Union
The American Geophysical Union is a not-for-profit society of Earth and space scientists with more than 61,000 members in 148 countries. Established in 1919 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., AGU advances the Earth and space sciences through its scholarly publications, meetings, and outreach programs.

Preparing STEM Educators part of Integrate:Workshops:Geoscience and the 21st Century Workforce:Essays
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College The Noyce Scholarship Program George Mason University (GMU) NSF Program Award Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Research Subaward NOVA Annandale has ...

Training the Future Geoscience Workforce at the 2YC part of Integrate:Workshops:Geoscience and the 21st Century Workforce:Essays
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College The US Geological Survey (USGS) headquartered in Reston, VA, approached Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in September, 2011 with a proposal to partner in ...

Zooming Out A Dean's Perspective on Geoscience Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
David Douglass, Pasadena City College
Seven years ago I transitioned to a new role as Dean of the Natural Sciences Division after 20 years of teaching in a fourperson Geology department. About 3 years into this new gig I read the paper "How Geoscientists Think and Learn"(Kastens et. al, EOS Trans. AGU, 90(31), 265) which caused me to reflect on why I was actually enjoying what I do and was having some success at it. Qualities of geoscientists such as having a broad perspective of time, understanding and appreciating the workings of complex dynamic systems, a sense of space, the adaptability and flexibility that comes from field work, and the sense of being part of a community of practice all have served me well in this new role. Currently I have the privilege of working with about 50 full-time faculty, 75 adjunct faculty, 10 classified personnel and over 6,000 students each term in a variety of disciplines from Biotechnology and Kinesiology to Geology and Physics.

Geoscience Projects That Bring the Community into the Classroom part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Michael Phillips, Illinois Valley Community College
I began my professional career working full-time as an environmental geologist outside of academia. I began teaching evening classes at a community college because I wanted to show students that geology was not just as an interesting look into how the earth operates but how the study of the earth directly impacts their lives. To that end, I have used my consulting experiences to shape my assignments, my instruction, and my community outreach.

Accepting the Challenge part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
JoAnn Thissen, Nassau Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Jun14 13) Because our department does not offer any type of program in the geosciences it's up to each faculty member to ...

Engagement Is My Key to Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Christine Bradford, Lone Star College System, The
Like many two-year colleges, my students form a diverse population. I have students from just out of high school to those nearer to retirement. Approximately a third of my students are the first generation in their family to attend college. A slim majority of my students are white, many are Latinos, a few are of Asian or African descent. The majority of my students work at least part-time; however, some work full-time. Many are parents. As a result, their educational experience is often quite challenging to them; and therefore, I must give them the greatest possible opportunity to learn in the classroom and to have a diverse approach to teaching each class.

How can we broaden participation in the geosciences? part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College
Broadening participation in the geosciences is both an issue of equity and practicality. Current job projections indicate that more than 90% of all STEM jobs will require at least some college within the next decade (Carnevale et al., 2010). By 2050, the current underrepresented population (Hispanic, African-American, Asian and mix of 2 or more races) will comprise nearly half of the population (Day, 1996), as a result, the current majority White population will no longer be the dominant contributors to the job market. If Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs currently held by the majority are not replaced and filled by individuals in the growing minority groups, the nation faces a possible crisis. In addition, those who obtain a college degree are more likely to be flexible as the job market shifts and changes with technological advances (Carnevale et al., 2010). Supporting students in the general education science classes to be successful becomes a critical step toward obtaining a college degree, particularly those who move into STEM fields.

Supporting Geoscience Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Anita Ho, Flathead Valley Community College
While I look forward to the workshop and learning about additional strategies and resources for effectively teaching the range of students I see, here are a few approaches I use to support student success.

Is Workforce Training The Critical Link To Get Students Engaged? part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Peter Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College
Teaching geology at a moderately-sized community college in southeast Virginia has taught me that most students coming into my classes 1) are there because they need to satisfy their lab-science/general education requirements, 2) perceive geology to be either "easier" or "more interesting" than physics, chemistry, or biology, and 3) really have no clue what geology is about. As the ever-optimistic instructor, I've forged ahead with my classes expecting that enthusiasm, dynamic and interactive lectures and labs, and attempting to use details to construct "the big-picture" would lead to the new generation of geoscientists. Increasingly, I've learned that my students want to see connections to "the real world" and that they have little to no concept of what geoscientists "do". As I've started incorporating more real-world examples into my classes, I have heard more and more to the effect of "yeah it's interesting, but what am I going to do with geology?". Apparently a meaningful barrier still exists for my students studying the geosciences in more detail, and it seems that stronger connections to the workforce could help elucidate what geologists actually "do", providing my students with more relevant examples of geology and that critical link to what they could do after leaving my class.

Tracking the Pathways of Students During Their Transition to the Early Career Workforce part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Carolyn Wilson, American Geological Institute
The Workforce Program at the American Geosciences Institute has developed the National Geoscience Student Exit Survey in order to determine the relevant experiences in undergraduate and graduate school, as well as the immediate career plans of students finishing their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees in the geosciences. Specifically, the survey addresses the students' education background, decision points for obtaining a geoscience degree, their geoscience co-curricular experiences, and their future plans for either entering graduate school or entering the workforce immediately after graduation. This work will begin to highlight the sets of experiences and expertise that the typical student graduating with a geoscience degree gained, as well as the industries that are effective at recruiting and the industries where students want to gain employment. Over time there may be some regional differences in these areas, along with differences based on the students' areas of focus for their degree. AGI's National Geoscience Student Exit Survey has been through a two-year piloting phase, and it was recently made available to any undergraduate or graduate department in the United States for spring 2013 graduates.

Building Success Skills into an Oceanography Curriculum part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Lynsey LeMay, Thomas Nelson Community College
Student success and developing those necessary skills in students extends beyond the geosciences and while I use geoscience topics, I work to address and develop cross-curricular success skills throughout assignments all semester. This is true in all classes that I teach, but I will describe how this has been built into the introduction to oceanography classes at Thomas Nelson Community College.

Promoting Student Success using Universal Design to Decrease Barriers in Higher Education part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Wendi Williams, Northwest Arkansas Community College
I began teaching as a graduate student, and have since continued to grow in my understanding of content as well as educational design and delivery as faculty contributing to both 2-year and 4-year public institutions. Through the years I have become increasingly aware of the many kinds of diversity in my students: learning preferences, amount of college preparation, first generation college-bound, ages represented by concurrent enrollment as high school students through retirees, persons with disabilities, English language learners, and military active duty and/or veteran status. Early in my association with UA-Little Rock, Earth Science faculty joined a pilot program with the Disability Resource Center. "Project PACE" was funded by the U.S. Dept. of Ed and UALR to teach faculty to use Universal Design techniques in order to reduce barriers for the majority of students while increasing access to higher education. NCES (2013) indicates that students with some college courses or who achieve degrees become members of the workforce at higher rates. If redesigning our courses lower barriers, then our 2YC population benefits even more in the long term.

Activities That Support Student Success in Traditional and Online Introductory Geoscience Courses at Wake Tech part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Gretchen Miller, Wake Technical Community College
I teach two introductory geoscience courses at Wake Tech, GEL 120: Physical Geology and GEL 230: Environmental Geology. I teach both courses in traditional, seated environments as well as online. All of our introductory geoscience courses (including the online sections) require both lecture and laboratory sessions and are 4 credit hour courses.

A New Geoscience Program in Energy and Sustainability Management part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Kim Frashure, Bunker Hill Community College
In 2012, I co-designed and launched a new certificate program in Energy and Sustainability Management (ESM) at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC). BHCC's mission statement highlights sustainability and, the goal of the ESM certificate program is to enhance marketability of graduates for jobs in the emerging fields of "green" facilities operation and renewable energy services. BHCC is a large, urban campus located in Boston, Massachusetts, with a current enrollment of 13,504 students (1). We are among the most diverse institutions in New England with 830 international students from 94 countries speaking 75 different languages (1). Opportunities exist at BHCC to recruit and develop a largely under-explored, new pool of diverse geoscientists. However, urban community college (CC) students who are interested in a geoscience career often possess challenges such as academic deficiencies in mathematics & English, and a lack of awareness about academic and career pathways, mentorships and resources. The ESM program was designed to include the following to ensure the success of our diverse student population: innovative curriculum and skills in energy and sustainability, an industry-based advisory board, a freshmen science seminar, and accelerated and contextualized learning in English.

Steps towards Creating an Engaging Earth Science Curriculum part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Eriks Puris, Portland Community College
When I teach I strive to "put the phenomena first" and to "put observations before explanations" I do this not because I want to, but because I have found it to work. Initially in my teaching I stressed the understanding and appreciation of the basic physical and chemical processes which underlie the workings of the Earth, unfortunately this approach did not get me far with community college students. Eventually by trial and error I found it important to describe what I was explaining before explaining it. In retrospect this is less than surprising, but at the time it was an important realization to me! I have found students to be more likely to 'bite' and engage in learning if I begin with specific examples which are accessible and relevant to the students.

More than the Classroom at Trinidad State Junior College in Southern Colorado part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Debra Krumm, Trinidad State Junior College
Debra Krumm, Trinidad State Junior College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Jun13 13) Addition of new faculty plus the receipt of U.S. Department of Education STEM grants has allowed for the expansion of ...

Local Rock Outcrop Project in Physical Geology & Historical Geology part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Susan Conrad, Dutchess Community College
One way I get Physical Geology & Historical Geology students in my mid-Hudson Valley community college to apply new concepts is by giving them the option of studying a local rock outcrop for their final project. The process is really a mini-independent study as students apply what they learn in class about minerals, rocks, maps, geologic processes, and plate tectonics to "their" outcrop. I visit many of the students at their outcrops. Students can also share their own videos and photos of their site visits with me. The geology of most of the outcrops has not been recently described or interpreted in the geologic literature, or even in local hiking guidebooks, in any meaningful way, so students really must make their own observations and interpret them in order to unravel the geologic history of their outcrop.

Crafting an In-house Lab Manual for Community College Geology Students part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Rebecca Kavage Adams, Frederick Community College
I am creating an in-house lab manual for historical geology at Frederick Community College (FCC). The manual needs to be tailored to non-geology and non-science majors, be affordable, and capitalize on the samples and equipment available at FCC. At this point we are still using a published lab manual that costs $125 and is a poor fit for our students and available supplies.

Back to basics using scientific reasoning part of SAGE 2YC:Supporting Student Success:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Mariela Salas de la Cruz, Quinsigamond Community College
Any teaching techniques I have tried so far all revolve around the same goal: teaching my students the process of science, from the scientific method to using communication skills to explain their findings. Many of my students come to my course with a fear of science; most of them truly believe that they are not good in sciences. So, in this short essay I will explain two of my most influential activities that so far, have changed the dynamic of my courses. Instead of pushing the science, I prefer to explain the discovery process before I tackle any geoscience topic. Two activities are used: (1) What is it? (2) Describe and Sketch.