Supporting Minority Students at Mesa Community College
Mesa Community College
Mesa Community College serves over 40,000 students a year, 21% of whom are Hispanic. We have two different geoscience pathways for students to pursue, geology (in the physical science department) and geography (in the cultural science department). Both programs serve over 600 students a year, only a handful of whom self-identify as majors. There are no geoscience degrees, so tracking the number of majors is difficult, however there is a geology club that has an active membership ranging from 10-30 members in any given year.
Keys to Success
- Recruitment in local feeder high schools is ongoing. We also work with counselors to gain awareness of our programs.
- The geology club provides support for those students who want to stay engaged in a community as they work on their coursework prior to transferring. We offer 1-credit courses that keep students engaged in "fun" content as they work through prerequisites in other disciplines. In addition, undergraduate research opportunities exist in classes and as service projects.
- Guest speakers are invited onto campus every year. We have had former alumni and members of the Association for Environmental and Engineering geologists (AEG) come speak to our students.
Attracting New Students
Most students discover geology in the introductory courses. The challenge is to get the word out about the geology classes. Every spring, faculty from different departments go to several different recruiting events at local feeder high schools to raise awareness of geoscience degrees. Helping students to be aware that geoscience is a possible pathway is the first step toward recruitment.
Supporting Our Majors
One of the greatest challenges for students at MCC to be successful in their transfer, is to have the appropriate pre-requisites prior to transferring. In order to support their sometimes extended process through these pre-requisites, we try to keep them socially and intellectually engaged in the geosciences. These efforts revolve around several different components:
1) Geology Club: Meets monthly, includes field trips to different locations around the southwest, and attend gem & mineral shows as well as provide service like outreach to local schools.
2) "Fun" Classes: The geology department offers a series of field courses and special topics courses that encourage students to learn new geology content as they are working through their prerequisites. Geograpy also offers field trips to locations for their students.
3) Undergraduate research: Geography and Geology faculty both offer undergraduate research opportunities for their students both embedded within the content and as extra opportunities for students. For example, Geography Faculty, Dr. Niccole Cerveny recently finished an NSF-funded grant that brought students up to the Petrified Forest National Park to assess the risk of petroglyphs to weathering and erosion. This partnership continues to develop after the funding and has created partnerships with Native American communities as well as with the Park Service.
Preparing Students for Careers
Most students are preparing to continue in the academic path of a four-year degree. We encourage all of our geoscience students to complete all chemistry, physics and math pre-requisites prior to transfer to assure their full success upon their arrival at the four-year institution. Those who do so, are highly successful.
To help them determine what they want to do with their degree, we have invited speakers onto campus to speak about what geologists do, and the path it took for them to get to their current career choice. These speakers have included former alumni (met through a serendipitous conversation at an AGU conference) and speakers from AEG (Association for Environmental and Engineering Geologists).
At the individual faculty level, we maintain contact with former students who have transferred to four-year institutions to provide ongoing advice and encouragement.