Supporting Minority Students at University of Arizona
SAGUARO (Southern Arizona Geosciences Union for Academics, Research and Outreach) University of Arizona
The University of Arizona (UA) is located in downtown Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona and is situated about 100 km from the U.S.-Mexico border. Tucson has 500,000 people; the greater metro area has about 1,000,000. The population of Tucson is about 40% Hispanic or Latino, and this group is growing. For instance, in the Tucson Unified School District, Hispanics/Latinos make up about 60% of all students.
The UA was founded in 1885 and was the first university in the Arizona territory (that's right, ASU). In the fall of 2013, the UA undergraduate enrollment was 31, 670 students. Approximately 39% of these students were from a minority (undifferentiated). The UA currently offers degrees in 334 fields of study.
The Department of Geosciences offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. For undergrads, Geosciences has three tracks: Geology, Geophysics, and Earth Systems Science. There is also a minor in Geology. For grads, the department offers the M.S. and Ph.D. The department is ranked #1 in Geology, #7 in Earth Sciences, and #10 in Geochemistry in the most recent U.S. News and World Report national survey of graduate programs.
Keys to Success
- SAGUARO initiated several avenues of community outreach for K-12 audiences.
- SAGUARO provided research experiences, field trips, and teaching experiences for undergraduates.
- SAGUARO created a peer support group, facilitated weekly meetings which included leadership development and professionalism, and provided professional geoscience mentors to students.
Attracting New Students
Our outreach improves the perception of the geosciences among local K-12 students. We provide career information, stories about interesting research opportunities, and examples of how earth science is relevant and useful. We give exciting hands-on demonstrations in front of large audiences. We discuss technical scientific concepts (e.g., the volatilization of volcanic gases) in a way that non-science audiences will understand. We facilitate visits to and tours of our university campus for students. We work with Native American groups to give high school students the chance to conduct water quality testing on their reservations. We give away free stuff (e.g., passes to Biosphere 2 and our mineral museum) to encourage K-12 students and their families to visit these facilities and learn about science on their own.
Supporting Our Majors
Our department has a very highly regarded undergraduate advisor that meets with undergraduates each semester and by appointment. We have an undergraduate student geology club that interacts closely with faculty and graduate students. The club hosts weekly meetings with free food and guest speakers/researchers. We also sponsor a number of social events, including receptions at the beginning and end of each academic year. We also initiated a career counseling event where undergraduates can meet with local geoscience professionals to learn more about the field.
Preparing Students for Careers
The students are prepared for careers in industry, environmental science, and teaching. Many go on to graduate programs around the country. All aspects of the program work together to achieve these ends.