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Supporting Minority Students in Geoscience at UNM

Part of the Supporting Minority Students in the Geosciences Collection.

Information for this profile comes from the University of New Mexico Earth and Planetary Sciences website and an interview with Gary Weissmann on December 9th, 2013. You can get additional information about the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department on the UNM website.

Jump down to Context | Keys to Success | Attracting New Students | Supporting Our Majors | Preparing Students for Careers

University of New Mexico


The University of New Mexico is a Hispanic Serving Institution with 38% of it's 29,000 student body being Hispanic. It also serves relatively large population of Native American students (5.5% of the student body) and a high percentage of first generation and 2-year college transfer students. One factor that contributes to the high percentage of minority students is that the state of New Mexico provides scholarships for students to attend college through revenue from lottery ticket sales. This helps to increase the diversity of students attending the school which benefits over 5,000 students per year across the state.

Keys to Success

Attracting New Students

The department recruits students into its majors by enticing students from the 100-level courses to continuing to take more geology and environmental science courses. Environmental Science 101 has been the fastest growing course on campus for the past several years. Every semester the course reaches about 5% of the student body (around 1,500 students). Recruiting from this large pool has proven to be successful in building a large group of majors in the department. Faculty identify and meet with students individually who are top performers in these classes also seeking students who seem interested in the material. Since so many of the department's majors come from this introductory class, faculty take 1-2 class periods to talk specifically about careers students can have upon graduation.

Supporting Our Majors

Faculty in the department support majors in several ways. First, faculty advisers meet individually with students to help them outline a course program that fits their interest in Environmental Science or Geology. Faculty spend time discussing the major with students, and encourage them to get involved in undergraduate research or internships outside UNM.

The department feels that providing research experience for undergraduate students is a very powerful way to enhance a student's education. To that end, there are several programs that help support students in getting this research experience.

The department provides undergraduate research opportunities for students. Faculty choose students not based on grades (which may only reflect what the university culture expects of the students), but based on which students show the most potential in classes, display innovation in their thinking and who are the most excited about the content. Some faculty members attempt to select students who represent minority groups such as women and minority students. These one-on-one advising and mentoring relationships support students in developing their research skills and in preparing for further study in graduate school.

There are also several campus-based support programs for undergraduates in the sciences, some of which promote and support undergraduate research experiences:

Preparing Students for New Careers


Most students are preparing for continuing their education through graduate work. Students who get jobs directly upon graduation tend to find jobs with local consulting agencies or national laboratories (like Sandia or Los Alamos National Laboratories). Native American graduates find jobs within tribal governments.

To help students understand the types of skills and courses that will benefit them in their chosen career paths, the department provides panels of alumni to come in and discuss what skills they use and what courses provided those skills. The panels are offered as brown bag lunches three times a semester. Alumni from local industries discuss what kinds of skills are needed for careers in that industry, how to be successful in the career, and provide resume assistance. The current graduate students at UNM have also organized sessions where they discuss how to get into graduate school with current undergraduate students. Students tend to listen to their peers, so these sessions are typically quite useful for current students.

Courses that prepare students for these careers

Since the typical 'working degree' needed in Environmental Sciences and Geology is the master's degree, students are gradually prepared and encouraged to go on to graduate school throughout their undergraduate education. This is accomplished through:

Other career training provided includes:

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