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Developing a strong Geology Program at the University of Puerto Rico

Hernan Santos, Department of Geology, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez

The University of Puerto Rico offers a Master and a Bachelors degree in Geology at the Mayagüez Campus. The Geology Department is composed of 14 professors with 13 of those professors teaching and one in the administration of the Seismic Network. We have 151 undergraduate students of which one is a foreign student (Haiti). The other 150 students are Hispanic (99.3%) with 96 females (61%) and 59 males (39%). We also have 24 graduate students that are 12 male and 12 female. That group is divided into 2 Caucasian, 1 African American, 1 Mexican and 20 Hispanic students (83.3%).

We start talking with the undergraduate students the week before classes start in their first year. That week we talk about our department, work opportunities in the Earth Sciences and the importance of keeping a good GPA among other topics. The Dean of student's office also give talks about resources available that will help them trough their university life. The Student Geological Society (SGS) is invited to give a presentation where they talk about their experience in the department and participation in field trips and in summer programs. We end the activity with a BBQ sponsored by the SGS and the department.

Research is important in our department. The students at UPR-Geology are required to take 4 credits in research (that is two- 2 credit classes) at the senior level. Students need to choose a professor (out if 14) to be their advisor in a field that the student will like to to work. Professors get 1 credit for every student doing research under his/her supervision up to 3 credits. This results in experience in the preparation of proposals, doing research, report writing and oral presentation. In many occasions our alumni has express how important this class was for their preparation into graduate school or to joint the workforce. Some of our students has been able to present the result of their research in national meetings and their participation is always subjected to funding coming trough grants of the professor that they work with or funding to the department. Many students present the result of their funding locally in ACS student meetings.

For retention, our department organized at least one departmental field trip a semester where we try to go camping and share the experience of geology in the field with cooking and talking to the students outside of the classroom. We also organize a file trip outside Puerto Rico per year. Students are inform at the beginning of the academic year of the destination of the FT that usually occurs during spring break in that way students can safe money several month in advance. Some funding comes form donations or fund raising. Every course have field trips that are organize for that class in specific.

The department is also very aggressive in telling the students of summer program opportunities that are available and ask the student to apply. Many of our students have participated in summer internships like RESES, SOARS and many others in different universities. We can see a big difference in the student approach to science and life after their participation in these programs. BIG IMPROVEMENT.

We also are aggressive in talking with them about opportunities for graduate school helping to student in their search and doing recommendations. Many of our graduates continue into graduate programs in different universities; for example in the past some of our student attended: University of Kansas, Michigan Tech, Penn State University, University of South Florida, University of South Carolina, University of Colorado, University of Oklahoma, Northwestern University and others.

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