Jobs in Geosciences Speaker Series
Karen M. Layou and Peter J. Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College, Hampton, VA
Program description and goals
The Jobs in Geosciences Lecture Series at Thomas Nelson Community College was organized as a way to expose our student population to employed, non-academic geologists. Over the course of two academic semesters, four guest speakers were brought to campus to give a short presentation on their general career path and to describe a day-in-the-life at their current job. Students were also invited to an informal question and answer session with the speakers held before/after the presentation, during which pizza was served, to facilitate personal interactions with the speaker. Speakers included a mud-logger for a natural gas drilling company, a state geologist, and two environmental consultants.
A small institutional grant was awarded by the Thomas Nelson Educational Foundation to support this effort. Funds were primarily used to provide an honorarium to guest speakers (to defer travel expenses), and also to purchase pizza, drinks, and supplies for the events.
Challenges and strategies
The first challenge we faced was finding speakers who were available to come to campus. We relied on colleagues from graduate school and also cold-called some local businesses. Planning challenges included determining the time and location of the events—we held one event over the lunch hour at our branch campus, and the other three in the evening at our main campus. We verbally announced the events in all geology classes, and advertised the speakers on Blackboard, campus flyers, and the campus announcement list-serve to welcome both current geology students as well as the broader campus community. To encourage attendance, some geology instructors offered extra credit to students who would sign in/out of the speaker's presentations and turn in a brief written summary of the presentation at the next class meeting. Presentations were video-recorded and made available for students who could not attend the session to view independently.
Surveys were conducted in all geology courses prior to student attendance at the speaker events and exit surveys were administered to all students who attended speaker events to assess the success of the program. Students who participated in the speaker series showed a significant increase in awareness of salaries for those with a B.S. in geology and an increase in perceived prestige of geology among the sciences. Informally, students commented that they enjoyed the opportunity to better understand what geologists really do. We hope to continue the program in future semesters.