Initial Publication Date: April 13, 2015

Feature Your Introductory Classes

Written by Carol Ormand, based on ideas compiled from the 2005 workshop on Developing Pathways to Strong Departments of the Future and the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors.

Very few students come to college planning to major or minor in geoscience, so introductory courses are primary vehicles for recruitment. Make the most of that opportunity by implementing the strategies described below.

Engage Students in DOING Science

Resources from Starting Point: Teaching Entry-Level Geoscience

Palomar College

Al Trujillo describes his department's emphasis on field work in this essay and this poster, (Acrobat (PDF) 475kB Feb22 05) both developed for the 2005 workshop on Developing Pathways to Strong Departments for the Future.

Integrate Examples of Career Opportunities

Among the many methods you can use to inform your students about career opportunities is to make information about geoscience careers an integral part of your course content. For example, each time you introduce a new course topic, you can spend a few minutes describing career opportunities in this subdiscipline. Similarly, each time you introduce a new course topic, you can describe a person who specializes in that subdiscipline.

Our pages on Professional Preparation

include information on geoscience employment and links to several collections of profiles of geoscientists.

Address Socially Relevant Issues

Geoscience is uniquely poised to understand and help solve the grand challenges facing humanity today (Barron, 2007):

  • Increasingly scarce natural resources paired with increasing consumption
  • Climate change
  • The degradation of environmental systems
  • Earth hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunami, hurricanes, etc.)
What better way to capture students' imaginations than by making explicit the relevance of geoscience to these grand challenges?

Utilize Your Best Faculty

Let's face the facts: most of the students in your introductory classes aren't planning to major in geoscience. If you want to persuade them to change their minds, you'll want to have your best teachers teach the introductory classes.

Develop Topical Courses

The essential concepts and skills for a geoscience major can be taught within the context of topical courses. Examples abound.

Offer Entry-Level Courses that Satisfy Institutional Requirements

Familiarize yourself with your institution's graduation requirements. Are there introductory courses you could offer that would satisfy those requirements?

Florida International University

FIU requires every undergraduate student to take a life science course with a lab. Their Geology department teaches a "History of Life" course that satisfies this requirement, and this course has significantly increased their enrollments. Read about it in Brad Clement's 2005 AGU presentation. (PowerPoint 4.5MB Jan6 06)