Building Strong Departments > About this Project > Community Visioning

Community Visioning of this Project

Dinner conversations at the 2009 workshop on Strengthening Your Geoscience Program. Photo by Carol Ormand.
Since 2004, several activities have contributed to our vision for the Building Strong Geosciences Departments project.

Advisory Board Meetings

In November 2005 and again in November 2007 the advisory board for this project met to review progress to date and to plan the next steps.

Lawford Anderson, University of Southern California
Scott Bair, The Ohio State University
Tim Bralower, The Pennsylvania State University
Judy Curry, Georgia Institute of Technology
Peggy Delaney, University of California at Santa Cruz
Diane Doser, University of Texas at El Paso
Carolyn Eyles, McMaster University
John Geissman, University of New Mexico
Karen Havholm, University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Kip Hodges, Arizona State University
Mary Hubbard, Utah State University
Bob Mackay, Clark College
Pam Matson, Stanford University
Russell McDuff, University of Washington
Dallas Rhodes, Georgia Southern University
Mary Savina, Carleton College
Ed Stolper, California Institute of Technology
Gene Takle, Iowa State University
Barb Tewksbury, Hamilton College
Mike Williams, University of Massachusetts
Michael Wysession, Washington University in St. Louis

Geoff Feiss, College of William and Mary
Heather Macdonald, College of William and Mary
Cathy Manduca, Carleton College
Randy Richardson, University of Arizona

Download 2005 Meeting Report (Microsoft Word 37kB Jan19 06)
The 2005 Advisory Board meeting agenda had four parts:
  1. A review of activities and discussions to date. This will allow us to reflect on the interests, issues and recommendations that have come forward from the sessions at GSA and AGU, the February workshop, and elsewhere.
  2. Development of an action plan. Our primary goal for this meeting is to develop a plan for a suite of activities that will strengthen geoscience departments as we look to the future. Part of our job will be to determine what activities are of such importance in meeting departmental and geoscience community needs that we should move them forward.
  3. Creation of a needs statement. If we are to gain the support of the geoscience community, of geoscience departments, and of funders, we need a clear statement as to why the activities we propose are of critical importance to the geoscience community as a whole and to individual departments. We would like to leave the meeting with this statement completed.
  4. Planning of next steps needed to move forward with the action plan.
Beth Ambos Cal State Long Beach
Scott Bair - The Ohio State University
Tim Bralower - Penn State University
Judy Curry - Georgia Institute of Technology
Peggy Delaney - University of California at Santa Cruz
Diane Doser - University of Texas at El Paso
Carolyn Eyles - McMaster University
John Geissman - University of New Mexico
Bob Mackay - Clark College
Pam Matson - Stanford University
Mary Savina - Carleton College
Ed Stolper - California Institute of Technology
Gene Takle - Iowa State University
Barb Tewksbury - Hamilton College

Geoff Feiss - College of William and Mary
Heather Macdonald - College of William and Mary
Cathy Manduca - Carleton College
Randy Richardson - University of Arizona

2005 GSA Town Meeting

Attended by more than 50 people, the goal of this session was to report on the results of the Feb 2005 workshop and obtain feedback on the 1) topics of high interest to departments, 2) ideas for department profiles, 3) potential next steps.
Notes on Building Strong Geoscience Departments Town Meeting
10/17/05, 5:45-6:45 pm
GSA Annual Meeting, SLC

Convened by: Geoff Feiss, Cathy Manduca, Heather Macdonald, and Randy Richardson as part of the Building Strong Geoscience Departments project (NSF 0331930)

Between 60 and 75 persons attended for all or part of the meeting. Cathy Manduca used a PowerPoint presentation to organize the session. The meeting was organized generally as follows:

  1. First, an open forum in which participants were asked if they saw anything missing from the topics highlighted or if they wanted to emphasize certain aspects. There was general agreement that the key factors had been identified, but there were rich discussion of several matters (see 1 below).
  2. Then they were shown a draft example of a departmental information page on the website and asked for feedback (see 2 below).
  3. Finally, the question was asked: if there were no fiscal constraints, what would be the most helpful things the community could do to support geoscience departments (see 3 below).

There seemed, generally, to be a high level of interest in working to strengthen geoscience departments, even if there was no consensus (nor any effort to reach one) as to how one might proceed to do this. A sense of the meeting follows:

  1. Open Forum - Issues/concerns/emphases raised (in no particular order):
    • How do departments deal with related geoscience disciplines like Environmental Science or Earth System Science? Can we talk about successes and failures?
      • How does one manage shifting collaborations, for example is such areas as global change?
      • What are the curricular implications to new alignments of interests, new research methods and expectations?
      • How do you retain your professional "identity" when merger occurs or, when merger doe occur, how does one create a unified department instead of warring clans?
      • What happens to the roles and rewards of faculty with split loyalties among departments, curricula, centers, and institutes?
      • How do you preserve a sense of common missions, identity, and membership in a collective effort when faculty are pulled in multiple and varying directions?
      • What happens to the curricular core and what is required of all students when they are pulled in multiple directions and come from highly disparate academic backgrounds?
      • How does one expand the net for potential graduate students to unconventional geoscience programs?
    • Accreditation issues:
      1. How do departments handle content and accreditation issues relative to K-12 preservice programs and linking with schools of education
      2. What are the lessons of the various practices in disciplinary accreditations, e.g. ACS and ASBOG? Is this something we should aspire to?
      3. How do we benefit from professional registration?
    • Strategies for making departments functional:
      1. How does one do team-building? What are the structural and social factors that predict success? How to work with difficult faculty?
      2. If a department is not an effective one, how do you keep new faculty from being sucked into the vortex of dysfunction?
      3. Should the geosciences consider sponsoring sessions or workshops for new chairs in the geosciences?
      4. Are there contextual strategies for big vs. small, public vs. private, etc. that require consideration?
    • How should we help with the battle to get Earth Science/Geoscience into the K-12 curriculum as a way to recruit more students to our programs?
    • What is the role of assessment in building strong programs?
    • How do we work better with outside supporters - alumni, corporations, etc.?
  2. Feedback on departmental information template:
    • Keep it simple
    • Clarify categories; use simple terms with expanded explanations
    • Add mentoring of new faculty
    • Would like some information on history of change, new initiatives
    • Add mentoring of new faculty, strategies for forging partnerships, development/fundraising
    • Would like some information on history of change, new initiatives
    • We are really interested in strategies: how do we move from low to high enrollments, how to move from no mentoring to mentoring. Organize by categories of change, best practices.
    • Advantages of narrative approach is that it can create a document rich in comparative data for persuading senior administrators of some best practices
    • We should overlay a "spreadsheet" on narratives that pulls out the best practices
  3. If there were no financial constraints, what would be most helpful things we could do as a community?
    • A departmental workshop on building functionality (You know your department is dysfunctional if:)
    • Topical workshops (e.g, geoscience curriculum)
    • Regional events, perhaps PKAL-like team-based workshops with lots of facilitators
    • Connect and collaborate with CUR for publicity and faculty development
    • Provide Distinguished Facilitator Program comparable to Distinguished Speaker Program which could facilitate retreats/planning sessions, do reviews, and offer training sessions; provide departmental review teams
    • Help us understand how others are reorganizing their curricula
    • Creation of a document for deans/provosts on importance of geoscience
    • Help with change management; willingness to evolve
    • CPR link for departments on life-support
Joel S. Aquino: University of Tennessee - Knoxville
Pranoti Asher: Georgia Southern University
Tanya Atwater: University of California - Santa Barbara
Scott Bair: Ohio State University
Greg Baker: University of Tennessee
Karen Bartels: Northeastern Illinois University
Robert Bowman: New Mexico Tech
Toby Dogwiler: Winona State University
Paul Doss: University of Southern Indiana
Anne Egger: Stanford University
Carol Ekstrom: Rhodes College
Carolyn Eyles: McMaster University
Martin Farley: University of North Carolina - Pembroke
Duncon Foley: Pacific Lutheran University
Lydia Fox: University of the Pacific
David Jon Furbish: Vanderbilt University
Yongli Gao: East Tennessee State University
Laurel Goodell: Princeton University
Terry Hahm: Capital University
Jon Harbor: Purdue University
Karen Havholm: University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire
Mary Hubbard: Kansas State University
Brad Hubeny: University of Rhode Island
Tom Kelty: California State University - Long Beach
Mel Limson: California State University - Los Angeles
Scott Linneman: Western Washington University
Ian MacGregor: National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Dave Matty: Central Michigan University
Dave Mayo: California State University - Los Angeles
John McDaris: Carleton College
Rose McKenney: Pacific Lutheran University
Beth McMillan: University of Arkansas - Little Rock
Dean McManus: University of Washington
Carl Mendelson: Beloit College
Nathan Miller: University of Texas - Dallas
Penny Morton: University of Minnesota - Duluth
Aleshia Mueller: Carleton College
Kyle Nichols: Skidmore College
Gene Pearson: University of the Pacific
Bill Prothero: University of California - Santa Barbara
Dallas Rhodes: Georgia Southern University
Shirley Ruhl: W. Perry District
Jill Singer: State University of New York - Buffalo State
George Stone: Milwaukee Area Technical College
Bryan Tapp: University of Tulsa
Sue Vajoczki: McMaster University
Lori Bettison-Varga: Wooster University
Bob Varga: Wooster University
John Wagner: Clemson University
Peter W. Whaley: Murray State University
Jill Whitman: Pacific Lutheran University
Jeff Wilcox: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Wendi J.W. Williams: University Arkansas - Little Rock

Geoff Feiss - The College of William and Mary
Heather Macdonald - The College of William and Mary
Cathy Manduca - Carleton College
Randy Richardson - University of Arizona


To begin to discover what the largest opportunities and threats are for geoscience departments and how they are responding, in 2004 Richardson and Beck conducted a survey of departments at research-intensive institutions in North America. Their survey asked Department Heads to comment on several areas of current interest.

This team also conducted a more extensive survey of a broad range of departments in the fall of 2005 with the aim of eliciting more detailed information about the issues facing geoscience departments.

Letter to Department Chairs

Workshop participants sent a letter in June, 2005 to all heads and chairs of geoscience departments to convey the importance of collective action and sharing. The letter included the list of characteristics of thriving departments developed at the workshop. Evaluation Report

A summary of the workshop activities, survey of departments, and case study: Departments Summary Report (Microsoft Word 75kB Oct31 08)

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