Alumni Narratives on Computational Geology
(Spring 1997 - Fall 2013)

Thursday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Victor Ricchezza, Georgia State University
Len Vacher, University of South Florida
"A Course in Geological-Mathematical Problem Solving" (Vacher, JGE v.48 i.4 p.478-481, 2000), describes a course (GLY 4866: Computational Geology) which has been evolving at USF for nearly 20 years. In this study ten USF Geology alumni from multiple career paths who took GLY 4866 between 1997 to 2013 underwent semi-structured interviews recounting their memories of the course, discussing the benefits to them of the course in their careers, and outlining their views of what students should gain from this course for professional success.

Narratives from successful alumni were sought to gain greater detail on the likely impact of GLY 4866 than surveys are likely to give. The responses of selected, successful alumni were also sought to help refine questions that are to be used later in surveys of a larger population of alumni. The information that interview subjects provided about the educational needs for successful entry-level geology professionals will be shaped into a series of suggestions for course and program improvement.

The interview results illuminate trends that can be usefully grouped by job/career category. Regulators (3) had the shortest overall interview time, remembered the least in terms of specific events from the course, and had limited (but consistent) suggestions for student learning. Consultants (3) were the median group in length, and showed overlap in the content of their interviews to regulators, with additional details added. Academics (4) had the longest interview times, the most detailed memories from the course, and the most suggestions, possibly due to their using similar methods as course instructors.

Course and program improvement suggestions and questions for a proposed survey have been assembled both to improve the GLY 4866 offering at USF for broader dissemination and to contribute to broader discussion of strategies for improving the quantitative skills and learning of geoscientists.