Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences at Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah
Thursday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Christopher Johnson, Salt Lake Community College
Nationally there is a growing need for more geology majors especially from underrepresented groups. Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) is the only two-year college in the most populous part of Utah and is the largest institution in Utah serving underrepresented groups. In addition, most two-year colleges have low retention and transfer rates. To increase the number of geology majors, improve their diversity, and increase their retention and transfer rates, an early undergraduate research program is being integrated into the academic-year geology curriculum at SLCC. This research program is field-based, discovery-based, and is trending toward being a course-based undergraduate research experiences. For this research program, geology majors enrolled in the required majors-level classes were encouraged to enroll in the optional field studies class. Incentives include extra credit, an agreement that the final project will count for the final project in both classes, and a slideshow of past field trips. Students attend six lab sessions and four all-day field trips where they learn how to operate field sampling and mapping equipment – a hand-held x-ray fluorescence analyzer, water quality meters, flow meters, and smartphone GPS/GIS apps such as ArcGIS Collector. After the field trips, students use their new skills to conduct a research project where they identify their own environmental problem, develop a hypotheses, and design and implement a field sampling program. Students map, analyze, and interpret results; present a poster at the end of class for a grade; and present an improved poster at the annual campus science symposium. Anecdotally this appears to motivate students, is challenging for students and faculty, and appears to increase diversity retention and transfer. This program should be expanded to replace some existing lab activities in the majors classes and should be expanded into a formal NSF-funded study.