Employing effective strategies to improve undergraduate education in Environmental Sciences through curriculum revision at a Hispanic Serving Institution

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Session


Lixin Jin, University of Texas at El Paso
Vanessa L Lougheed, University of Texas at El Paso
Elizabeth Walsh, University of Texas at El Paso
Diane Doser, University of Texas at El Paso
Lina Hamdan, University of Texas at El Paso
Maryam Zarei, University of Texas at El Paso
Guadalupe Corral, University of Texas at El Paso
The TIERA (Training in Environmental Research and Academic Success) program was created to increase recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Environmental Science majors at the University of Texas at El Paso. To improve student experiences and better prepare them for future STEM careers, effective educational strategies are utilized through revision of our four-year curriculum.

Incoming freshmen are now required to co-enroll in Introductory Environmental Science (lecture and lab), and UNIV1301, to form a TIERA-learning community. The large size of the introductory classes makes individual interactions challenging, thus limiting our ability to identify potential recruits, and engage students in Environmental Sciences who might otherwise not enter the program. By integrating these freshman classes, we hope to increase recruitment and retention of majors. This learning community also helps students who are transferred from El Paso Community Colleges to adjust. Problem-based learning and research experiences are implemented in the sophomore year, focusing on training in project design, field methods, data collection and quality assurance. In addition, each student is required to register for research courses for two semesters in their sophomore year. Under the supervision of a faculty mentor, each student is immediately immersed into ongoing research.

A Professional Development course is offered at the junior level to improve students' soft skills and prepare them for summer internships. The focus is placed on research skills and ethics, improvement of communication skills through service-learning and community outreach activities, development of leadership, responsibility, and teamwork skills, and exposing students to different career opportunities and help them with job applications and interviews. A capstone course, "Senior Project", is offered in the senior year where students develop and complete a project, supervised by an interdisciplinary team of UTEP faculty and professionals. Senior students are closely mentored, and they also mentor sophomore protégés, forming a stratified mentoring team.