Characteristics and motivations of majors in a geosciences program with a large proportion of transfer students

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


Joel Moore, Towson University
Ronald Hermann, Towson University
Rommel Miranda, Towson University
Kyle Hurley, Towson University
The US demand for STEM graduates is high, and job growth for geoscience graduates is projected to be ~50% higher than overall job growth. Through the NSF-funded grant entitled TU GEO Careers (Towson University Geoscience Educational Opportunities for Careers), the Geosciences faculty at Towson University (TU), a large comprehensive institution, are seeking to help meet the demand for geoscience graduates while conducting research on motivators for students to become geoscience majors and on the effectiveness of recruiting and retention techniques.

The TU Geosciences program has four tenure-line faculty and two full-time lecturers and offers 2 degrees: Geology and Earth-Space Science (for secondary education). It also strongly supports the Environmental Science and Studies program, particularly the Geology track of that major. TU Geosciences is part of a multi-disciplinary department along with Physics, Astronomy, and Science Education. Two-thirds of current majors and of recent Geology graduates transferred to TU, mostly from two-year colleges (2YCs) in Maryland. One major emphasis of TU GEO Careers is to broaden and improve transfer pathways through development of articulation agreements and building connections with 2YC faculty. Initial efforts to build these connections have been successful with one of the co-authors joining a newly formed advisory board at a 2YC for Undergraduate STEM Research.

Initial results from survey data indicate that personal interest, cost of attendance, and media/books were the most important motivating factors for becoming a geosciences major at TU. Continuing majors identified course content, interaction with other students, and faculty support and advising as important to continuing their degree progress while the most commonly identified stumbling block was course availability. Ongoing work includes exploration, where possible, of similarities and differences between 'native' students and transfer students. We also are collecting qualitative data on student motivation and retention via interviews with current and recently graduated students.