A Multiphase Approach to Overwhelmed Students

Monday 3:30pm Northrop Hall: 340


Kyle Fredrick, Pennsylvania Western University - California
Daniel Harris, Pennsylvania Western University - California
Billie Arnold, Pennsylvania Western University - California
California University of Pennsylvania has an active geology program boasting successful graduates that have become consistently positive representatives of the University and region. Despite these successes, statewide enrollment declines, reductions in state appropriations, and financial challenges attributed to legacy campus projects have resulted in softened admission standards. The effect has been a noticeable reduction in fundamental skills in math, reading, and writing for incoming students. Most students come from lower-middle class families in neighboring counties.
As a mechanism to increase enrollment in our program while maintaining high programmatic curricular standards and produce qualified geology graduates, we have endeavored to emphasize (1) foundational skills, (2) the end goals of the student, and (3) a broader worldview. Unconventional coursework, electives that appeal to students of all grade levels, and a focus on professional development are the main tools to expand learning and develop a sense of community and mentorship. Weaving non-traditional readings, scaffolded presentations, and lab and field skills into the curriculum increases confidence and verbal skills. Mid-level electives target students from sophomores to seniors, and are taught using strategies to establish in-class and extracurricular mentoring. A professional development course introduces the students to career paths and expectations, forces them to begin resume development early in their education, and requires practice interviewing and networking.
Though the approach was new for 2016-17, the professional development course is in its second year of implementation. Already there are tangible changes in our community of majors. Communication between new and existing students has improved, inquiries for internships, scholarships, and extracurricular opportunities have increased, and students are more accepting of academic challenges. Recent graduates have offered positive reviews of the changes from past years. Further implementation involves longitudinal tracking of students through each course and the program as a whole.