Undergraduate research, university outreach, career training, and near-peer mentoring at Salt Lake Community College
Wednesday 12:50 PT / 1:50 MT / 2:50 CT / 3:50 ET Online
Oral Session Part of Oral Session IV: Improving Programs and Broadening Participation in Geoscience Education
Christopher Johnson, Salt Lake Community College
Recruiting diverse students from community colleges is an underutilized way to increase diversity and participation in four-year geoscience programs. Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) partnered with local four-year institutions to increase completion, diversity, and transfer rates of geology majors at SLCC. The NSF-funded project supported geology majors in authentic undergraduate research at the community college campus with projects on environmental sampling and GIS mapping. In addition, students received mentoring from a near-peer recent graduate, community college and university faculty, and engaged in activities to build their geoscientist identity such as university outreach (departmental tours, lab tours, and technical talks), university faculty advisory board meetings, professional association luncheons, and career talks with professional geologists. The 30 participants were 57% female and 30% from underrepresented groups. Pre- (n=29) and post-surveys (n=25) show that 88% of students were more motivated to finish their degree and transfer after participating. Students identified the most motivating activities to be career talks with professional geologists (88%); original research projects (85%); university tours and outreach, and professional society meetings (81%); equipment and diversity training (85%); and faculty advisory board meetings (81%). 83% of participants have transferred or plan transfer, which exceeds the geology major average of 67%. 77% of underrepresented participants have or plan to transfer by fall 2021. Due to low sample sizes and students still finishing their degrees, it is unclear if the project increased completion rates and diversity in the overall program. However, the high transfer rates of participants suggest that authentic undergraduate research at community colleges, university outreach, and connections to professional geologists can increase transfers and diversity of geology students at four-year institutions.