Initial Publication Date: August 31, 2020

Engaging Stakeholders

Engaging Stakeholders was a critical component of the entire E-STEM program. It served a number of purposes:

  • Expand student awareness of traditional and nontraditional geoscience career options and the skills and content knowledge beneficial in preparing for these careers.
  • Facilitate student development of professional networks in the geoscience community.
  • Assist in identifying key skills, competencies, concepts, and/or learning outcomes (SCCLs) for environmental science students.

In the Field Course and the PD activities, students directly engaged with stakeholders. This included completing activities (e.g, field work, lesson plans) with the guidance of stakeholders and informational interviews and presentations on the stakeholders' career path. During the Field Course, they also spontaneously met stakeholders in relevant field locations. Within the PD course, students completed a skills project, in which students found a stakeholder to mentor them in building a new skill of their choice during the term. Some students also attended conferences and panel discussions where they further interacted with E-STEM stakeholders. The PD course additionally had a skills project, in which students reached out to stakeholders to mentor them in building a new skill. The PD course also had students attend conferences and panels with stakeholders. The variety of of access points to and interactions with stakeholders provided students with a feel for the different settings in which networking occurs while serving the purpose of expanding their career awareness and personal network locally and further afield. We put additional care into introducing our students to a diverse array of stakeholders who were willing to engage with students at their undergraduate level. We also found that early- and mid-career stakeholders had particularly relevant advice for students. In a pre- and post-field course surveys, students reported a statistically significant increases in their understanding of the classes and degrees needed for certain careers and in the development of their professional networks.

In the development of the badges, we implemented a survey in which the stakeholders identified key environmental science skills. While we had considered hosting focus groups with stakeholders to develop a clearer understanding of the skills, we ultimately found the survey, coupled with existing literature on the subject, provided sufficient information. Hosting focus groups may be particularly beneficial for future field courses that try to capture general skills such as communication, which many stakeholders reported as significant. An unintended outcome of stakeholder engagement was broadening our own professional network, including more professionals outside of academia.