Tying it All Together: The Ideal Model
The Ideal Model(s) constructed by workshop participants took the form of an interconnected network with relevant stakeholders as nodes and any exchange of information or resources as links.
The instructor and administrator workshop participants decided on the most important stakeholders to include in the ideal model. Starting with a brainstorm session, they originally described over 60 different stakeholders that would have a role in this effort of improving diversity in the geosciences. Through guided discussion, they then narrowed those 60 down into eight of the most important stakeholder groups:
- Students: Referring to the diverse student bodies, especially those at MSIs and 2YCs.
- Faculty: Referring specifically to the instructional faculty at the above MSIs and 2YCs.
- Administrators and Institutions: The chairs, deans, and support staff at the MSIs and 2YCs.
- Employers: Geoscience employers broadly defined, including mining, energy, engineering, environmental consulting, and policy.
- Community: The non-geoscience, local public that support MSIs and 2YCs including the students' friends and family, those involved with primary and secondary education, and local politicians and clergy members.
- Geoscience Community: This includes professional societies and organizations of geoscience researchers and educators such as AGI, AGU, GSA, NAGT, etc.
- Funding Agencies: Primarily referring to NSF, but other federal and state agencies, or private foundations are also included.
- Researchers: This is specifically referring to geoscience researchers at universities and national labs, not including other roles.
Learn more about the Ideal
Model Development »Notes: Two groups that are absent from this list were the two groups invited to the second set of workshops: Educational Researchers and Educational Resource Providers. When asked about this, the instructor and administrator participants agreed that these two groups were important for the model to work, but not as nodes in the network. They saw these two groups as facilitators and evaluators of the ideal model. In discussions with the Education Resource Providers and Educational Researchers, they agreed with this assessment from the first two groups.
All four groups spent time connecting these eight stakeholder groups through the use of arrows and labels on individual posters. Examples of some of these models below:
Throughout the four workshops, dozens of ideal models with hundreds of existing and non-existent possible connections were identified, described, and discussed. The project team has since categorized and coded these many connections summarized in the following two figures:
The model below (left) represents the connections between stakeholders that exist (orange arrows), should be strengthened or expanded (green arrows), and should be built (blue arrows) in terms of financial or infrastructural support such as funding to build programs or institutional logistics to sustain an initiative.
This model below (right) represents the connections between stakeholders that exist (orange arrows), should be strengthened or expanded (green arrows), and should be built (blue arrows) in terms of training and informational support such as professional development for faculty, or public input for researchers to know what would have the biggest impact on their community. (Click images to enlarge.)
Note: The coding of the arrows into 'exists,' 'expand,' or 'build' is based on participant input at the time of the workshop. Some "build" connections may exist, but the participants were unaware of these based on the discussions and write-ups. The "expand" arrow generally refers to geoscience initiatives not specific to diversity that could be made so, or diversity initiatives not specific to geoscience that could be made so.
Also, many connections between stakeholder groups, or connections in the opposite direction, that were described in the workshops are not shown on these above diagrams because they were not discussed at length across multiple participants, or because they were less relevant to the specific issue of increasing diversity.
Financial & Infrastructure Findings
The "existing" funding and logistical connections (orange arrows) represent traditional roles that stakeholders already play; they should continue but otherwise are not seen as needing overhaul or expansion. These roles include support, such as incentives given to faculty by their institutions for excellent teaching or community outreach, foundations or grants from local community members to their local institutions, geoscience industry support of geoscience society programs, and the obvious grant money from funding agencies to geoscience researchers.
The "expand" funding and logistical connections (green arrows) are those that participants felt have existing infrastructure but could be fine-tuned, expanded, or overhauled in order to better meet the goal of promoting the geosciences among URMs at 2YCs and MSIs. For example, one common suggestion was that geoscience community organizations like AGU, GSA, and AAPG could do more to support faculty and students at MSIs and 2YCs. While some of these organizations already have scholarships and grants for URM students and researchers, participants believed that more could be done to incentivize a broader range of participating students (not just the very highest achieving). They also suggested that additional support was needed for 2YC and MSI educators with outstanding records of bringing diverse students into the field.
Participants also called to expand connections between employers, institutions, funding agencies, and local communities (green arrows). While many geoscience employers already have internships and scholarships available to students, participants believed that more could be done to specifically target URM students from the local communities in which those employers operate. A possible positive impact of such a program on the sponsoring company is that students would bring local knowledge to their work that the company might otherwise not have from employing people from other regions. Many colleges and universities already have financial aid available for students, but more could be done to specifically target students interested in studying geoscience in settings where geoscience is an important economic industry. This is also another avenue for employers to aid the institutions. Finally, although funding agencies support MSI faculty research, particularly at doctoral research institutions, many instructor participants from 2YCs discussed how their typical responsibilities, and sometimes lack of a grants office, make it difficult to apply for larger grants. If funding agencies could find other mechanisms to support research at 2YCs and undergraduate-focused MSIs, such as working with institutions to provide course release time, more faculty at these institutions could be enticed to pursue externally funded research.
The "build" funding and logistical connections (blue arrows) are those that participants do not believe currently exist, or are not being utilized to achieve the goal of broadening participation in the geosciences. Many participants referred to these connections as the gaps in our current pipeline. These missing connections were mainly located between geoscience employers or local communities and the other stakeholders. For example, participants felt that more direct links between employers and the communities in which they operate were needed. Examples might include scholarships for local high school students, or hosting of geoscience activities and events that make the geosciences more transparent to the public. As previously discussed, most participants recognized that the general public is unaware of the geosciences. These sorts of connections attempt to address this lack of awareness. Some of our MSI and 2YC instructor participants described how they have had very positive, if rare, experiences working with local geoscience employers. If geoscience employers could incentivize a bridge between faculty and their company, the faculty could better prepare students to work in the industry, and students would see the more direct connection between geoscience and their career. Participants also felt the communities themselves had a role to play in promoting more student awareness of geoscience. Scholarships for local students pursuing geoscience degrees, or internships in local government that may work with urban planning, water, or energy were suggested as initiatives. On the other side of the spectrum, participants described a need for geoscience researchers at four-year universities and labs to similarly reach out to MSI and 2YC faculty and incentivize partnerships. Many MSIs, and particularly 2YCs, do not have the scientific resources available to conduct cutting-edge geoscience research. By partnering with four-year institutions, they could improve the geoscience experiences of 2YC/MSI faculty and students alike.
Instructional and Training Connections
Training connections already "existing" (orange arrows) include the regular work of instructors and institutions, such as mentoring and training students, or providing students with career training and internship placement. In addition, funding agencies and geoscience professional organizations already have a number of programs designed to increase success and diversify the community of geoscience researchers at universities and laboratories. Participants were very clear that the geosciences are already doing a good job in these areas, but more incentives would always strengthen these efforts.
Areas to "expand" (green arrows) include connections from the geoscience employment industry as well as those from the geoscience community of professional societies and organizations. The training and professional development of students and faculty are just as important as, if not more important than, the financial support that employers provide to students. For students, this support may include internships, but employer support could also include working with MSI and 2YC instructors to develop site visits, providing students and instructors with real-world data for their classes, and having students present findings back to the community and employers. Many of these partnerships exist in small pockets around the country, but a more comprehensive and intentional effort on the part of employers could greatly expand the impact of geoscience in URM communities. In very similar scenarios, participants felt that the geoscience professional community could provide similar activities and training for URM students and 2YC/MSI faculty. The geoscience organizations and societies could build upon existing programs and field trips to specifically target MSI/2YC faculty and students.
The second major area to expand from geoscience researchers to 2YC/MSI faculty was similar to financial support, in that research-focused universities and labs could provide more research support for 2YC/MSI faculty (green arrows. It is important to note that our 2YC/MSI instructor participants did not feel they needed additional scientific training from researchers, but instead wanted their students to have access to equipment and data they cannot provide at their institution alone. Lastly, many 2YCs and MSIs have strong connections with their local communities that could be used to intentionally promote geoscience in these local communities. Through events, speakers, and demonstrations, instructors, administrators, and their institutions could promote the importance of geoscience in a way that is locally relevant and ongoing.
The connections that participants identified as needing to be "built" (blue arrows) nearly all relate to the local community. This mimics the discussion of financial and infrastructure support highlighting the importance of geoscience to the local community. Many participants felt that if geoscience employers reached out to their local communities, they would make a significant contribution to broadening participation in the geosciences. Participants admitted that this is probably already happening in some places, but none had personal experience with such an activity. Outreach from students back to their own communities could be an effective way for students to share their knowledge learned from research or internships and get others excited in possibly pursuing geoscience as a career. A second area of potential community involvement was through crafting connections between communities, funding agencies, and geoscience research labs. As an example, if local communities had a say in what research they thought was important to their community, and the funders and researchers were more transparent and accessible with their work at all stages, institutions (which are generally funded by tax dollars) would have more buy-in from the communities. As another example, tied to the place-based learning discussion earlier in this report, input from local communities could provide valuable local knowledge not otherwise attainable for geoscience researchers. Developing these connections may take time and would first require some basic connections to be expanded or built. The impacts of these connections would be longer term and less direct than many other connections described by participants, but is nonetheless a way in which the geoscience community needs to move forward. Overall, these two new connections would tackle the major repeated issue of the four workshops: the public does not know what geoscience is and why it is valuable to society.The final new connection to be built is a flow of information from MSI and 2YC faculty to the funding agencies (blue arrows). This connection would be necessary for successful implementation of the reverse arrow in the Financial and Infrastructure Ideal Model from funding source to MSI/2YC faculty. Information that could flow in this direction could include geoscience topics that are most important to local communities, as these faculty may have a better sense than their research counterparts. More important, however, would be data, knowledge, and experience about working with URM students that could better guide future funding opportunities. In a way, this connection was the main goal of Geo-Needs as a whole: to learn from the stakeholders in the trenches about what is really needed and what types of programs funding agencies should be looking to support in the future in order to broaden participation in one of the least diverse STEM fields.