Development of the Ideal Model

One overarching goal for the project was to create an ideal model that would promote and support recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in undergraduate education. Creating, annotating, and modifying this model was an integral part of all four meetings. In general, its creation was broken into a series of steps: (1) describe and agree upon the ideal future state, (2) determine the stakeholders required to reach this ideal state, and (3) connect the stakeholders and describe the relationships between each. In this way, the ideal model represents a network—each stakeholder a node and each relationship a link.

Model creation took place at the Administrator and Instructor meetings during their first full day of attendance. The final day was spent with each group discussing their own role in this model. The Resource Providers and Education Researchers were introduced to the constructed models at the end of their first full day and spent their final day discussing how they fit into the model.

Imagining the Ideal State

The very first step was envisioning the "ideal state" of geoscience education at 2YCs and MSIs. An ideal state can be thought of as a vision for the way things could be given unlimited resources and manpower, as well as equitable opportunity by all persons regardless of skin color, socioeconomic status, gender, disability status, etc. While the very definition of an ideal state means that it is impossible to achieve, it is a useful place to start the conversation.

To help participants get in the right mindset for describing the ideal state, we started with an activity taken from the 2014 NSF-IUSE Ideas Lab. The "third third" of ideas postulates a hierarchy of three levels of ideas: at the most basic level, ideas emerge quickly and naturally and are generally ubiquitous across people; second level ideas are rarer and more exciting, but if given enough time, many people would think of them; third level ideas are brand new and unique—the types of ideas needed to envision an ideal state. Participants practiced this technique by brainstorming in a group as many "super powers" as they could imagine. This topic was chosen as universal to participants regardless of their background. We then introduced the third third philosophy to participants and showed them on the recorded list where the transition from second- to third-level ideas occurred. We then encouraged participants to replicate this process when trying to imagine an ideal state for participation of underrepresented students in the geoscience community and throughout the activities.

To envision their ideal state for the geoscience community, participants were broken into groups of three to respond to the prompt:
  • Imagine you had unlimited resources, time, etc. What would it take to achieve the goal of increasing the number of skilled geoscientists entering the workforce, or increasing appreciation and awareness of geoscience among non-geoscience students? You may not change the type of student or the socio-economic constraints on your institutions.
After posters were completed, we used a guided gallery walk to gather feedback on ideas. Colored Post-it notes were used to comment, identify "third third" ideas, and mark ideas for further discussion.


After discussion of the ideal state, participants created a list of stakeholders that would be needed to make the ideal state a reality. This activity produced over 60 different stakeholder groups, which, after much discussion and debate, were reduced to eight groups:

  • Faculty (including adjunct and term instructors)
  • Students
  • Administrators/Institutions (including institutional resources and staff)
  • Employers
  • Community (interested public, taxpayer investment in; public that pays)
  • Geoscience community (professional societies in the geosciences)
  • Funding agencies (foundations and other sources)
  • Geoscience research partners (USGS, national labs)

Ideal Models

With all eight stakeholder groups agreed upon, the next step was to create the ideal model in which all of these stakeholders would be connected and working together. This activity was done individually, where every participant created their own poster of the ideal model. Participants connected stakeholders with arrows annotated to describe the type of collaborations or contacts, and noted connections that might involve the creation or use of educational resources. After the creation of individual ideal models by each participant in the Administrator and Instructor meetings, the conveners synthesized a rough ideal model that captured the essence of all the participant models. This model was used later in the meetings to prompt further discussion. The Resource Providers, not being an identified key stakeholder group, were tasked with describing their role as a facilitator of identified collaborations. The Education Researchers, also not identified as a key stakeholder group, were tasked with identifying which collaborations have been studied and which are needed areas of research.