Xavier University of Louisiana

Institutional Context

Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA), founded by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, is the only Catholic HBCU in the United States. XULA has built a strong reputation for its unwavering commitment to advocating for environmental justice and equity in under-served communities, and its mission is to contribute to the promotion of a more just and humane society by preparing its students to assume roles of leadership and service in a global society. This preparation takes place in a diverse learning and teaching environment that incorporates all relevant educational means, including research and community service. Specifically within the geosciences, Xavier has engaged faculty who incorporate the discipline into their courses; programs that address the intersection of environmental and climate change issues and social justice by empowering students, conducting research, and engaging with local communities; and a variety of strategies for engaging pre-college students and their families in geoscience.

Existing Student Supports

Strategies to create geoscience pathways

Geoscience Opportunities in the Curriculum

Faculty incorporate the geosciences in some of their courses and research experience topics such as coastal restoration, photosynthesis and sedimentation concepts. Science students also have the opportunity to cover geoscience topics for their capstone course. In the science department, a capstone course for seniors is formatted to allow for deep dive into research articles around specific topics and extensive discussions.

Discovery and Inquiry as Pedagogy

Faculty members within the School of Education develop lesson plans such that students have instructional time to explore, discover, and discuss concepts of science. Additionally, faculty provide context alongside theories and abstractions, and in particular, have concrete exemplars and artifacts that relate theory and concepts to support their students' understanding of science.

Education Program

At XULA, there is opportunity for science teacher preparation in biology, chemistry, and middle grades science which offers a Bachelor of science degree in two programs: a full science major degree in preparation for graduate school and an Education degree leading to certification to teach biology or chemistry for grades 6-12. A middle grades program in teacher preparation requires students who plan to teach science, to take two semesters of general biology, general chemistry, or physics and two earth science courses: Earth Science and Advanced Earth Science.

Specialized Support and Instructional Strategies

Star Programs

There are various ways through which the University is committed to broadening participation. Xavier has been using pre-college summer programs to increase African American minority student communities in STEM programs. The Star Programs provide science and math programing for middle grade and high school students to support preparation for starting high school and entrance to college. In the Science Star Programs, students participate in hands-on laboratory activities in an actual college laboratory setting. The Math Star Programs engages students in interactive learning to sharpen their skills and provides both in-person and virtual participation options.

Soar X Program

The SOAR X program is an on-campus residential opportunity for high school juniors and seniors. The Stress on Analytical Reasoning program (SOAR) is the flagship XULA Pre-College Program, established in 1977. It's a 4-week intensive on-campus program that allows students to customize their summer experience and collaborate with peers from all over the country and the world. Students choose between two tracks: SOAR X STEM, focusing on pandemics and public health disparities, and SOAR X Humanities, focusing on protest and civil disobedience. Participating students attend lessons taught by highly qualified instructors with guidance at every step of the way from current XULA undergraduate students who serve as tutor-mentors. Guest speakers and interactive projects allow students to apply what they are learning in school and in the program to real-life situations to prepare them for college life.

Saturday Morning Science

The Saturday Morning Science program is an immersive hands-on STEAM and career exploration experience that engages middle school students in project-based learning opportunities that takes place on Xavier's campus. The programming supports students in discovering their interests and talents while practicing relevant skills in physics, computer programming, Robotics, 3D-printing, and statistics.

Gulf Scholars Program

The Gulf Scholars Program (GSP) is a cross-disciplinary initiative of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine's Gulf Research Program. The Program, in collaboration with Gulf of Mexico region colleges and universities, prepares students to address critical challenges in the region related to the focus areas of the Gulf Research Program: community health and resilience, environmental protection and stewardship, and offshore energy safety. At Xavier, the program engages faculty, staff, and students in an array of topics that include the impacts of natural disasters on the human population; and the environmental, social, economic, and health impacts of oil spills; soil degradation; and chemical waste.

Geoscience Research

There are faculty at Xavier currently engaged in geoscience-related research who provide numerous opportunities for students from a variety of major disciplines to actively participate in their research. These research topics engage undergraduate researchers in geoscience research and their local community while preparing them to enter the workforce with hands-on experiences that utilize field studies, using local environment and data, and other real-world examples. Some of these areas of research engage the community more broadly as well, allowing them to serve as an early introduction to the geosciences for younger community members and familiarizing their parents and guardians with the possibilities of the geosciences.

Xavier University Community Outreach Center

The Xavier University Community Outreach Center (XUCOC) was established in 2014 to infuse civic engagement as a value and practice throughout the university and is very much involved with the Gert Town community in New Orleans. The Center connects community-focused, experiential education across all of Xavier's colleges, while also strengthening student-led community engagement outside the classroom. XUCOC connects faculty engaging in research related to the Gert Town community and appropriate stakeholders within the community and through educational programs, workshops, and interactive initiatives, the center equips youth with tools to understand the impacts of climate change, to advocate for environmental justice, and to promote equity in underserved communities. By fostering a sense of environmental responsibility and empowering young leaders, XUCOC contributes to building a sustainable and just future for all.

Bootcamps to Support Enrolled Students

When students are enrolled in college and need additional support, the Division of Education and Counseling provides specialized proxy bootcamps to build students' skills and content knowledge in needed areas. These camps are offered especially to support those who may not be first time passers of the licensure exam. This effort ties in strongly with the measure of success for teacher preparation students.

Peer Tutoring

Additionally, there are course-specific peer tutoring programs offered through the Student Academic Success Office. Students selected by faculty and the student affairs office may serve as peer instructors, whom are matched with students who may have had challenges academically in a specific course. Other tutoring and individualized student support, such as faculty office hours that support students in retention in courses, broadens participation is geoscience education.


Connections between K-12 and Universities: Expand Communications

Current communications with K-12 schools and XULA are primarily with high school counselors. Expanding the communications to include teachers, science club directors, and students could raise awareness of XULA to a larger number of both prospective students and their parents.

Geoscience Awareness and Opportunities: Build Awareness

XULA is well known for having the highest number of minority students going to medical school, and consequently, many students enroll with the intent to study a pre-med track. As such, XULA is well-positioned to introduce students to a variety of STEM pathways and allow students to more deeply explore their passions and interests.

Financial and Resource Supports: Deepen Faculty Support

Faculty have a large number of responsibilities to which to attend. Additional or more extensive supports would provide faculty with more space to provide even more excellent instruction, research, and community outreach.