Initial Publication Date: May 21, 2014

Why Focus on Diversity?

The geoscience student population in the United States today is the least diverse of any STEM field. Not only does this challenge our ability to educate sufficient numbers of students in the geosciences, it also challenges our ability to address issues of environmental justice, to bring geoscience expertise to diverse communities, and to pursue a research agenda reflecting the needs and interests of our nation as a whole. Earth science needs to be perceived as a viable option for the best and brightest students no matter their background. Aside from the benefits for individual students, broadening the diversity of Earth science learners can have real benefits for society and the geosciences themselves.

Benefits for Society

There are immense challenges facing humanity in coming decades and accurate knowledge about the Earth will be critical in addressing many of them (sustainability, for instance). But in addition to conducting the cutting edge research that needs to be done, we need to be able to educate all segments of our society on how humanity's choices affect the outcomes of the challenges. In order to be a "trusted source" for this kind of information, the Earth sciences needs to be seen to be representative of all the parts of society we are trying to engage with.

Salish Kootenai Tribal College
Attracting New Students: Outreach - A community- or family-centered learning model is embraced, in which multiple-aged groups learn about hydrology-related topics in the field. Field trips may involve college students, K-12 students, a professional from the tribe, and elders. The college students provide an example for the younger students. The elders' perspectives and knowledge are greatly valued; so their presence and words are respected. The younger students gain exposure and positive reinforcement for having a interest in the geosciences. It is hoped that these early learning experiences will lead to increased recruitment into the Hydrology Program in the future. Read more about SKC >>

Benefits for the Geosciences

Reports by the American Geosciences Institute and the Bureau of Labor Statistics point to a significant gap over the next decade between the number of geoscientists that will be needed in the US and the number that will be prepared at current rates; a gap of on the order of 150,000 jobs. But demographic trends suggest a possible solution. Taken together, minority racial and ethnic groups will constitute the majority of the US population by 2050. Currently minority students make up a small percentage of geoscience graduates (~14% while these groups constitute ~30% of the general population) so making the geosciences a welcoming place for diverse students can yield real benefits to all the professions that require geoscience expertise.

The SOARS Program - Engaging Minority Students through Geoscience Research Experiences
Rebecca Haacker-Santos, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
"By the end of the summer, protégés have the ability and skills to 'think and work like a scientist' and have been exposed to a wide range of career possibilities within the atmospheric and related sciences. In addition, they have become part of a strong peer-mentoring network and have developed the beginnings of a professional network that, in many cases, remains an important part of their future careers. After the summer, SOARS continues to support and engage protégés as they continue their studies, providing ongoing mentorship, guidance for funding and graduate school applications, and travel support for attending and presenting their research at national conferences." Continue Reading >>