Initial Publication Date: March 10, 2014

Workshop Synthesis

  • Geoscience faces a unique hurdle in broadening access because students, parents, the public, and occasionally other parts of our academic institutions are not aware of the discipline, its contributions to society, and its career opportunities. Among the ways we can address this are 1) incorporating this information into intro courses in robust ways including interdisciplinary service learning and curriculum that demonstrates the connections to today's challenges. 2) supporting professional society efforts in this area with the public, policy makers, teachers, out-of-school groups etc, and 3) taking personal action on outreach.
  • We define diversity broadly including ethnic and minority groups, women, people with disabilities, veterans, people of low socioeconomic status, lgbt and other groups that are not represented in the geosciences in proportion to their abundance in society.
  • All students are missing pieces required for success in their backgrounds from understanding how to communicate in a particular setting to specific academic skills. We must have robust systems for identifying and filling these holes.
  • Effective programming for all students must 1) develop students engagement in the science attending both to interest and a sense of belonging, 2) enable students to progress in learning and preparation for the workforce and 3) have in place systems that build continuity for students allowing them to navigate from one opportunity to the next. These systems require institutional/departmental systems, disciplinary systems, and longitudinal systems. They operate on institutional, regional, and national scales and the ability to move between scales is important.
  • The culture of science and science education can be a barrier to broadening access. Developing a culture that can adapt to students of different types and temperaments must be a priority. Developing faculty self awareness of their culture, and its impact on their own careers is an important part of changing this culture.
  • Courses that are rich in societal context and interdisciplinary relationships as well as courses that build inclusive learning communities are known to recruit and retain students from underrepresented groups.
  • Creating an inclusive, supportive, collaborative community within the department is essential to increasing diversity and is beneficial for all students, faculty and staff. Among the many elements of such a community are discussion of, and support for, mental health issues.
  • Mentoring and advising are crucial. Robust models must be scalable and not dependent upon a single individual. They must allow us to capitalize more effectively on the relationships that individuals have developed and the cultural competence developed in different parts of our community. Success will also require development of more cultural competence on the part of advisers, mentors and faculty.
  • We have both organizations and models that can help us successfully increase the participation of minorities in geoscience addressing recruiting, retaining and supporting students into the workforce. Organizing and sharing this information in effective ways is a priority, as is developing networks of support as faculty and departments strive to change their programming.
  • There is important research to be done and data to be collected in support of effective change.
  • Individual departments and regions have unique opportunities, structures and challenges. Our strategies to increase diversity will thus need to be flexible and adapted to local context.
  • We are trying to change a system. This requires work from both the top down and the bottom up, on multiple issues at the same time, and on multiple scales simultaneously. Work within higher education is connected to work with K-12, with employers, and with other stakeholders.
  • Individuals will have more successful pathways into the geoscience profession if they feel supported in these endeavors by their community of origin, by the campus and departmental communities, and by the geoscience research and employment communities.
  • We need to prepare students robustly for a career in geoscience that will include crashes in the job market, the need to switch foci and to learn more, and the capacity to put in place a plan B.
  • The dichotomy in the geosciences between the extractive industries and its application to environmental evaluation and restoration. Whereas students may be very attracted to one end of this polarity, and/or repelled by the other, this can be a barrier to access.
  • We have made progress in developing higher education geoscience communities both regionally and nationally that involve faculty and adminstrators from 2Y and 4Y colleges. Similarly, there are strong regional examples of strong connections between high schools and college faculty. These are valuable resources in increasing diversity and supporting better articulation and movement between programs. We need to advance this work at all levels develop ways for these communities and networks to develop into a robust national system.

Primary Challenges

  • Moving from non accommodating, culture of geoscience and geoscience education to an equally rigorous, accomodating culture that honors and capitalizes on other ways of knowing and doing
  • Robust advising and mentoring for all students that supports them through undergraduate education and the transition to work or further schooling.
  • Mechanisms for adapting instruction to varied background preparation and supporting students through math and cognate requirements
  • Limited understanding of career paths and geoscience contributions to society by students, parents and broader society
  • Lack of system capacity for moving students among programs
  • Limited faculty awareness and understanding of student cultures, priorities and constraints.
  • Scaling up from good models funded as pilots to broad, affordable, sustainable implementations leading to systemic change
  • Expanding beyond field model for community building and integrative learning
  • We lack a strong set of research results that answers these questions on a national scale for the geosciences:
    • Who are the students who may need more support, what are their specific characteristics, what are the ways to identify them and how can we best support them?
    • What were the obstacles, who overcame challenges, and what were the factors that prevented students from staying in the major.