Initial Publication Date: June 10, 2013

Geosciences program at Midwestern State University

Rebecca L. Dodge, Midwestern State University

Midwestern State University (MSU) is a small (~6,000 students) largely undergraduate institution (~90%) in north Texas; we are Texas' only state-funded liberal arts institution and we are a member of the national Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC). MSU students represent 41 states (including Texas) and 47 foreign countries. Our geosciences program comprises four faculty members, and graduates approximately 10 students per year. We offer two tracks within the Geosciences degree: Geosciences, our traditional major, and Environmental Sciences, which is an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare students for a range of environmental careers.

How Our Geosciences Track Prepares Students for the Workforce

MSU's curriculum focuses on traditional classes including Mineralogy, Petrology, Paleontology, Structural Geology, Sedimentology/Stratigraphy as well as Geomorphology, Remote Sensing, Oceanography. Classes at every level emphasize laboratory and field observations and data collection and analysis, using appropriate tools. We have our own dedicated computer laboratory with software tools designed to support processing and analysis in multiple disciplines, including image process, hydrology, structural interpretation, and petroleum applications.

Field trips a particularly important component of upper-division classes. MSU has a dedicated field station in the Big Bend region of Texas, which is being developed, through external funding, as a field-based educational resource and research site. Undergraduate research is supported through grants, institutional funding, and special topics courses. Research, writing and presentation skill are targeted in multiple classes, beginning at the freshman level and including a capstone research class with two required presentations. Group projects are also an important aspect of learning in classes at all levels.

Our students (and faculty) share a strong sense of belonging to a geologic community, maintained through broad-based membership in the Geosciences club, Sigma Gamma Epsilon Chapter, AAPG Student Chapter, and membership in the North Texas Geological Society (NTGS). NTGS supports student attendance at short course, conferences, and monthly luncheon meetings. NTGS, and the entire local petroleum geology community, supports our program through donations of time, materials, and funding.

MSU also has a strong emphasis on working experiences; multiple internship opportunities are supported locally in petroleum geology and geohydrology. Most of these working opportunities are near campus and students often work year-round for local companies. Many of our undergraduates are also employed by the Department as laboratory teaching assistants for introductory courses.

Our geosciences degree produces articulate, focused students who are well prepared for applied careers or for research at the graduate level. They are three-dimensional thinkers who can analyze, integrate and visualize diverse data sets. They know how to present their work in writing or through poster or oral routes. Most importantly, they know how to participate with others in geoscience organizations; we conscientiously develop their networking skills and their abilities to plan and organize events.

Areas in Which Our Alumni Are Employed

Many of our undergraduates go to work in the petroleum industry, in exploration, development, or production. Some go to work for state or federal government agencies (mostly in geohydrology), and a significant portion go on to graduate school.

Knowledge And Skills That Have Been Most Important In Supporting Success

  1. Data collection and analysis skills
  2. Field experiences
  3. Research projects, including group projects
  4. Presentation skills
  5. Analytical skills using software