Applied Environmental Geosciences at Weber State University

Information for this profile was provided by Rick Ford, Department of Geosciences, Weber State University. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


Weber State University is an open-enrollment, dual-mission (community college and regional, master's-granting university) institution within the Utah System of Higher Education. The Department of Geosciences, one of seven departments in the College of Science, offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Environmental Geoscience (AEG), as well as traditional bachelor's degrees in geology and Earth science teaching. The AEG degree is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in geoscience and GIS-related careers that do not require an advanced degree. Current faculty expertise and course offerings allow AEG majors to specialize in water resources/hydrogeology or GIS/remote sensing. Typically, AEG graduates find employment with government agencies or environmental consulting companies.

Strengths of this program

The Applied Environmental Geosciences program offers students considerable flexibility in the selection of upper-division geoscience electives. Current faculty expertise and course offerings allow AEG majors to specialize in water resources/hydrogeology or GIS/remote sensing. Technical writing and statistics are required to enhance job skills. The fact that this degree does NOT require a summer field camp, or calculus, is greatly appreciated by the many non-traditional students currently studying as majors in our department.

Types of students served

Non-traditional students -- many of whom are spouses, parents, and working off campus -- who are looking to gain employment with a bachelor's degree in a geoscience-related field that does not require an advanced degree.

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:

At the end of their program of study in the Department of Geosciences, our graduates will have a set of basic intellectual skills that they can apply to a variety of situations and will have a knowledge and understanding of core concepts in the geosciences.

BASIC SKILLS -- Graduates will:

  1. be able to collect data, apply algebraic and graphical techniques to analyze data, and interpret results. {Problem-Solving Skills}
  2. be able to clearly express geoscience concepts orally and in writing, present results from laboratory and field investigations, and effectively incorporate appropriate maps and graphs into presentations and reports. {Communication Skills}
  3. be proficient in the use of appropriate technologies – including basic computer skills (word processing, spread sheets), geospatial skills (GPS, accessing geospatial databases), and information technology (search, compile, and evaluate information from scientific literature and web resources). {Technology Skills}

GEOSCIENCE SKILLS – Graduates will:
  1. be able to identify common minerals and rocks, describe rock characteristics, and interpret the environments/conditions (igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic) in which rocks formed. {Earth Materials}
  2. be able to identify major physical and biological events in Earth history and describe the methods used to interpret this history, including radiometric dating, fossil succession, and stratigraphic correlation. {Earth History}
  3. be able to identify landforms from maps and imagery, construct topographic profiles, and interpret the development of landforms in terms of common surface processes. {Surface Processes}
  4. be able to identify the different types of lithospheric plate boundaries based on types of activity, estimate rates of plate motion, describe the driving mechanisms for plate tectonics, and interpret geologic structures and construct cross sections from geologic map data. {Tectonic Processes}
  5. be able to describe key geological cycles – including the hydrologic cycle, rock cycle, and carbon cycle. {Earth Systems}
  6. have demonstrated an understanding of scientific methodology and the interdisciplinary nature of the geosciences, culminating in a capstone experience involving collection and analysis of multiple data sets to interpret Earth processes .{Capstone Experience}

The learning goals were informed by the following resources

The learning outcomes stated above apply to all three degrees offer by our department: geology; applied environmental geoscience; Earth science teaching. They were informed by the learning outcomes from other departments in the College of Science and by discussions with alumni, local employers, and geoscience colleagues at other institutions. We also studied and discussed the findings of Drummond and Markin (2008).

How program goals are assessed

Program assessment takes place at several different levels, using both direct and indirect measures. We developed a curriculum grid in which each of the program's intended learning outcomes (ILOs) is mapped to a specific core course. We have developed a course-level assessment plan for each of those core courses. At the program level, we conduct exit interviews with each of our graduates that include a self assessment of their attainment and competency related to the program ILOs. We also just completed a regents-required, 5-year program review -- during which we prepared a substantial self-study document that was evaluated by an external review team. The review team also conducted a comprehensive site visit. We make every effort to track program alumni as they advance in their careers and we are in the process of establishing a Geoscience Advisory Committee, whose primary mission will be to provide feedback from alumni and local employers with respect to local workforce trends and changing job skills. This year we are also having our graduates participate in AGI's National Geoscience Student Exit Survey. Lastly, advising of current students is given a very high priority by the program faculty. This activity provides very important feedback related to our courses, scheduling, student needs, and current job openings in our local market.

Design features that allow goals to be met:

  1. Curriculum emphasizes the applied aspects of the geosciences, especially hydrogeology and geospatial technologies.
  2. Program does not require a summer field camp and is therefore friendly/welcoming to non-traditional students.
  3. Program does not require calculus and is therefore friendly/welcoming to students in an open-enrollment institution. The program's math requirements are college algebra, trigonometry, and statistics.
  4. With a campus located along the Wasatch Front, straddling the Wasatch fault and shoreline bench of Pleistocene Lake Bonneville, we are surrounded by an amazing outdoor geoscience laboratory. We emphasize field experiences as much as possible, in both afternoon "labs" and during multi-day field trips. This aspect of our program contributes greatly to the recruitment and retention of majors, as well as building camaraderie among our majors.
  5. We require a capstone course, "Geoscience Field Methods", that requires students to work as a group for a simulated geotechnical company to prepared a geologic site assessment of a location near campus.

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

The Department of Geosciences has averaged 8.8 graduates per year for the past 6 years (2007-2013). The average number of AEG graduates has been 3 per year, or 34% of the total graduates, over the same time interval.

Careers pursued by our alumni

Thirteen (13) students graduated with a BS in Applied Environmental Geoscience during the 5-year period 2007-2012. Our current information indicates that 6 of these graduates (46%) are working as applied geoscientists, 4 (31%) are working in a non-geoscience position, and 3 (23%) are out of touch with the department. Those graduates employed as geoscientists have the following job titles: Environmental Scientist; Environmental Professional; GIS Analyst; Geologist; Environmental Protection Specialist; and Environmental Health Scientist. Five students graduated from the AEG program this year (212-2013) and all are actively applying for geoscience positions and/or graduate school.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements

Other key features of this program:

Supporting Materials

AEG 4-Year Plan (Rich Text File 54kB May24 13)