Initial Publication Date: May 6, 2013

Geology program at Juniata College

Information for this profile was provided by Matthew Powell, Geology, Juniata College. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The department's primary mission is to prepare students for a successful post-graduate career in one or more earth and environmental science fields. In addition, we hope to instill values of responsible environmental citizenship in all students who interact with our programs. We attempt to do this in accordance with the overall mission of Juniata College.

Strengths of this program

  • Classic curriculum that focuses on basics
  • Frequent field experiences that include collecting and using own data
  • Sequenced courses that build on one another
Our program attempts to develop a strong foundational understanding of geology in our students. To that end, we offer a classic curriculum of courses based on traditional subfields of geology, e.g., mineralogy, structural geology, sedimentology, etc. Our labs and field experiences emphasize basic skills and practices such as microscopy and geologic mapping, and we provide opportunities for students to collect their own data and perform analyses. Most courses have specific prerequisites, so that students are expected to retain and use information and skills from prior courses. A capstone course is required. Finally, our small size (three professors, and about eight students per year on average) means that we see students in multiple courses, and are able to mount extended field trips, travel to conferences, etc., without logistical problems.

Types of students served

  • Geology majors
  • Service component for non-scientists
  • Undergraduate only
  • Most from regional pool, some enter with weak skills and low confidence
Most of our investment is staffing a curriculum for geology majors. However, our department also offers several introductory courses for non-science majors as a service to the college. More generally, our undergraduate-only students are mostly from central Pennsylvania or surrounding regions, and some enter with weak math and writing skills and low self-confidence.

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:

  • Successfully place students in graduate school or employment.
  • Produce students that see themselves as geology professionals

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:

Our program evolved in situ by a process of natural selection. It was initially based on the experiences and judgments of the first geology faculty (in the late 1960s), but evolved in response to perceived student successes and alumni feedback. More recently, we have been influenced by the scholarship of teaching and learning at the course and program levels. We participated in a SERC Building Strong Geoscience Departments workshop in 2011 and have continued that assessment work to the present.

How program goals are assessed

We closely track the outcomes of our graduates and maintain a nearly-complete alumni database. Beyond that, our assessment has relied almost entirely on anecdotal feedback from alumni rather than more formal assessment metrics.

Design features that allow goals to be met

The fairly strict course sequencing means that students in our upper-level courses generally share a common set of skills and knowledge learned in earlier courses. This allows us to reinforce those abilities and integrate them into the new material. Many of our courses are deliberately focused on skill-building rather than just content-acquisition, e.g., our Geological Field Methods I and II courses, and the several project-based courses that integrate lecture and lab. Frequent and diverse field experiences, integrative experiences, and attending professional conferences are other assets that begin the process of building geology professionals.

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

During the past ten years we have graduated 80 students (i.e., a mean of 8 per year). This number usually varies year-to-year from about 6 to 10.

Careers pursued by our alumni

Over the past ten years, 37% of our students have gone directly to graduate school (17% MS, 20% PhD), 55% have directly entered the workforce, and 8% are unknown or are not employed as geoscientists. Most of our graduates are employed in the environmental consulting industry (~50%), or the oil & gas or mining industries (~30%). A large proportion of the remainder are teachers at the high school, community college, or college/university level.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements