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SAGE Musings: the SAGE 2YC Project Blog

The SAGE Musings blog features bi-weekly posts that address topics related to supporting students' academic success, facilitating students' professional pathways in the geosciences, broadening participation in the geosciences, and catalyzing change. Although written for geoscience faculty at two-year colleges, most posts are relevant for any STEM faculty member. Check out the growing collection of posts and share them with your colleagues.


SAGE Musings: Summer Reading Recommendations

Posted: Jul 12 2017 by Compiled by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

I like to take a break from many routines during the summer, and that includes taking a break from writing SAGE Musings blog posts. I also like to make more time for reading over the summer. I asked the project leaders for summer reading recommendations, and here they are.... Some are directly related to our SAGE 2YC project, while others are more generally related to geoscience. Perhaps you'll find something of interest in this list, as well. More

SAGE Musings: Geoscientist Biographical Sketches

Posted: Jun 28 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

When I was in college, the only career I imagined for myself was following in my parents' footsteps. I suspect I'm not the only one. How can we help our students - especially those whose parents aren't geoscientists - imagine themselves as future geoscientists? Of course, simply providing information about careers and career opportunities is a good place to start. The SAGE 2YC website has a set of pages of career information, and these are great resources for you and your students. But sometimes an example stimulates the imagination, particularly if a student finds the example easy to relate to – just as it was easy for me to imagine doing what my parents did. This is where geoscientist biographical sketches, sometimes called geoscientist profiles, come in. More

SAGE Musings: Adjuncts

Posted: May 31 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Nearly half of the people who teach undergraduate courses are part-time/adjunct faculty members, sometimes called "contingent faculty," and that number approaches 70% at two-year colleges (AFT Higher Education, 2010). Part-time or contingent instructors teach 58 percent of community college classes and 53 percent of their students (CCCSE, 2014). Responses to a national survey of part-time/adjunct faculty members indicate that of the part-time/adjunct faculty in the U.S.:

  • Nearly 3/4 have taught at their institution for more than five years, and more than 2/5 have taught at their institution for more than ten years;
  • Approximately half would prefer full-time employment;
  • Only 2/5 have retirement benefits; and
  • Just over 1/4 have health insurance through their institution (AFT Higher Education, 2010). More

SAGE Musings: Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

Posted: May 17 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

There's a lot of talk these days about the importance of broadening participation in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). But how much of a problem is there, and how do the geosciences compare to other STEM fields? What subpopulations are under-represented in the geosciences? How under-represented are they? As Huntoon and Lane noted (2007), citing data from the National Science Foundation, "graduates from bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in the geosciences have lower ethnic and racial diversity than do graduates from any other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field." Moreover, the racial and ethnic diversity of people earning geoscience PhDs in the U.S. has not improved since 2004 (Sidder, 2017). Likewise, while women make up more than half of the undergraduate student population, we earn far fewer than half of the undergraduate degrees in STEM disciplines (NSF, 2017) and we comprise only 23% of the geoscience workforce (Sidder, 2017).


SAGE Musings: Communities of Practice

Posted: May 1 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

"Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015, quoted in Kastens, 2016b). SAGE 2YC faculty Change Agents form a community of practice, and I think it's worth taking a few minutes to examine this assertion. More

SAGE Musings: Resources from InTeGrate

Posted: Apr 17 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

The InTeGrate project, funded by the National Science Foundation, "supports the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues both within geoscience courses and across the undergraduate curriculum." While the project's goal is "to develop a citizenry and workforce that can address environmental and resource issues facing our society," the curricular materials developed by this project also lend themselves to other important goals, including those of the SAGE 2YC project. That is, they can be used to support the academic success of all students, facilitate the professional pathways of geoscience students, and broaden participation in the geosciences. More

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SAGE Musings: Evidence-Based Strategies for Mitigating Stereotype Threat

Posted: Apr 3 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

I've written about stereotype threat before (see, but today I want to share some fascinating things I learned from reading Claude Steele's book, Whistling Vivaldi and Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us (Norton & Co., 2010). I highly recommend reading this book. I found it both inspiring and riveting – two words I don't usually use to describe books that I read for work.

First, just a brief reminder about what stereotype threat is and how it works: people who belong to an underrepresented group – in any setting – know if there is a stereotype that applies to them in that setting. Subconsciously, they worry about whether the stereotype is true for them. That subconscious worry uses some of their mental resources. That is, it distracts them from the task at hand, and that distraction decreases their performance. More

SAGE Musings: Leading in Place

Posted: Mar 20 2017 by Pamela Eddy, College of William and Mary

It is often easy to think that change happens because someone else is doing the leading, after all, what power do faculty members have? The answer is—more than you think. Mid-level leadership is gaining more traction as a way to help organizations change ( Clearly, the SAGE 2YC project is based on this premise, with faculty named as Change Agents. Wergin (2007) edited a book that covers a range of topics regarding leading in place within academia: ( Increasingly, top-level leaders realize the need to have everyone on board to help colleges change. So, what can you do to develop your own leadership voice? More

SAGE Musings: Minimizing and Dealing with Academic Dishonesty

Posted: Mar 6 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

If it seems to you that academic dishonesty is rampant, and has gotten worse over time, you're not imagining it. "Research in high schools shows that two thirds of students cheat on tests, and 90 percent cheat on homework. The figures are almost as high among college students. Furthermore, it is clear that rates of cheating have gone up over the past three decades" (Stephens, 2004). Of course, that doesn't mean that each of those students cheats on every test or homework assignment. And there are degrees of academic dishonesty, some more galling than others. But, statistically speaking, chances are that many of your students will cheat on assignments or exams this term and every term (e.g. McBurney, 1996; Stephens, 2004). More

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SAGE Musings: Seeing the World Through Multiple Frames

Posted: Feb 20 2017 by Pamela Eddy, College of William and Mary

Sometimes the solution to a problem seems obvious to you, but you can't get any traction with your colleagues. What's going on? Consider the possibility that they see the situation differently than you do, because they have a different set of values and beliefs than you or because their position affords them a different macro view of issues that go beyond your work in the classroom. Although you may be tempted to dismiss their beliefs as "wrong," that's not an effective path to changing their behavior. Instead, understanding more about what is behind the thinking of others and how you can pitch your ideas in a language they understand and that aligns with their values and beliefs can result in a positive outcome. More