SAGE Musings: Strategies for Supporting 2YC-4YCU Transfer

Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College
Author Profile
published Mar 21, 2019 8:06am

Facilitating geoscience students' professional pathways is one of the key goals of the SAGE 2YC project, and one means to that end is supporting 2YC - 4YCU transfer. The National Science Foundation's GeoPaths program is extremely well-aligned with this goal. We conducted an inventory of strategies used in nine funded GeoPaths projects, several involving SAGE 2YC faculty members. Strategies to support 2YC - 4YCU transfer in the geosciences that are common across multiple projects include advising and mentoring, internships and research opportunities, providing students with career information and introducing them to geoscience professionals, aligning 2YC and 4YCU curricula, bridge programs, institutional collaborations, and financial support. While no program has all of these elements, each of the programs we inventoried uses multiple strategies. Here are a few examples of how each of these strategies is implemented.

Advising and mentoring

Advising and mentoring can take many forms, including near-peer mentoring by successful transfer students and advising by faculty at both 2YC and 4YCU transfer institutions.

  • At Fort Lewis College, a successful transfer student is hired to be a tutor and mentor for the following year's cohort. This student is a Teaching Assistant for the August field course and a tutor for one or more of the fall semester upper-level Geology courses.
  • At the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, future transfer students from three nearby two-year colleges are assigned a UT mentor in their sophomore year. Mentors provide the 2YC students with course advising and guidance on transfer applications, applying for internships, and careers. Students keep the same advisor through to graduation from UT.
  • Similarly, Queens College School of Earth and Environmental Science (SEES) undergraduate advisors meet with majors at LaGuardia and Queensborough Community Colleges to answer questions and talk about transfer and career paths.
  • Geoscience faculty at the University of Rhode Island participate in transfer student orientation days at URI, host a new transfer student lunch in the department, provide a tour of the department, and coordinate a brief round-robin session with faculty and current geoscience students. Community College of Rhode Island transfer students are reached online and face-to-face to provide advising and mentorship before they transfer to URI.

Internships and/or research opportunities

Internships and research are high impact practices, and most of the GeoPaths projects include this strategy. In many cases, 2YC students conduct some or all of their research activities at a 4YCU transfer institution, thus also providing them with the opportunity to become familiar with the campus, faculty, and students in a potential future institution. For example:

  • Participants in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Course (SUREC) at Austin Community College learn about the geology of the ocean crust through research conducted at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering.
  • Linn Benton Community College students participate in research projects at Oregon State University, approximately ten miles from LBCC. Students work together in a collaborative geoscience research project designed to build technical skills that are transferable to other undergraduate research opportunities and future employment.
  • Students at Wake Tech Community College are given the opportunity to apply for summer research internships with project partners. Ten students each year are matched to research projects within North Carolina State University's Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, usually in groups of two to three students per laboratory. In addition, two students each year will participate in a North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences research internship, including a field expedition to the southwestern United States and laboratory research at the NCMNS.
  • Students at Front Range Community College participate in a summer program with time split between participation in professional development and skills-building activities and collaborative research support with UNAVCO technical staff members.
  • Community College of Rhode Island students are paid to participate in summer student research internships at the University of Rhode Island via the Coastal Fellows Research Internship Program and the Science and Engineering Fellows Program, both of which have built-in mentoring and advising. Student recruiting includes a focus on underrepresented minorities and transfer students, and matches students with internships in the summer or in the academic year, depending on student needs. Academic credit can be earned for internship work.

Career information / introduction to the profession

Introducing students to geoscience careers can take many forms, from simply telling them about career options to providing "professional socialization."

  • Both science and non-science majors at Austin Community College can participate in a Gulf Coast Repository field activity when they are enrolled in selected courses. The field activity takes place at the Gulf Coast Repository at Texas A and M University. This activity exposes students to scientific research and career opportunities available in the geosciences.
  • At Suffolk County Community College, participants in the GEO CORE Summer Institute are immersed in the local geophysical environment, where they study the interconnections between geologic, atmospheric, and marine sciences on Long Island. This program highlights issues of interest to the local professional and academic geoscience community, provides awareness of transfer paths and local and regional employment opportunities, and creates a peer network between incoming and current geoscience students.
  • At Fort Lewis College, transfer students have the opportunity to meet with Fort Lewis College alums who work in local environmental and mining industries and are encouraged to attend monthly talks and social gatherings of the Four Corners Geological Society with FLC faculty members.

Aligning curricula

Some 2YCs and nearby 4YCUs work to develop aligned geoscience curricula, so that students taking courses at the 2YC are particularly well-prepared for subsequent courses at the 4YCU.

  • Linn Benton Geobridge students participate in two multi-day field trips during the summer before transferring to Oregon State University. These field trips build skills directly aligned with the first class they will take at OSU: Introduction to Field Geology.
  • Faculty in Rhode Island work together to align the curricula of introductory geoscience courses at the Community College of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island. They even share teaching resources such as specimen collections, equipment, data, videos, and lab space.

Bridge programs

Whether transfer students are coming from one 2YC or many, a bridge program can help develop a sense of belonging within a transfer cohort and help them become oriented in their new department and institution.

  • The Linn Benton Geobridge cohort meets regularly during the summer and fall terms immediately before and after transfer. These meetings allow LBCC students to socialize with successful transfer students and to continue to meet with each other and with project faculty.
  • Fort Lewis College transfer students participate in a 3-week August intersession course. This course consists of two weeks of a Geology field curriculum followed by a week of advising, college navigation, and integration into the department, as well as field trips with faculty and other campus and community orientation activities.

Institutional collaborations

Several projects include some kind of activity or activities that students from multiple institutions attend together. Obviously, this introduces students to each other prior to transfer, helping to foster a sense of community.

  • Students from several community colleges in Tennessee are invited to attend a 3- to 5-day geoscience experience at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute, where they work with faculty and students from the University of Tennessee and their home college.
  • Three CUNY schools build a learning community that spans the three campuses, using several strategies: "retreats" before the start of each academic year, ceremonies at the end of each semester to welcome new majors and celebrate completions of associate and bachelor degrees, and cross-campus advising.
  • in Rhode Island, faculty have developed a new research-focused course team-taught by CCRI and URI faculty. The project also offers a joint field experience each semester for introductory geology students at both CCRI and URI.

Financial support

Financial support can make a world of difference for any college student. In addition to funded internships and research programs, some GeoPaths projects offer transfer students other opportunities for financial support.

  • Fort Lewis College provides transfer students with a stipend for participation in the August intersession course.
  • Queens College pays qualifying students $1500 to serve as teaching aides in introductory geoscience labs or as geoscience tutors.

Which of these strategies could you implement to support 2YC - 4YCU transfer in your region? What are you already doing?

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