Engage the Network
The point of developing a regional network is to put it to work improving outcomes for students. There are many ways to do that.
Create a Sense of Community
Engaging a network will be easier and more rewarding when the people in the network feel like they are part of a group with a shared purpose. Developing connections and the feeling of community between faculty, students, and administrators at various institutions will help the group be effective and will help it endure.
The North Carolina team has been building a long term collaboration with other faculty in the state for nearly a decade as a part of the SAGE 2YC project. The network has grown to the point where participants want to continue the community well after the project has ended.
Develop and Implement Workshops
Workshops and Events » Convening professional development workshops for faculty in one's region is an effective mechanism for regional community building. Depending on the goals of the workshop, these face-to-face or virtual events may include adjunct and full-time 2YC faculty, 4YCU faculty, administrators, counselors, graduate students, and/or professionals outside of academia. To ensure good attendance, workshops should be publicized via e-mail (personal is best), personal calls, and flyers. To increase attendance, one could offer free food and useful items, have the workshop at an interesting location (e.g. Big Bear, Catalina Island), and advertise the new and useful information featured at the workshop. Participants will come back for more in the future if they leave each workshop with something they can implement in the short-term as well as new ways of thinking about their work that may take months or years to bear fruit.
From 2016-2019, the Change Agent teams hosted 37 face-to-face regional workshops for nearly 500 participants that focused on SAGE2YC project strands of broadening participation, supporting the academic success of all student, and professional pathways. These workshops took many forms and all of them had direct, positive impacts on their participants. Some examples of workshops that resulted from involvement in the SAGE 2YC program workshops include:
In 2017, the Southern California 1 team (which included Elizabeth Nagy from Southern California 3 at the time) partnered with NAGT's Traveling Workshops Program to engage members of the regional 2YC community in a Geoscience Retreat on building strong geoscience departments.
For much of the work of the Wisconsin team, their "department" included all the 2YC faculty at two-year institutions in the state. Working with their departmental colleagues was the same as working regionally. Reorganization of the structure of the University of Wisconsin institutions partway through the project made this action more difficult but the team was able to continue make progress on their goals.
Expand the Circle of Leaders
Part of the strength of a network is more hands to make the work lighter and part of the work of the network should be building up new leaders to take on new activities. Regularly including new conveners in workshop planning and providing structured development opportunities around leadership can keep a network expanding and thriving. This could involve simply modeling effective facilitation behaviors or spending time explicitly describing why activities and programs are structured the way they are in order to increase the number of people capable of running something similar in their context.
A major outcome of the SAGE 2YC project has been an increase in Change Agent ability to engage in professional development activities with their regional communities. In service to that work, a large quantity of materials related to helping run such activities has been accumulated on the SAGE 2YC website under the heading of Sustain Faculty Learning.
Move Beyond Workshops
There are a variety of initiatives and activities beyond professional development workshops that can be used to foster regional communities. Like running a successful workshop, the efficacy of these collaborations is contingent on the alignment of shared goals and interests among participants, creation of a leadership team whose division of labor capitalizes on individual strengths and expertise, and sustained buy-in from participants.
Ideas for such "next-level" activities might include:
- Developing new research experiences focusing on 2YC students or developing relationships with existing programs. The National Science Foundation has a database of REU sites for Earth Science .
- Designing transfer pathways between nearby institutions.
- Develop joint events to connect geoscience majors and/or student organizations from different institutions with each other.
- Organizing a regional internship program for 2YC students. The NAGT website provides a list of places to look for internship opportunities in geoscience.
- Collaboration on a theme issue for the Journal of Geoscience Education or other peer-reviewed publication is a potential mechanism for remotely building a regional community whose members have common discipline and/or research interests. Recent JGE theme issues include Large-Scale Analysis of Teaching Practices and Education Communities in STEM Disciplines, Interdisciplinary Teaching and Sustainability, and Outcomes of Climate Literacy Efforts.
Professional certificates, such as the pending Geotechnical Certificate Program at Mt. San Antonio College, are an opportunity to foster a regional community of students, faculty, and professionals outside of academia. The team organized an Advisory Board composed of members from local 2YCs, 4YCs, and in the private/public/government sectors.
This team's workshops facilitated the establishment of a network ("SoCalSeas") of educators, marine scientists, and others who came together to work out plans for collaborating on the development of a wide variety of activities: a traveling lecture series (to be hosted by alternating institutions), joint field trips and site visits to research facilities, events open to all (public outreach events in support of the United Nations' Decade of the Ocean), a listserv and web pages with announcements of events and opportunities as well as access to online teaching and other resources.
Drawing on an example from their own professional development as Change Agents, the Texas team organized a virtual book club on Claude Steele's book "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do".
In spring 2019, the Washington D.C. Metro Area team convened a regional field workshop, Field Trips to Engage Students in Science, open to high school, 2YC, and 4YC instructors. Participants examined outcrops in an urban area (Rock Creek Park) from the Piedmont and Coastal Plain geological provinces and included conversations on inclusive teaching methods and field trip ideas.
Pursue Funding Opportunities
Some of the activities that the network may want to tackle will require more than volunteer time and energy. Providing paid internships and research opportunities, as well as some field experiences, requires money. Leveraging the expertise in the network can lead to innovative program ideas and better success in securing resources to move forward on programs. The February 7, 2019 issue of SAGE Musings contains information on a variety of National Science Foundation programs that may be of interest to 2YC geoscience faculty such as the IUSE: Geopaths program.GeoPaths Project
The IUSE: Geopaths program exists to "increase the number of undergraduate students interested in pursuing undergraduate degrees and/or post-graduate degrees in geoscience through the design and testing of novel approaches for engaging students in authentic, career-relevant experiences in geoscience." The SAGE 2YC website maintains a collection of examples of funded Geopaths projects featuring 2YC faculty as leaders. In addition, several Change Agents have been successful in obtaining funding from the program.
- Geopaths Extra: Geoscience Educational Opportunities and Carer Oriented Research Experiences is a partnership program between Suffolk County Community College, SUNY Stonybrook, NOAA, USGS, and 3 regional high schools to increase student success and provide pathways to 4YCs and geoscience careers.
- Engaging diverse 2YC Geoscience Students: Expanding Opportunities Through Undergraduate Research and Mentoring is an NSF-Geopaths EXTRA program with PIs from the 2YC, 4YC, and museum sectors in North Carolina. Students from Wake Tech Community College conduct undergraduate research with faculty at North Carolina State University and present their research at an NC State poster symposium. Selected students present their work at the Geological Society of America National Meeting, and 2 students conduct paleontological research with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
- The Linn Benton Oregon State Geobridge Program is an NSF-Geopaths program to help geoscience students successfully transition between Linn Benton Community College and Oregon State University. Among its components, the LBOS Geobridge Program includes a paid summer-fall research program for LBCC students at OSU.