Our broad goals are to increase interest in geoscience courses and improve the success of students in Earth and Space Science courses at Bellevue College. Student success and enrollment numbers have been declining in some geoscience fields at our college. Geoscience-related student clubs, social activities, and academic advising are currently sporadic. Improvements in those areas will build interest in geoscience careers and opportunities to reach a broader audience.
We are strengthening our geoscience community with more departmental meetings and relationship building with student support groups. We are increasing the visibility of the geoscience program by publicizing course and program information more widely and offering social gatherings for students. We are building closer relationships with academic advisors and improving the availability of information on geoscience majors and careers.
In recent years, student enrollment and success rates have been declining in some of the geoscience fields at our institution. Persistent success gaps in underrepresented populations are reflected in our courses just as they are in the institution and nationwide. We began this project to address these opportunities for improvement. The project gave us an opportunity to explore the reasons for declining enrollments or low success rates in particular courses. We set out to create a sense of excitement for earth and space sciences and to build a stronger sense of community within our department.
The timing of the project aligned with a change in leadership within the department. While we created new goals and began to implement changes, we were also preparing to take on the role of co-program chairs as our long-serving department chair retired. We worked with the outgoing program chair on a scheduled 5-year program review and created specific program goals, so that we have a strong vision for how we would like our program to develop in the next 5 years. We were also aware that we could take advantage of a time when we had strong institutional support from our dean (a fellow geoscientist) and a new college president eager to make data-driven changes.
Aligning with Institutional Priorities
Our college has a mission centered on four core themes: (1) student success, (2) teaching and learning excellence, (3) college life and culture, and (4) community engagement and enrichment. Our work as change agents aligns most strongly with the first two themes, as we focus on increasing student success through improvements to teaching strategies. Increasing excitement around earth and space sciences contributes to the college culture, for example through more regular opportunities for involvement with clubs or extracurricular earth science activities. Our work to increase diversity and inclusion in the geosciences through an increased sense of belonging will contribute to a stronger college culture. Finally, our work to build a regional geoscience network and to provide regional workshops will serve as community engagement.
Our project comes at a time where our institution is in a period of looking inward, reflecting deeply upon how we serve our students and our community. The college has been going through the Achieving the Dream and Guided Pathways projects for many of the same goals of the SAGE 2YC project: improving student success, broadening participation, and improving professional pathways. The alignment between these projects enabled us to fit our program-level work into the larger institutional context.