Making and Sustaining Change

Consideration of context

I (Debra) started the Institute of Marine and Environmental Studies (IMES) at Daytona State College (DSC) in 2010. IMES is embedded within the School of Biological and Physical Sciences at DSC. DSC is located in Daytona Beach, Florida and at the most northern end of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL)--the most diverse estuary in North America; the IRL has great recreational and economic value to the State of Florida. Because of the IRL's importance and the fact that no other regional college was exploiting it as a learning tool for students the way that I knew we could, I proposed a marine-and-environmental-science vision to the college. This vision included a unique name--IMES, new geoscience courses, an appropriate facility, a college website with information about our newly-created AA Transfer Tracks, a boat for sampling activities and a social media page. My SAGE 2YC teammate, Karen, has recorded and maintained data regarding IMES student recruitment, retention, and completion rates. Karen has also provided the much-needed emotional support needed to push forward with my IMES vision for the college.

At the time of my initial proposal to DSC, there was strong support from administrators and much progress was made. And while a changing administration and newly-hired faculty have slowed some progress, being a Change Agent has taught me how to navigate around these tumultuous waters and provided me with a teammate (Karen) who helped to focus our goals. For example, Karen and I learned how to identify and partner with faculty and staff in other departments (e.g., Student Advising, Quanta Honors College, etc.), and reach out to non-profit organizations to further my IMES vision. With this, new opportunities have been created for IMES students including an undergraduate research lab and a required orientation class. In addition, two events were created to give our undergraduate research students a place to showcase their great work. These events include ShORE on the IRL and the Arts & Sciences Colloquium.

Things that worked well that we would do again

One key aspect of the IMES program that led to its success was an undeterred passion to accomplish something I knew was needed and would be well received by students and the community. When I joined the DSC faculty in 2008, there were no geoscience courses or majors. Thus, starting something like IMES and including new geoscience courses and majors was the easy part. It also helped to 'umbrella' the majors with an identifiable name--IMES.

Collaboration with DSC staff is also an important key to success. Working closely with DSC Student Advisors helped to strengthen the program as they helped to create the AA Transfer Tracks now being used by IMES students. DSC Student Advisors are at the 'front door' of the college. Partnering with them has been a priority when trying to increase student recruitment into the IMES program.

Working and interacting with DSC faculty is beneficial. Collaboration within the department between faculty that teach Geoscience and those that teach that gatekeeper sciences such as Debra and Karen are essential for a Geoscience faculty in a small department. Engaging and working with faculty in other disciplines with similar goals of encouraging diversity and success provides support for faculty from smaller specific departments.

Creating a community-wide event, ShORE, has also helped to give IMES some much-needed notoriety not only in the local community, but within the college itself. ShORE is now recognized as an important educational event for the community, students, and scientists. It also serves as a great recruiting tool!

Finally, the data that Karen has collected have helped to confirm that these strategies, e.g., partnering with Student Advisors and activities such as ShORE, have helped to increase student recruitment and retention rates in IMES courses and programs. We plan to continue these partnerships and activities as well as recruitment/retention data collection.

Supporting faculty change

Unfortunately, DSC has very few cooperating geoscience faculty. Those DSC faculty who have participated in our annual workshop include an environmental science adjunct professor. Regardless, we have offered 3 professional-development workshops that were well received by high school and 2YC faculty. We've also worked with high school teachers to assist them and their students in creating oral/poster presentations for the ShORE event. One of these local high school students actually won second place in the poster competition; she was completing with students from all surrounding high schools, colleges and universities.

Strategies for overcoming challenges

Our biggest challenge at DSC was getting other geoscience faculty to participate and support our many efforts. To encourage the support and interest of the faculty it will be beneficial to continue to share and promote the ideas and strategies that we learned during the project. While this challenge remains an issue, we have found that partnering with faculty and staff in other departments (e.g., Student Advising and Quanta Honors College) has helped to move beyond what could have been a great limitation to our growth and success.

Things to think about before you start this type of project

Starting a broad program such as IMES takes a lot of thought and planning. Take some time to observe the needs of your college and community, and then determine the likelihood that you would receive the support to move forward. Ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Are all geoscience courses available to students?
    • Is there a value to creating a new course?
    • Can these courses be bundled into a major?
    • Can these majors be bundled into a program?
  • Is there an environmental area of significance in your location that your courses and/or program could be associated with?
    • Is there a community of supporters for this environmental area e.g., non-profit organizations or clubs that work together to protect and/or study the area?
  • Are there other local colleges/universities offering a similar program? If your answer is 'yes'--how would yours be different or better?
    • Could you create articulation agreements with those local universities?
  • Is there evidence that you would gain community and/or administrative support in your efforts
    • Is there a void in the community that could be filled at your college by offering new classes or creating a program?
    • Do your administrators have a strong desire to increase recruitment, retention, and completion rates at your college and would a new program help to accomplish this?
  • Do you have the undeterred passion to carry though with what might be a highly rewarding, but sometimes frustrating, goal that will benefit your students, the college, and the community? If your answer is 'yes'...then go for it!
Finally, what I (Debra) have learned through the process of creating a new program is that, just like scientific research, there is no straight line to success. And as frustrated as I sometimes get, I can also report that I have more often felt a sense of accomplishment with the success of each of our students; their success brings me great joy.

Sustained impacts

For new programs and or events to 'stick', they must be successful by college measures and support college-wide goals and its mission. Maintaining that success requires dedicated support of courses, programs, and events already begun. It also requires that new and innovative strategies are implemented into these courses and programs. Events should also be created that broaden the participation of college faculty, staff, and administrators as well as the community the college serves. Events also require that some level of notoriety is reached. Simply put, it takes 'buy in' by all stakeholders.

To sustain the momentum is important to continue to communicate with administration, faculty, and staff. Through the course of this project, the IMES network expanded, but there is still potential for further expansion of the network. It would also be beneficial to remain connected with the regional faculty and high school faculty that attended our workshops. Resources and idea sharing are key for recruiting, retaining, and engaging a diverse group of students.