Regional Network Development
Goals for changes in the regional network
- Establish a community of practice invested in teaching that supports student learning at all levels
- Develop a network and partnership between industry and academic professionals
In order to establish a community of geoscience educators, over the last four years we have hosted an annual workshop that brought together full-and part-time faculty from the two regional community colleges, faculty from the major geoscience colleges and universities, and professional geoscientists to discuss ways in which we can improve educational practices in order to increase enrollment, broaden participation in geoscience programs, and expand extracurricular opportunities for our students. At these workshops faculty learned about each others' programs while working together to enhance their own programs, courses and/or pedagogical practices. Through these discussions we created direct links between current successful 4-yr college students and their community college roots.
To further establish a network of educators between institutions, formal presentations and panels were provided by university faculty that provided participating community college faculty greater insights into potential educational gaps in training in the community college programs. Through these discussions faculty learned that transferring graduates, though well skilled in geologic processes and mathematical ability, struggled with numeracy—specifically with spatial understanding of scales and recognizing unit errors. Furthermore, students who transferred prior to attaining a degree lacked technical computer skills, especially experience with Excel.
In addition to the annual fall workshops, we have hosted a series of open forums and lectures by professional geologists and university faculty. During lecture events, students and members of the public learn about the role of geoscientists within the local community and about state of the art geophysical techniques being used to identify and remediate local environmental problems. During open forums geoscience majors meet directly with representatives of the USGS, the NWS, and our local professional geologist association. These events not only highlight our programs to our local employers but also provide networking opportunities for our students.
The partnerships established between the community colleges and our regional 4-yr colleges and universities have been extremely successful. Since beginning this project we have moved from a passive transfer arrangement within the State University of NY system to an actively engaged transfer process where students have the ability to work with university faculty throughout their entire community college experience. The greater level of cooperation between institutions has corrected many of the misconception held about community college students by university faculty and led to the sharing of institutional resources and personnel. As a result I am in constant contact with my colleagues at our transfer institution to plan student programs and to discuss potential student transfers. In addition to the greater level of cooperation amongst our faculty, this partnership has greatly increased the number of transfers from SCCC to the local university which has resulted in the development of an active peer network of students between our two institutions.
Working with geoscience professionals has allowed community college faculty and students the ability to gain experience and access to equipment and sites that very few students will ever see. These experiences have helped faculty enhance our programs by providing students direct connections between theoretical classroom discussions and real-world problems/solutions. Relationships with our professional partners has led to internship opportunities for our students and invitations for students to attend professional association networking events.