Initial Publication Date: September 9, 2019

Program/Department Development

Mt. Hood Community College

Goals for change at the program/department level

  • Regrow & enhance/expand Geoscience course advertising to increase enrollment & Geoscience majors.
  • Increase use of & sharing of active learning strategies.
  • Increase diversity in my Geoscience courses.


To increase enrollment and interest in Geoscience, I (Daina) continue to host tables at various events, such as New Student Orientation Day, when possible, continue a presence on Facebook. In addition, there is some need to create some flyers/posters advertising the Geoscience courses offered at MHCC. As my budget was cut drastically for the last budget cycle, I've also worked at getting a proposal to return my budget to pre-illness/sabbatical year levels.

During the autumn in-service for full-time faculty, prior to starting this year, I held an active learning strategies session at MHCC which resulted in being invited to hold more of these over the course of the year. Additionally, I've been incorporating more of these active learning strategies into my own classroom.

This past year I have started to incorporate metacognition into my Introductory Geology courses. I have students sign a contract such that if they complete 5 items that will help them to improve their study skills in my course they receive extra credit. This allows me to keep track of which students are utilizing metacognitive techniques such that I can begin tracking what the changes would be, as well as an additional incentive for student to try utilizing metacognition.


The current interim dean did submit a proposal to the budget committee to return Geology budgets to the earlier levels due to the drop associated with fewer course offerings during the year of my absence.

It appears that utilization of active learning strategies might have an impact on retention throughout the term. I have had several students comment that in their other classes attendance had dropped significantly; however, nearly everyone was attending my classes. While this is not a statistically significant support, it bears watching.

Portland Community College - Rock Creek Campus

Goals for change at the program/department level

  • Develop three new topic-centered "on ramp" courses:
    - Earthquakes and Volcanoes (G148)
    - Geology of the National Parks (G147)
    - Global Climate Change (G184)
  • Incorporate more active learning strategies into our courses by sharing with Geology/General Science Subject Area Committee


PCC Geology & General Science (G/GS) agreed to take the initiative on the development of three new "on-ramp" courses at PCC. These courses were designed to be topic-centered rather than content centered to increase student interest. In addition, our hope was to increase enrollment in G/GS courses specifically with students from under-represented groups and/or those who are first generation students. The math per-requisites of all three "on-ramp" courses were lowered to decrease enrollment barriers, and to ensure accessibility for all students. Eriks took a lead role in the development of G148 "Earthquakes and Volcanoes" and I (Andy) prepared lab activities for G147 "Geology of the National Parks." The third course, G184 "Global Climate Change," was developed by one of our former part-time instructors with our support.


All three courses have officially been offered at all four campuses for well over a year now. The courses have seen increasing enrollment since their initiation. Two of the courses are now also being offered through our distance learning program as four credit lab courses. Active learning strategies have been utilized by Change Agents (Eriks and I) and many have been shared with our part-time faculty at in-service meetings. Jigsaws and gallery walks along with think-pair-shares have been utilized during our in-service meetings as well.

Portland Community College - Southeast Campus

Goals for change at the program/department level

  • Increase student engagement and success in the earth sciences by highlighting community and socially relevant aspects of the earth sciences in earth science courses and by using active learning techniques.
  • Broaden participation in earth science courses to more closely mirror the diversity on our campus.
  • Promote professional pathways by strengthening links with our major transfer institution and promoting research opportunities for our students.


Increasing student engagement and success

Andy and I (Eriks) worked to develop a new set of general education earth science courses (G 147 Geology of the National Parks, G 148 Volcanoes and Earthquakes, and G 184 Global Climate Change) which are topic driven, have a lower math prerequisite than the existing introductory earth science courses at PCC, and utilize Open Educational Resources. The existing introductory earth science courses are traditional one quarter survey courses. In contrast to the old courses, the new courses are more clearly focused on socially relevant aspects of earth science, stress depth over breadth, and allow greater opportunity for project motivated learning.

I have added online versions of G 148 (Volcanoes and Earthquakes) and G 184 (Global Climate Change) to increase the accessibility of lab science courses to PCC students. In addition I am teaching G 148 (Volcanoes and Earthquakes) online for the first time this quarter (spring 2019).

I taught ESR 173 Environmental Sciences Geological Perspectives for the first time this winter. This course examines water, resource, energy, and waste management issues from a geologic perspective and was previously taught at my campus by a part-time instructor with a fisheries/biology background. Teaching this course in the future I will be able to introduce the earth sciences to a different student demographic than is currently enrolled in our geology courses. This is will also help develop relationships with the environmental studies program at Portland Community College.

Broadening participation

To broaden participation I have engaged in college based professional development around culturally relevant teaching and Critical Race Theory and have highlighted community relevant aspects of our local geology (the Vanport floods, radon hazards) in my courses as well as stressing our local urban geology including the Boring Volcanic Field, the Portland Groundwater Well Field and the Columbia Levee system, rather than the classic examples discussed in the course text.

In researching the Vanport Floods, we (Andy, Daina, and I) examined old Portland quadrangle maps and discovered that the city of Vanport came and went without being recorded on a USGS quadrangle map. In the course of this we discovered an early quad (1897) that includes geographic place names that bear witness to Portland's racist past. When discussing with our geology faculty whether to use this map in the classroom we discovered that many instructors were concerned that some students would react negatively to the racist place names and that they felt unprepared to support the discussions that might ensue in the classroom. We will be reaching out to the College's Office of Equity and Inclusion to explore creating a training for our instructors on how to best present this material in a culturally relevant teaching context.

Promoting professional pathways

I worked with the campus STEM Center, Career Center and Chemistry Faculty to present STEM research and internship information sessions fall and winter quarters, both on campus with online featuring student panels with past REU participants as well as faculty from our local four-year transfer institution involved in REUs.

Every fall I have the geology department faculty chair from our local transfer institution, Portland State University, give a presentation in my G 201 Physical Geology course about their program and course planning for transfer students.

As part of the Guided Pathways work at our school I constructed a program map linking Portland Community College courses to Portland State University geology and Earth Science majors; in this process a previously unarticulated course was articulated.

We are proposing a Geology Focus Award which is an non-transcripted award given by Portland Community College which recognizes the completion of a collection of courses in an area of study. Our focus award will consist of the three course geology sequence which meets geology degree requirements in Oregon (G 201, G 202, G 203) along with a GIS course (which is on the Gen Ed list) and a one credit field trip class or independent study. To apply for the focus award, students will complete an online form which will have questions about which courses they have taken and where they are planning on transferring to, which should help with our longitudinal tracking of our students.

I have students share their education/career goals during first day of class when they introduce themselves and try to highlight college resources to support their interests.

I make a practice of taking a few minutes at the beginning of each class to promote REUs and scholarships as well as on-campus events/resources and send emails about these opportunities to fellow instructors.


Enrollments have steadily increased in the new geology courses (G 147, G 148, G 184), especially in the online versions, which is causing us to get more of our instructors trained for online teaching. Students enrolled in the on-campus versions of these courses tend to be more diverse and younger than students in the traditional geology course sequence.

At our campus, typically several students who attended the STEM research and internship information sessions gain summer internships and scholarships. Recently we have had several students apply for NASA Oregon Space Grant Consortium SCORE community college research awards, which support research during the winter term. I mentored one student who signed up for an independent study course with me and supported a part-time instructor who mentored another student. Both students went on to receive summer REUs.

After the presentation about transferring to the geology program at our local four year institution, I hear classroom discussions about transferring (including non-geology majors) and push the students interested in geology majors to make appointments at PSU. By word of mouth many of these students do successfully transfer to PSU.