Southern California Change Agent Team 1

Dave Mrofka
Becca Walker

Mt. San Antonio College
Initial Publication Date: October 12, 2016


We are working to increase student awareness of and preparation for academic and professional pathways attainable with a 2-year degree, 4-year degree, or a geoscience certificate. We use the following mechanisms in our work:

  • Incorporating career preparation components into our courses and program;
  • Creating a Geotechnician Certificate Program;
  • Devoting instructional time to discuss geoscience careers and pathways with students;
  • Building relationships with Mt. SAC career, transfer, and STEM counselors.

We also actively continue to build a 2YC geoscience community in the southern California area to foster productive, sustainable interactions and collaborations between full-time, adjunct, and pre-service 2YC faculty.


Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC) enrolls over 37,000 students (CCC Chancellor's Office Data Mart, 2018), is one of the top 10 2YCs in the California Community College system for transfers to 4YCUs, and is one of the state's largest workforce training institutions. However, these institutional characteristics were not reflected in the Earth Sciences and Astronomy Department when we were invited to be SAGE 2YC Faculty Agents of Change. For example, although approximately 12,000 Mt. SAC students transferred to the Cal State University system between 2006 and 2016, only 39 of those 12,000 students transferred in Earth science-related disciplines (geology, geosciences, Earth sciences, oceanography, marine science, meteorology, astronomy, environmental science--data from The California State University Analytic Studies transfer database).

Further, fewer than half of those geoscience transfer students identified as belonging to an ethnic group historically underrepresented in the geosciences, and fewer than half were women. Although our department offers a wide variety of courses in geology, astronomy, meteorology, and oceanography; has a strong tradition of fieldwork, including several field courses; and facilitates student research through programs like the Redinger Endowment and a partnership with NASA-JPL's SIRI (Student Independent Research Intern) program, we were not producing as many geoscience transfers as we would have liked. We also lacked the curricular and community infrastructure to provide workforce training/Career and Technical Education for students interested in pursuing jobs in the geotechnical sector without attending a 4YCU, a career trajectory with an extremely favorable labor market analysis.

In addition, as we considered the vast majority of students taking our classes--those who would join us for a single geoscience course to fulfill their General Education Physical Science requirement--we wanted to incorporate skill-building into our classes that would be (a) transferable across academic disciplines and (b) helpful for students as they moved forward in their educational plans, regardless of whether or not that plan included STEM coursework, degrees, or careers. Finally, we thought about our individual instruction and interaction with the geoscience and geoscience education community in Southern California. There are approximately 40 community colleges in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.

Because of Southern California's location and high population density, it is also home to many geoscience-related companies and organizations in the research, consulting, government, non-profit, technical, industrial, and resource sectors. We had a strong desire to build some sustainable, synergistic collaborations with other geoscientists in the area, both in the aim of improving 2YC geoscience education in Southern California (including our own classrooms) and facilitating professional pathways for our students.

Aligning with Institutional Priorities

Our work as Change Agents primarily contributes to the following Mt. SAC Goals and Strategic Objectives:

  • College Goal #2: Improve career/vocational training opportunities to help students maintain professional currency and achieve individual goals. To support this college goal, we collaborated with the Mt. SAC STEM Center to hold career and internship workshops for STEM students; ran a multi-institutional field and career preparation program including Mt. SAC students (ESTEM program--funded by NSF Geopaths); and administered evidence-based assessments ("performance reviews") of technical and soft skills for Physical Geology students.
    • Strategic Objective: Maintain and improve current employability skills through increased work-based learning opportunities for CTE students. To support this college strategic objective, we began developing a Geotechnician Certificate Program (funded by California Strong Workforce).
  • College Goal #4: Increase access for students by strengthening recruitment opportunities for full participation in college programs and services. Strategic Objective: Identify and implement effective strategies, activities, and interventions that improve access and persistence for all ethnic, gender, and disability groups at the college. To support this college goal and strategic objective, we implemented instructional modifications in our courses and convened a series of professional workshops for 2YC faculty focusing on, among other things, evidence-based and inclusive practices in 2YC instruction.

Table of Contents

Individual Growth and Development »
Program/Department Development »
Institutional Development »
Regional Network Development »
Making and Sustaining Change »
Team and Institutional Context »

Team Activities

Until the spring of 2018, Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman (now part of Southern California Team 3) was part of Southern California Team 1. She was involved in running events in 2016-2017.


Supporting Academic Success in the Geosciences at Two-Year Colleges in Southern California
December 2, 2016, Mt. San Antonio College

Geoscience Retreat
August 25-26, 2017, Pasadena City College

Strong Starts and Transitions: Supporting Present and Future Geoscience Educators at 2-Year Colleges in Southern California
Saturday, August 25, 2018, Mt. San Antonio College

Follow-on Activities

Supporting Academic Success in 2YCs
May 19, 2017

Southern California 2YC Geoscience Virtual Gathering
Friday, March 30, 2018

This project description is part of a collection documenting work by teams of two-year college faculty to implement high-impact, evidence-based instructional and co-curricular practices at their own institutions in pursuit of improved STEM learning, broadened participation, and a more robust STEM workforce.

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