Program/Department Development

Goals for change at the program/department level

Dave and Becca wrote about their Geotechnical CTE program for the NAGT Geo2YC Newsletter.
  • Goal 1: Expand geoscience employment opportunities
  • Goal 2: Expand the number and improve the diversity of our group of geoscience majors.
  • Goal 3: "Elevate" adjunct faculty to improve their ability to promote positive change at the course, department, and institutional levels.


Goal 1-Geotechnical CTE:
We have made great strides in developing a Geotechnician Certificate Program to complement our college's Career and Technical Education (CTE) program. After recruiting a diverse group of professionals from the public, private, and academic sectors to serve on the advisory committee for the certificate, the advisory committee met in April 2019 to steer the curriculum. Several new courses for the program have been written and have either been approved or are in the arduous approval process that involves departmental, curriculum, program, institutional, and state-level approval. We hope to have completed the approval process for the the certificate by fall 2019 and begin accepting applicants for the first cohort of geotech students in the spring 2020.

Goal 1-Career Guidance:
Becca began partnering with the Mt. SAC STEM Center in winter 2019 to offer a series of workshops related to careers and professional pathways. These workshops will continue in fall 2019, and we will also invite graduate student representatives from the University of California Riverside's "GEODE" program to visit some of our classes in fall 2019 and share information about geoscience career paths.

Goal 1- Geoscience Meeting Participation:
Undergraduate involvement in national or regional conferences is an excellent way to engage students by allowing them ownership of some research idea or putting them into contact with peers and advisors. We plan to continue encouraging students to present at the national level, both as part of SAGE 2YC-influenced projects, NSF-funded research opportunities and our department's internal research opportunity.

Goal 2-Additional Physical Geology Classes:
We have received approval from the Natural Sciences Division to increase our sections of Physical Geology. We see this course as one of the best geoscience recruitment tools and as good feeder classes for our two field classes, also good recruiting classes for geoscientists. We also plan to experiment with some new methods of recruiting for Physical Geology and other courses that are historically harder for us to fill.

Goal 2-Outcomes Data:
We are expanding the number of sections we track for outcomes data in order to capture a better snapshot of how diversity in our geoscience classes stacks up against the entire college's diversity. This is designed to help us understand the impacts of any changes in teaching across a wider breadth of courses. Hopefully, the wider array of data will help us see the impact of teaching changes in colleagues' classes who attended our various workshops.

Goal 3-Inservice and Preservice Adjunct Faculty:
We are aspiring to increase the involvement of part-time faculty in our workshops. We also invited geoscience graduate students at local universities to our fall 2018 regional workshop to pilot the engagement and mentoring of preservice geoscience faculty.


Geotechnical CTE:
So far, we have built relationships with over 20 local professionals in the private, public and academic sectors. Dave interviewed these individuals in person or on the phone, and they answered an extensive survey designed to steer our curriculum. These advisors have also been a resource for internship opportunities. Four new courses have made it through the curriculum process or are in the process. The need to reach out to geotechnical employers has helped our department build relationships between the school and the private and public utility sector. Because a number of people on the advisory committee are academics, we have also been able to describe the relationship between the SAGE 2YC program and the creation of the Geotech certificate.

Career Guidance:
During winter 2019, Becca worked with Beta Meyer (Professor of Biological Sciences) and Charlie Newman (Professor of Chemistry) to implement 10 workshops for students. Topics included summer research and internship opportunities, CV writing tips/CV review, and personal statement assistance. STEM students from geosciences, biological sciences, chemistry, physics, and engineering attended the workshops. Here is an example handout used at the summer research and internship opportunities sessions: internshiplist.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 59kB Mar11 19). The workshop series is on hiatus for spring 2019 as Becca is teaching in a study abroad program but will resume in fall 2019. In addition, graduate students for the GEODE program visited and discussed various career paths in the geosciences during fall 2018.

Thanks to an NSF-Geopaths grant, approximately 20 Mt. SAC students had the opportunity in spring 2017 and spring 2018 to participate in a field and career preparation program called ESTEM. The program included students from Mt. SAC, University of San Francisco, and College of the Atlantic and involved geology, geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology field projects and interaction with professionals from the environmental sector. A presentation from the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, fall 2018, summarizes the academic and career components of ESTEM and self-reported student data (Acrobat (PDF) 69.8MB Jun10 19) about changes in field skills and career awareness.

Geoscience Meeting Participation:
Two Mt. SAC students attended the GSA National Meeting in Indianapolis in fall 2018. Each presented a poster: Matching Skill to Need: A multi-institutional approach to field-based environmental science and High Resolution Stratigraphic Analysis of the Basal Monterey Formation and Underlying Siliceous Units on Santa Cruz Island. This is not the first time that Mt. SAC students have participated in scientific conferences, but it was our first attempt to provide students with some meeting guidelines to facilitate a better understanding of geoscience careers. Among other meeting requirements, students were provided with a list of career-related activities at the meeting and instructed to select at least one to attend and were asked to attend at least one networking/social function. Both students attended GeoCareers Day and the Geoscience Educators Reception for their career and network-related requirements. In addition, one student participated in the IAGD field trip, Accessible Cave and Karst Geology of the Mammoth Cave National Park Region. We will continue this strategy at future meetings to promote increased awareness of geoscience career opportunities for Mt. SAC students who attend. We also invited students to local geoscience events (Association of Engineering Geologists, Groundwater Resources Association, local geoscience groups, etc.) where they had the chance to network with future employers and hear about research interests.

Additional Physical Geology Classes:
We added one section of physical geology to our department's offerings, effectively increasing the number of sections from 2 to 3. We attempted to increase the number of sections to 4 several semesters ago but were unsuccessful in filling all four sections. We are still struggling to understand how to recruit for the additional sections; we have tried email campaigns to past "non-passing" students, to other field-related courses in other departments (i.e. Field Biology), and have posted course openings on various social media platforms.

Outcomes Data:
In the first year of the project we collected outcome data for the five course sections we were directly involved in teaching. After the first year we expanded outcome data collection to over thirty sections. This was designed to help us understand the impacts of any changes in teaching across a wider breadth of courses, hoping to measure the impact of other instructors involved in our workshops.A wider selection of courses seems to better represent our department's diversity, bringing several diversity percentages closer to the school's. For instance, in year two we had 54% and 10% Hispanic and Asian enrollees, respectively, in our tracked classes. This last assessment cycle these percentage rose to 68% and 13% respectively, exceeding the school's percentage of Hispanic students by 15% and getting closer to the school's percentage of Asian students (17%). We were encouraged that the percentage of underrepresented populations in the geoscience courses for which we had collected data exceeded that of the college.

Inservice and Preservice Adjunct Faculty: This year, we included a number of our adjunct faculty in our fall workshop. One of these adjunct faculty has become very involved, helping us coordinate our last workshop, regularly reporting out various teaching strategies attempted in class, and being generously funded to attend the SAGE and CoACH workshops at the 2018 AGU National Meeting. This year, six of our adjunct faculty participated in our departmental practices inventory, versus none the previous year. We also began to reach out to potential future adjunct faculty during our fall 2018 regional workshop by inviting geoscience graduate students from local universities to the workshop. Seven graduate students attended and participated in sessions on pedagogy (infusing activities with a strong societal component into your teaching), professional development (opportunities for faculty and student professional development at 2YCs), and careers (navigating the academic job search and probationary process). They also had the opportunity to have their CVs and teaching philosophies reviewed and prepared and presented a teaching demonstration as part of a mock interview activity.