As Agents of Change, we have sought to increase the visibility of Ocean Sciences in an effort to broaden student participation, opportunities, and to increase the depth of their learning in an emerging STEM career field. We expanded the use of high impact practices in our courses, developed a second course focused on the coastal environment to build on our current one-course offering (Introduction to Oceanography), and introduced new ways for our students to connect to Ocean Sciences (e.g. new field trips, ocean lecture series, adopted a SOCCOM float). We have also worked to develop an informal community of practice among our faculty, as well as a network of like-minded educators in our region.
We hope to provide interested students with a deeper understanding of Ocean Sciences, and a solid foundation for transfer for students choosing that path.
Global climate change promises to strongly affect the world's coasts, and those changes will affect everyone. Humanity will be better served if the broad spectrum of community college students has more exposure to the issues that will impact our coastlines. At the same time, careers in Ocean Sciences are emerging, and students with a strong background will be in high demand.
Community college students, with their widely diverse backgrounds, show significant variety in their levels of preparedness for our science courses. About 60% of our oceanography students come to us directly after graduating from high school, and may not yet have the tools required to succeed in college. As educators, we strive to help all students understand course content and succeed. Being involved in this project has helped us to expand our toolbox.
We hope make Ocean Sciences more visible to students. Our efforts involved instituting an oceanography speaker series, building a new course, and in the future, starting an oceanography club. For the speaker series, we invite educators and researchers to present their work. The new course we built focuses on the coastal environment. The club will take trips to the coast for various experiences (kayaking, beach clean-up, surf lessons, tide-pooling, etc.). Students are more apt to develop a better understanding of Ocean Sciences when they can see the processes and products for themselves, and the most accessible place to see these is at the coast.
We are excited when we can inspire students to see the connection between their coursework and the world around them. We have begun to collaborate with faculty teaching chemistry and marine biology to help create new opportunities that are meaningful to students. With help from our network of like-minded faculty from other institutions, we are exploring ways to change students' perception of career options.
Aligning with Institutional Priorities
Mt. SAC's Mission Statement includes the following: "The mission of Mt. San Antonio College is to support all students in achieving their educational goals in an environment of academic excellence. Specifically, the College is committed to providing quality education, services, and workforce training so that students become productive members of a diverse, sustainable, global society." In order to put this mission into practice, the College has devised as part of its Strategic Plan a set of Goals, several of which are aided by our SAGE 2YC work.
Goal 1 is to "prepare students for success through the development and support of exemplary programs and services." Our work aids in preparing students for success in careers that will be crucial in the near future, as coastal ocean processes affect our way of life in ways that are not addressed in other classes. Incorporation of research projects and career exploration will further prepare students for transfer into appropriate Bachelors programs.
Goal 2 is to "improve career/vocational training opportunities to help students maintain professional currency and achieve individual goals." While our work does not relate directly to vocational training, we are actively searching for industry partners who can provide internship opportunities for our students. The visibility of our program may help attract those who see this additional course as beneficial to their abilities to accomplish their jobs, or to advance in their careers, especially as the new course is added to our Environmental Studies transfer degree.
Another goal (14) is to "improve the effectiveness and consistency of dialogue between and among departments, committees, teams, and employee groups across the campus." The new course is cross-disciplinary, requiring incorporation of biological, chemical, and ecological viewpoints. Faculty members from these disciplines, and from other colleges in our region, have expressed excitement at having participated in our January 2019 workshop; one result is a network of collaborators, named SoCalSeas, from both 2- and 4YCs. We have pledged to work on making Ocean Sciences more visible and accessible to students. Work will continue at another meeting we are arranging for the Fall 2019 semester.
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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.