2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


EYLES, Carolyn H., School of Geography and Geology, McMaster Univ, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada and VAJOCZKI, Susan, School of Geography and Geology, McMaster Univ, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 2K1, eylesc@mcmaster.ca

The School of Geography and Geology (SGG) was created in 1998 through amalgamation of the former departments of Geography and Geology. A large number of faculty retirements, declining student enrolment in undergraduate geology programs and budget constraints precipitated this event. One of the first tasks of the new School was to revise and restructure all undergraduate B.Sc programs offered in order to meet changing societal and employer needs and to attract more students. A series of surveys were conducted to collect information from in-program students, alumni, and potential employers regarding the characteristics of an ‘ideal’ geoscience graduate. Survey results showed that the ‘ideal’ graduate should have a broad geoscience background, but should be specialized in a particular field, should have been exposed to ample ‘hands-on’ (experiential) learning and should have well developed personal transferable skills (e.g problem-solving, research, communication skills). A single B.Sc Honours program in Earth & Environmental Sciences was designed that included a common ‘core’ program, specialist streams, systematic personal skills development and opportunities for experiential learning. Student enrolments in this highly successful program, and in courses taught in SGG, are increasing every year.

Creation of a successful undergraduate program has contributed greatly to the development of a strong geoscience department. SGG were successful in obtaining modest funding for educational initiatives that allowed faculty members to implement innovative teaching methodologies and enhance experiential learning opportunities. Information sessions and workshops are regularly held for faculty to exchange information and develop their teaching skills and teaching workshops are held for graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants. Many undergraduate students are hired each summer as geoscience research assistants, and to help develop new instructional materials and conduct educational research. Both graduate and undergraduate students are also involved in ‘outreach’ activities that include classroom visits to elementary and high schools. The creation of a strong ‘educational culture’ that involves all members of the community is a major focus of SGG and is a foundation for its future success.