Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM
THE ROLE OF CAPSTONE EXPERIENCES IN GEOSCIENCE PROGRAM ASSESSMENT
Southern Utah University (SUU) recently underwent its ten-year re-accreditation. During that process, the accrediting agency made it clear that our assessment activities do not meet their expectations. Development of the self-study that preceded the accreditation visit and report, lead us to wonder how other geoscience programs were addressing assessment. In early 2003, we sent an assessment methods survey to all 500+ geoscience programs in the United States. Our survey engendered a twenty-seven percent response rate. Many interesting trends were revealed by the responses, but of particular interest was the apparent reality that few of our colleagues are addressing program and curriculum assessment differently than we are. Currently, our primary means of assessment for graduating seniors is an independent research, capstone experience that must be formally disseminated as both a senior thesis, and a professional presentation. The capstone activities have been extremely varied. The majority of SUU students undertake faculty directed local projects. However, students have: participated in resource management activities with federal agencies; utilized work done on company projects in the private sector; completed work begun during a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at another institution; worked with state survey professionals on a project funded by the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP); and, for students who have acquired significant geographical information systems (GIS) skills, applied them to geological problems. Eighty-nine percent of the survey respondents require a capstone experience. As indicated by their responses, the fulfillment of this requirement also takes on a variety of forms. While our accrediting agency may have different ideas about what constitutes assessment of geoscience programs, our survey results suggest that the methodology we are employing is consistent with national trends in program assessment.