2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM


HUNTOON, Jacqueline E. and LANE, Melissa, Directorate for Geosciences, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA, VA 22230, jhuntoon@nsf.gov

Enrollments in bachelor's-level degree programs in the geosciences are decreasing nationwide. It seems clear that it will be difficult to reverse this falling trend by teaching the ‘same old' content in the ‘same old' way. Instead, geoscience instructors need to consider revising both content and pedagogy, particularly in introductory level courses. At the same time, geoscientists should also investigate ways to enhance the diversity of the geoscience workforce. Geosciences currently have the lowest diversity of any of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2001, the most recent year for which data are available, ethnic and racial groups that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines made up approximately 25% of the population of the United States. In contrast, only 7% of the bachelor's, 5% of the master's, and 2% of the doctoral degrees awarded in the geosciences in 2001 went to members of underrepresented groups. The fact that diversity decreases less rapidly with increasing degree level (e.g. from B.S. to M.S.) in the geosciences than in other STEM disciplines indicates that the geosciences are of interest to members of underrepresented groups.

Mechanisms that have been shown to be effective at increasing diversity in the geosciences (as well as total enrollment in bachelor's-level geoscience programs) are to: 1) demonstrate that the geosciences are relevant to technologically savvy, increasingly urban students; 2) engage students in research; 3) build partnerships between universities, community colleges, K-12 teachers, and guidance counselors, families, and communities to address pipeline issues; 4) promote mentoring relationships among scientists, educators, and students; 5) provide financial support to facilitate participation in the geosciences among all members of the diverse U.S. population; and 6) publicize traditional and non-traditional geoscience career opportunities.