Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM
WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD STUDENTS GONE? TEACHING GEOLOGY IN A SHIFTING SOCIOECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT
University geoscience departments across the United States are witnessing slow but steady decreases in the number of students electing to major in geology. The decline has been attributed to a number of possible causes (e.g., limited exposure to geology in high school, restrictive state science curricula, more options for science courses at the university level, No Child Left Behind legislation etc.); however, the actual explanation is probably a complex combination of these and many other factors. The University of South Alabama is one of the fastest growing four-year institutions in Alabama in terms of student enrolment, but this trend is not evident in the geology program. We have attempted to attract more students into our program by offering a more varied introductory geology schedule (e.g., additional classes during peak demand times, evenings and weekends), by introducing more exciting and topical geology classes (e.g., environmental geology, forensic geology etc.), and by promoting undergraduate research opportunities. We have also established a diverse scholarship and awards program for every level of the geology curriculum that is the envy of the University. Despite our efforts, geology classes continue to struggle with enrolment while other science classes are overbooked due to high demand. A significant proportion of the students that ultimately take freshmen geology classes enrol during the final phase of registration, presumably because all other classes are full. To these individuals, it is either geology or nothing. As depressing as this might seem, this group of students is the pool from which we must draw the majority of our future majors. This presentation will discuss the failures and successes of some of the teaching and recruitment techniques that we are utilizing to lure new majors into geology.