Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM
IMPLEMENTATION OF A NEW UNDERGRADUATE GEOSCIENCE MAJOR AT CONCORD UNIVERSITY: A THREE-PHASE ROUTE TO SUCCESS
The late 1990's saw a pronounced downturn in undergraduate geoscience enrollments (AGI data). This cycle was inconveniently followed by budget deficits in most states that resulted in closure or downsizing of several academic geoscience departments nationwide. Within this climate, Concord University grew enrollment and implemented a new bachelor's degree program in Environmental Geosciences. Prior to our program, West Virginia had the fewest academic geoscience departments per capita in the nation, despite the fact that the State is highly dependent on extractive natural resources. We focused the program on extensive opportunities to develop field and mapping skills. This includes required attendance at our own field camp and completion of required courses in GIS, two skill sets that are desirable in the regional job market. The principle key to success in our case was the use of a three-phase, long-range plan that involved: 1) implementation of an interdisciplinary pilot program; 2) development of a mature curriculum, enrollment growth, and external fund raising, and; 3) State approval to initiate a B.S. degree program and institutional approval for an initial expansion of faculty. The first phase involved implementing a flexible curriculum encompassing core courses in geology and geography through our institutional Interdisciplinary Studies degree program. Curricular experimentation was achieved through special topics courses. Phase two involved creation of formally numbered courses and solidification of a curriculum suited to regional needs and graduate admissions. The final phase saw initiation of a formal degree program that demanded a more extensive institutional commitment and the hiring of an additional faculty member. Funding for the latter was partially provided by two regional corporate sponsors from the energy industry. Patience was critical to success; phase 1 (mid-1990's1999) endured faculty turnover and programmatic restructuring. Phase 2 (19992003) saw a maturation of the program and tripling of enrollments in both introductory and upper level courses. Advancement to phase 3 was frustrated by unanticipated national economic conditions, but final approval was granted for program commencement in January 2003.