Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM
BAITING THE HOOK: STRATEGIES FOR ATTRACTING UNDERGRADUATES INTO GEOSCIENCE PROGRAMS AT A RESEARCH-INTENSIVE UNIVERSITY
McMaster University is a medium-sized (18,000 full time undergraduates) research-intensive university. Few students come to McMaster with the intention of pursuing an undergraduate program in geoscience as earth science is taught in only a few high schools in Ontario and many students are unaware of either the nature or the scope of the discipline, or of the career opportunities open to geoscience graduates. The School of Geography and Earth Sciences (SGES) has developed a number of recruitment strategies that recognise the lack of previous exposure of potential undergraduates to geoscience. First, the structure and content of the undergraduate Earth and Environmental Science program is constantly reviewed and revised to ensure that it is attractive to potential students and meets the current and future needs of undergraduates. Second, considerable focus has been placed on the recruitment of students from three Level I Environmental Science courses offered by SGES which are taken as electives' by students from all disciplines. These courses integrate active learning strategies including problem-based and inquiry-style learning, hands-on laboratory and fieldwork experiences and provide information on career opportunities in the geosciences. Level I courses are allocated a large number teaching assistants (TAs) in order to provide all students with a small group learning experience and ample opportunity to interact with their TAs. Many senior undergraduates are employed as TAs for these courses and are very enthusiastic ambassadors for the geoscience programs. Third, SGES has a dedicated undergraduate academic advisor who is enthusiastic, approachable and readily available to give help and advice to students, especially those considering transfer into the geoscience program. Finally, SGES run a series of high school outreach programs that include a GIS day, geocaching exercises and a variety of open houses'. These programs are only moderately successful and SGES is currently examining ways to enhance undergraduate recruitment directly from high schools through activities such as fieldtrips, thematic workshops and school-based information sessions conducted by in-program geoscience undergraduates.