2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


VAN HEES, Edmond and LEMKE, Lawrence D., Department of Geology, Wayne State University, 0224 Old Main, 4841 Cass, Detroit, MI 48202, midas@wayne.edu

Wayne State University, located in downtown Detroit, Michigan, serves more than 33,000 students and is one of the principal U.S. institutions for higher education of minority students. Current enrollment of African-American students in the Geology and Environmental Science Programs at WSU stands at ~10% (3 of 30) for undergraduates and 20% (1 of 5) for masters students. While these proportions may be high relative to other traditionally white U.S. colleges and universities, they are not representative of enrollment at Wayne State where minority students comprise ~40% of the student body and 27% of our students are African-American. Consequently, we have launched a concerted effort to increase minority student representation among majors in our Geology and Environmental Science Programs. Our goal is to perpetually exceed a critical mass (~15%) of African-American and minority students that other researchers have suggested will effect a qualitative improvement of learning and social conditions for those minority students.

A cornerstone of our strategy to achieve this objective involves the use of field trips to attract and retain students. Recruiting from a pool of approximately 1000 students who enroll in our general education physical geology course each year, we invite students to participate in an annual departmental field trip. In the past five years, trips with 13 to 26 participants have visited geologically interesting locations such as California (2003), the Mississippi River Delta (2004), the Grand Canyon (2005), and West Texas (2006). These 10-day trips enrich our students' academic experience while providing an important opportunity for socialization and bonding with other students and faculty. The trips also open the eyes of some students who have never been outside of Detroit. We actively solicit financial support from alumni and local geology societies to help defray a large portion of the trip expenses because these costs represent a major barrier to minority student participation. Subsequent to the departmental trip, we incorporate 1 to 5-day long field trips into ten of our Geology courses. Regular involvement in field experiences maintains the intellectual stimulation and social bonds that motivate our students and ensures that they are prepared for field camp - their ultimate field experience.