Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM
SUCCESSFUL GEOLOGICAL SCIENCES PROGRAMS: A CASE STUDY FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE
Although a recent trend at several U.S. colleges and universities has been to divide, disperse, or dissolve geoscience programs, the University of Alaska Anchorage has recently implemented a new undergraduate major in geological sciences. The major is currently in its third year and has increased in number at a near exponential rate since the program began in 2004 with 12 majors to 70 majors in 2006. The B.S. in Geological Sciences is offered and maintained by three tenured and one term faculty with a variety of disciplinary expertise and with a common goal of delivering a high quality undergraduate education. Key elements in the development and approval of the major included consistent dedication to the program by the faculty, support from the College of Arts and Sciences and high student demand. In addition, there was overwhelming support from Alaskan industries and agencies that have a high demand for employees with a B.S. degree in geological sciences. The B.S. curriculum is centered on a core of 40 credits of traditional geology courses and offers two tracks; one in general geological sciences and the other in environmental geological sciences. These two options allow students to prepare for either graduate studies or employment in the mining and environmental fields. Another key element of the curriculum is a variety of field trip courses, two of which serve as field camp-style courses and introduce the students to the geologic environment of Alaska. However, as a new program with a limited number of faculty and a continuous growing number of students, we are now faced with an increasing number of challenges. For example, the frequency of offering upper division required courses is limited to once every four semesters and there are commonly more majors needing the courses than spaces available in upper division courses. In addition, the department must offer lower division general-education courses as well as provide undergraduate research opportunities. These and other factors require continuous evaluation and development of the program and curriculum. Even though the program has had many hurdles to overcome in its early years, it has been successful as measured by both the numbers of majors and by the students continuing on to graduate school or obtaining jobs in the natural resource based economy of Alaska.