2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM


HICKSON, Thomas and LAMB, Melissa, Geology, Univ of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave, St. Paul, MN 55105, tahickson@stthomas.edu

Five years ago we had a unique opportunity to overhaul our department: its curriculum, mission, pedagogy, undergraduate research opportunities and sense of community. We considered each of these areas and implemented many new initiatives that we believe have led to our successful recruitment and retention of majors.

First, we are conscious of recruiting from our large introductory courses. We pursue many techniques: (1) we offer five different introductory courses that all serve as a first course in the major, each of which appeals to a different style of student; (2) we emphasize research that we have pursued with our students; (3) we funnel students interested in taking a second course into our very successful, introductory January field course in the desert southwest; (4) we hire geology majors as TA's to help in lab sections and they often “recruit” voluntarily; and, finally, (5) we regularly communicate with our best or most enthusiastic students in an effort to ‘turn them on' to taking a second geology course.

We asked our majors “what are we doing that works?” They responded strongly with the following: (1) professors are interested in their discipline and in the “science” of teaching; (2) all courses contain quality, outdoor, hands-on field labs; (3) faculty accommodate a range of backgrounds among students with a focus on problem-solving and project-based courses; (4) faculty incorporate into the curriculum and department activities how geology relates to the real world, what you can do with a degree and what you need to know to get a job; (5) there are many research and work opportunities during January term and the summer; (6) the department attitude that you don't have to be a “genius” to be a scientist, that anyone can do it, is supportive of students; (7) all full-time faculty teach both introductory and upper-level courses so students see the same professors more than once; (8) the professors know and care about the students; and (9) ENTHUSIASM.