2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


FLOOD, Tim P., Department of Geology, St. Norbert College, 100 Grant Street, De Pere, WI 54115, ANDERSON, Steven W., Department of Science, Black Hills State University, USB9102, Spearfish, SD 57799-9102 and MUNK, LeeAnn, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, 3211 Providence Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508, tim.flood@snc.edu

At a time when geoscience departments are being eliminated or dispersed, three new undergraduate geoscience degree-granting programs, St. Norbert College (WI), the University of Alaska Anchorage (AK), and Black Hills State University (SD), have experienced steady to rapid growth of majors despite small budgets and limited faculty. These programs began with single faculty members and new curricula, and have grown into sustainable academic entities that maintain solid enrollments and place students into high quality graduate programs and geoscience careers. These faculty faced similar challenges in the early stages of program development, such as having to teach a wide variety of upper division courses, needing to establish program credibility, finding the time and funding necessary for faculty and undergraduate research, obtaining materials for laboratory courses, and recruiting majors. Several lessons learned in developing these programs may be useful for those working within established geology programs/departments.

Additional lessons (growing pains) have been learned since inception of these programs. Course scheduling is critical to maintain the balance between the needs of the major and general education expectations. Major courses are offered every three semesters at SNC, and every four semesters at UAA and BHSU. Course requirements for the major should have enough flexibility to accommodate students out of sequence, i.e. those who decide to major late in their undergraduate career. Flexibility also helps to eliminate major courses taught as independent studies. Independent major courses are often a great deal of additional work for faculty and generally not as high quality as regular scheduled courses. As the number of faculty in the program increase, communication within the department becomes increasingly important. This is a simple yet important concept. Regular meetings are platforms for discussion of daily programmatic issues and help in molding the long term vision of the program. Recognition of individual faculty may be in the best interest of the program and should be promoted. Department Chairs need to publicize the good work of their geology colleagues to the appropriate people and venues. The good work of Department Chairs should intentionally be promoted by others within the program.