2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:55 AM


O'CONNELL, Suzanne, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan University, 265 Church St, Middletown, CT 06459 and HOLMES, Mary Anne, Geosciences, Univ of Nebraska-Lincoln, 214 Bessey Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0340, soconnell@wesleyan.edu

Between 1995 and 2004, the total number of bachelors and STEM (science (including social science), technology, engineering and mathematics) bachelor's degrees awarded in the United States increased. Yet during this time the total number of geoscience bachelor's degrees declined by almost 13% (Table 1). This is a decline in geoscience degrees as a portion of all bachelor's degrees from 0.38% (1995) to 0.27% (2004) and from all STEM bachelor degrees from 1.16% (1995) to 0.85% (2004).
19952004% Change
Total # Bachelor Degrees1.2 million1.4 million+ 14%
Total # STEM Bachelor Degrees158,432237,687+ 33%
Total # Geoscience Bachelor Degrees4,4783,903-13%
# Bachelor Degrees to Women643,290810,817+ 21%
# STEM Bachelor Degrees to Women175,931227,813+ 33%
# Geoscience Bachelor Deg. to Women1,5241,647+ 7%
# URM Bachelor Degrees158,432237,697+ 33%
# URM STEM Bachelor Degrees50,26574,328+ 32%
# URM Geoscience Bachelor Degrees174227+ 23%

There are many reasons for this decline, but certainly one is the geosciences' failure to attract a diverse student body. The composition of the undergraduate student body and the United States population are changing. These changes are not reflected in the composition of undergraduate geoscience majors. For example, in 2004, 57.6% of bachelor's degree recipients were women, yet only 42% of geoscience majors were women. The number of URM* STEM degrees increased from 13.3% (1995) to 16.5% (2004) of all STEM bachelors degrees. During this time URM geoscience bachelor's degrees averaged 211, from a low of 174 in 1995 to a high of 248 in 2001. This is 0.09% to 0.12% of the URM majors and only 0.3% of STEM majors. Today almost half of U.S. children under five are non-white. This includes Asian, Asian-American and URMs. In a little over a decade, these non-white students will be entering college. Geoscience departments must begin to prepare to attract these students now. To do this geoscience departments need to identify what attracts students to the major and what deters women and minorities from becoming majors. For example, women and minorities are less likely than white men to be attracted by the opportunity to spend time in the out-of-doors. They are more likely to be attracted by a positive undergraduate experience, such as interaction with a professor. *(URMs in this study include Black non-Hispanic, Hispanic, and American Indian/Native Americans)