Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
BUILDING A STRONG GEOSCIENCE PROGRAM FROM SCRATCH: PERSPECTIVES FROM A NEW PROGRAM AT A STATE-SUPPORTED PUI
Founding a new geoscience program at a primarily undergraduate institution with limited prior experience in the discipline of geology is challenging, yet provides an unusual opportunity to build a strong department from the ground up. Concord University is a state-supported institution with <3000 students; ~16% of these are science and mathematics majors. The institution developed an interdisciplinary studies concentration in environmental geosciences in 1995 as a collaborative effort between geology and geography faculty. Success with this pilot program led to approval to offer a formal major in 2002 the institution awarded the first eight Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Geosciences in May 2003. A primary challenge associated with founding and sustaining the early program was a lack of an historical institutional culture that attracted students with interests in the geosciences. As a former state normal school for teachers from 1872 through the mid-1900's, one to two introductory geology courses were offered at the institution for teacher education. In the 1960's, the institution focused on a liberal-arts mission. During the past decade, most students with interest in science were drawn towards career-focused vocational fields such as pre-medicine and pre-pharmacy, and few students initially entered the sciences as a liberal-arts degree option. However, we quickly found that there was a modest yet solid interest in geosciences in our regional service area (southern West Virginia) as the program came on line. Part of this interest stems from a state economy dependent upon extractive natural resources, and a rural population with interests in the outdoors and nature. Factors associated with the early success of the geoscience program include the nature of the curriculum, student recruitment, and building a culture of faculty-student teamwork. These three factors represent measures of programmatic success that mirror results of a recent national survey by Richardson and Beck (2005; http://serc.carleton.edu/departments/survey_results.html). We will discuss specific student-centered components of these three measures that we have found successful at our institution.