2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM

The Academic Dimension of a Geoscience Workforce Crisis

FEISS, P. Geoffrey, Office of the Provost, College of William and Mary, The Brafferton, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23185, pgfeis@wm.edu

Assume a geoscience workforce crisis. How might institutions of higher education (HE) help?

HE is a business whose products are sought after by other businesses, government, and society. Geoscience is one of many interests with a stake in HE and not the richest, most vocal, or most powerful. Resolving our workforce crisis will be one component of a HE business plan competing for resources with other priorities. Insofar as we persuade that we help resolve societal problems, a place will be set for us.

No post-secondary system is as varied as our own. No simple fix can be applied by policy-makers since the delivery system is decentralized, independent, and mission-variable.

In the zero-sum, open-market of HE, who directs new resources or reallocates old? In every institution, there are those who decide winners and losers. They are governing boards, presidents/chancellors, major donors, academic leadership (provosts and deans), alumni, and boosters. Chairs, faculty, parents and students play an internal role, but their impact is local, often seen as parochial, and temporally restricted. In the public arena, governors, state legislators and staff, and HE system actors are players. The Federal government can impact priorities at a distance but often in an inconsistent, politically charged, and fraught manner.

What motivates HE decision-makers? Mostly politics, greed, and lust for power -- also sometimes concern for the common good, love of knowledge, affection, and other eleemosynary concerns. Moving geoscience to the top of the list requires it be mission-appropriate, enhance prestige, pass an intellectual validity test, be sustainable, have powerful and broad support, and demonstrate a ROI with employment opportunities for graduates. Non-academic supporters must 1) focus on institutions that can be successful, 2) identify and connect with key campus leaders, 3) provide substantial material and other support, and 4) stay for the long haul.