Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM
Increasing Native American Student Participation in the Geosciences: The GEMscholars Project
Interventions for the well-documented national deficiency of underrepresented students in higher education have focused primarily on the undergraduate student population with significantly less attention given to issues of diversity within graduate programs. As a result, we have made little progress in transforming faculty composition to better reflect the nation's diversity resulting in relatively few minority mentors joining faculty ranks and schools falling short of the broader representation of content expertise fostered in the more enriched, diverse academic environment. The GEMscholars (Geology, Environmental Science and Meteorology scholars) Program began in the summer of 2006 with the goal of increasing the number of Native American students pursuing graduate degrees in the geosciences. We drew on research from Native American student education models (that have been proposed but not tested) to address three key themes of (a) mentoring, (b) culturally relevant valuations of geosciences and possible career paths, and (c) connections to community and family. A collaboration between Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN and three institutions in northern Minnesota; Bemidji State University, Red Lake Nation College and Leech Lake Tribal College, is structured to develop research opportunities and a support network for Native American undergraduate students to participate in summer geoscience research projects in their home communities. The culmination of the summer project is the GEMscholars Symposium at Purdue University where the GEMscholars present their research findings to the academic community. Initial results from formative evaluations have been promising and allowed for two iterations of program modification. The results suggest that the GEMscholars who have participated in the program have developed a higher awareness of graduate school options and career opportunities in the Geosciences. In fact, one of the thirteen participants stated, This program influenced me to change my major and pursue my education in environmental studies.