Paper No. 26
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM
Engaging Alumni In Undergraduate Geoscience Education: The St. Lawrence University Geology Alumni Conference, a Case Study
Undergraduate Geoscience departments maintain contact with alumni through formal and informal means. Although departments generally understand the benefits of such contacts, competing demands on resources and time can make it difficult to develop them beyond a newsletter or sponsored get-togethers at conferences. At St. Lawrence, the Geology Department and University have invested in formalizing alumni contacts through an on-going scientific/professional conference (SLUGAC; http://it.stlawu.edu/~geoclub/alumni/slugac.html). First organized in 1992 by alumni and now as a joint process with faculty and students, the conference is supported by alumni who volunteer their time, effort and financial resources to attend. The triennial conference, held through 6 cycles over 16 years, gives all students at least one opportunity to attend during their undergraduate years. Objectives include sharing current scientific and professional advances with attendees and providing perspectives on career paths in both Geoscience and non-Geoscience fields. SLUGAC was initially built around a one-day program of scientific/professional papers given by alumni contributors, combined with a second day panel discussion in which alumni comment on career paths and respond to undergrad questions. In addition, various receptions, informal gatherings and a banquet have been added, which undergraduates find all very valuable. Participation data for SLUGACs 2 through 6 show 19, 27, 26, 24, and 34 alumni pre-registrants representing class years from '53 to current, with 12-22 presentations delivered. From the department's point of view SLUGAC has been a success from its outset. Alumni have been less certain because student attendance varies by the hour, a factor that some view as lack of interest, but which is more likely due to the competing demands of class schedules. Student buzz continues long after SLUGAC ends. We conclude that the benefits of integrating alumni into undergraduate geologic education in this manner far out weigh the needed modest expenditure of department resources.