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. 10
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM

Geoscience Departments and the Workforce: Bringing Together Student Interests and Industry Needs


MANDUCA, Cathryn A., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College St, Northfield, MN 55057, MACDONALD, R. Heather, College William & Mary, PO Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, FEISS, P. Geoffrey, Office of the Provost, College of William and Mary, The Brafferton, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23185, RICHARDSON, Randall M., Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0077, BRALOWER, Timothy J., Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 503 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, EYLES, Carolyn H., Integrated Science Program & School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada and ORMAND, Carol J., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057, cmanduca@carleton.edu

Geoscience departments work at the intersection of student interests and employer needs. During conversations over the past two years, the Building Strong Geoscience Departments project has documented a range of approaches that departments are taking to support the development of geoscience majors as professionals (serc.carleton.edu/departments). A primary challenge is supporting the diversity of student goals for future employment and the needs of a wide range of potential employers. Students in geoscience degree programs pursue careers in traditional geoscience industries; in geoscience education and research (including K-12 teaching); and opportunities at the intersection of geoscience and policy, medicine, law, or business. Approaches to supporting a diversity of career goals include multiple degrees, various tracks through a single program, collaborative programs with other departments, and a small required set of core courses coupled with strong advising for specific career pathways. Commonly sited program goals include mastering geoscience content; field experience; skill in problem solving, quantitative reasoning, communication, and collaboration; and developing the ability to learn independently and take a project from start to finish.

The department plays critical roles in addressing workforce issues beyond implementation of degree programs including 1) introducing career options to majors and potential majors; 2) advising students on how to prepare for specific career paths; and 3) helping students develop into professionals. Successful approaches include working extensively with alumni, collaborating with campus career centers, and career advising and mentoring throughout the degree program. This work is closely related to strategies for recruiting and retaining majors┬ľa critical area for many departments and an important issue in the face of employment needs.