2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
Paper No. 210-2
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM-2:15 PM

DIVERSITY IN THE GEOSCIENCES

HUNTOON, Jacqueline E., Professor of Geology and Dean of the Graduate School, Michigan Technological University, 411A Administration Building, 1400 Townsend Dr, Houghton, MI 49931, jeh@mtu.edu and LANE, Melissa J., Directorate for Geosciences, National Science Foundation, Suite 705, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230

Data on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) enrollments and degrees, available from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Science Resources Statistics, can be used to identify trends in graduation rates and graduate enrollment in the geosciences. Since 1966, fewer bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees have been awarded in the geosciences than in any other STEM field. Between 1995 and 2006, the percentage of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded to members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in STEM fields was lower in the geosciences than in other STEM fields. During the same time period, the percentage of geoscience doctorates granted to students drawn from underrepresented groups was similar to the percentage awarded in math and computer science, physical science, and engineering. These data suggest that the geosciences retain a greater proportion of underrepresented students through completion of the PhD and/or the geosciences recruit underrepresented PhD students away from other STEM fields.

The geosciences have had success recruiting and retaining women since 1966. Lessons learned in increasing gender diversity in the field may help the geoscience community increase its racial and ethnic diversity in the future. Four strategies that consistently appear to be effective are: demonstrating the relevance of the field and opportunities for high-paying careers in it; developing partnerships among multiple stakeholders to reduce ‘leaks’ from the educational pipeline; promoting strong mentoring relationships among students and geoscience professionals; providing opportunities for students to conduct research prior to graduate school; and contributing financial assistance when necessary. Community colleges now serve approximately 35% of postsecondary students nationwide[1] and experience high participation rates by members of underrepresented groups. Four-year institutions partnering with community colleges and providing financial support necessary to ensure completion by low-income students are experiencing increased transfer and retention of underrepresented students.


[1] US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Community Colleges, Special Supplement to The Condition of Education 2008.

2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 210
Techniques and Tools for Effective Recruitment, Retention and Promotion of Women and Minorities in the Geosciences
Oregon Convention Center: B117/118/119
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 538

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