2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 97-10
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM

NATIVE AMERICAN EARTH SCIENTISTS DISCUSS BARRIERS TO COMPLETING EARTH SCIENCE DEGREES

BUENO WATTS, Nievita, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, Civil Engineering Building, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2051, nbuenowatts@gmail.com

Native American Earth scientists could help Native communities deal with both climate change and environmental pollution issues, but are noticeably lacking in Earth Science degree programs. The Earth Sciences produce the lowest percentage of minority scientists when compared with other science fields. To change this situation it is important to understand some of the barriers Native students face in this field, as well as the supports which go the furthest in assisting their achievement of higher education goals.

Fifteen semi-structured interviews were gathered from American Indian/ Alaska Native Earth Scientists. Women represented 80% of the sample, and 53% were non-traditional students. Data were analyzed using qualitative methods and constant comparison analysis. Factors which impede obtaining a college degree include financial barriers, pressures from familial obligations, and health issues. Factors which impede the decision to study Earth Science include unfamiliarity with geoscience as a field of study and career choice, the uninviting nature of Earth Science as a profession, and curriculum that is irrelevant to the practical needs of Native communities or courses which are inaccessible geographically. Factors which impede progress that are embedded in Earth Science programs include educational preparation, academic information and counseling and the prevalence of a Western scientific perspective to the exclusion of all other perspectives. Intradepartmental relationships also pose barriers to the success of some students, particularly those who are non-traditional students or women.

Earth scientists can begin to broaden participation by engaging in community-inspired research, which stems from the needs of a community and is developed in collaboration with it. As students become engaged in their research, they will require support for degree completion which should include financial assistance, mentors and mentoring, and research experiences.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 97--Booth# 62
Geoscience Education (Posters) II
Minneapolis Convention Center: Hall C
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Monday, 10 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 254

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