Paper No. 18
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
DETERMINING STUDENT PERCEPTIONS OF COURSES AND CAREERS IN THE GEOSCIENCES AT THOMAS NELSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
As more degree-seeking students turn toward two-year colleges to begin their path of higher education, the more important it becomes for geology departments at these institutions to attract and expose students to courses and careers in the geosciences. To determine both potential challenges to recruitment and student perceptions of geoscience careers, an interest survey was administered to 152 students enrolled in face-to-face and online physical and historical geology courses at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) during the Spring 2011 semester. The survey was adapted from an earlier study at Northern Arizona University (Hoisch and Bowie, 2010), and thus allows for comparison to introductory-level students at a four-year institution. Results indicate two-year and four-year students are similar; students are most attracted to degree programs that offer high potential salaries and ease of finding a job upon graduation, and although they perceive geology to be less difficult than other sciences (biology, chemistry and physics), geology is also considered to be low-paying, less prestigious, and students are relatively uncertain of job prospects for geoscientists.
One avenue currently being explored at TNCC to combat these misconceptions is a “jobs in geosciences” speaker series. Funded by the TNCC Educational Foundation, geologists employed in various industries visit campus to give a brief presentation of their daily tasks and responsibilities, followed by a round-table discussion of their educational and personal background. To determine the efficacy of this speaker series in increasing awareness of employment in the geosciences, attendees who completed the initial interest survey were given a follow-up survey. Preliminary data suggest that the speaker series is meeting its intended goals. Students who participate in the speaker series show a significant increase in awareness of salaries for those with a B.S. in geology and an increase in perceived prestige of geology among the sciences. Exposing students to people directly in the workforce provides a better sense of what types of jobs are available to geoscientists, and fosters networking for potential jobs and internships.