Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:05 PM


STOKES, Philip J., Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Gould-Simpson Building #77, 1040 E. 4th St, Tucson, AZ 85721, FLESSA, Karl W., Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, 1040 E. 4th St, Room 208, Tucson, AZ 85721, LEVINE, Roger, Consultant, Redwood City, CA 94062 and GATES, Alexander E., Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, 101 Warren St, Smith Hall Room 137, Newark, NJ 07102,

Geoscience has the fewest underrepresented minority students of any STEM field. Prior research has attributed the lack of diversity to sociocultural factors, but no quantitative study has explored how the experiences of white and minority majors in geoscience differ. We interviewed 29 geoscience students at the University of Arizona, 10 geoscience students at Rutgers University, Newark, and identified more than 1,000 “critical incidents” that affected their choice of an undergraduate major. Using the Critical Incident Technique, incidents were grouped into three major categories: college, K-12, and out-of-school factors. We compared the reported frequencies of critical incidents among African-American, Hispanic, and white students.

All groups reported similar numbers of positive outcome critical incidents but Hispanic students reported significantly more negative critical incidents. Critical incidents involving college familial factors were the driving mechanism behind this difference. These differences suggest that family members of Hispanic geoscience students have a greater involvement in, and perhaps a greater skepticism of, their child’s choice of a geoscience major. We found that Hispanic students reported significantly fewer critical incidents involving out-of-school outdoor experiences. African-American students reported experiences similar to those of white students, with one exception: African American students reported experiences with racial discrimination where Hispanics and whites did not. Barriers need to be identified before they can be removed. We found three: skepticism from families, limited outdoor experiences, and racial discrimination.