SUSTAINING SCIENCE PROGRAMS IN WESTERN ALASKA
To address challenges and promote success, the local western Alaskan workshop Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two Year Colleges (SAGE 2YC) was held in Nome, AK on 20 Mar 2013 in conjunction with the annual Western Alaska Interdisciplinary Science Conference (WAISC). The workshop shared best practices for rural science education and developed strategies for increasing the number of STEM students, tactics to increase retention and graduation, prepare 2YC students to attend 4YC and promote STEM careers. Educational paths include more undergraduate research and internship opportunities, enhancing collaboration between campuses, forming bridges into workforce programs, and developing partnerships. Recruitment of underrepresented students can be promoted by working with local Community Development Quotient groups, native associations, and regional conferences.
Rural students found that the place-based education strategy was important and it has been shown to increase undergraduate retention and research activity. Such curriculum is also used to link broad topics such as climate change, nutrient cycling, and nonrenewable resource management to community resilience and ecosystem health.
It was recognized that Western Alaska provides landscapes that academics worldwide desire to use for field camps, courses, and research activities, but due to the high costs and difficult logistics the region is under used. The rural campuses have much experience doing science and could cooperate with organizations that wish to work in Alaska. Such collaboration would benefit students, educational institutions, and other partners.