MEETING THE CHALLENGE OF ATTRACTING DIVERSE STUDENTS TO GEOSCIENCE
At Wesleyan, the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department has successfully engaged underrepresented students who now comprise 20% of majors. We have done this through two parallel steps, one to increase interest in our major and one focused at increasing diversity. Our curriculum does not require all of the traditional geoscience courses. We hope to attract students with a broad spectrum of interests who are as likely to continue to law school as pursue graduate education in the geosciences. This allows students, who are not considering a geoscience major to take a few courses, become engaged with the discipline and want to continue in the field. We develop geoscience skills through two required seminars and careful advising about course selection.
Knowing that the strongest attractor to geoscience for students who enter college not planning a geoscience major is an introductory course and professor, we actively recruit diverse students in two ways. First from introductory courses, meeting with them outside of class and offering them opportunities to participate in research. Second we reach out to groups and organizations where diverse students might be present, such as minority student organizations, and Questbridge (low-income) and McNair (low-income and first-generation to enter college, ethnic diversity) students. Both recruitment efforts are in keeping with the top priority action item in the National Research Council Report: Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads: undergraduate retention and completion of science majors.
While no one department can change the demographics of the geoscience student body and workforce, each department can set a goal of adding one or two diverse students to a graduating class. The impact could be profound. Increasing societal information about geoscience and the future of the geoscience workforce depend upon this effort.