2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 272-1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


MOSHER, Sharon, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station C1160, Austin, TX 78712, smosher@jsg.utexas.edu

Academics and geoscience employers agree overall on the skills, competencies and conceptual understandings that geoscience students should have when they graduate, as confirmed by results from the 2014 Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education, subsequent ongoing survey, and Geoscience Employers Workshop. Employers, regardless of type, want more quantitative students than most undergraduate programs produce, however, with high-level math and computational skills and practice applying these to geoscience problems with real data.

Employers expect students to do systems thinking, including understanding size, complexity, non-linearity, scales of interactions, and feedback mechanisms within the Earth system, and temporal reasoning, including understanding time scales and dimensions over which processes are relevant, and duration, frequency, magnitude, and rates of change for geoscience events. They also expect students to understand geoscience processes, geomechanics, thermodynamics (including fluid flow; diffusion), and geochemical cycles (e.g. C, H2O, N) and be familiar with the tools needed to address geoscience questions. Although most undergraduate curriculums cover concepts needed for the workforce, many employers would like more coverage of natural resources, including geographic distribution, uses, time scale of formation and depletion, sustainability, and economics.

Of paramount importance is embedding problem solving using real data and real-world problems in the curriculum, which employers can help provide. Students need to learn how to work in 3D and 4D and with uncertainty, non-uniqueness, incompleteness, ambiguity and indirect observations, which typify real geoscience problems. Critical skills and concepts needed for the workforce are best developed through integrative team projects, research, fieldwork, internships, and other experiential learning. Nontechnical skills needed for future workforce success can be developed through courses, departmental programs, and industry-academia collaboration: oral and written communication, project management, interdisciplinary teamwork, risk management and business acumen, professionalism, ethics, cultural literacy, interpersonal skills, and career awareness and preparedness.