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

Paper No. 60-4
Presentation Time: 2:20 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, GATES, Alexander E., Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, 101 Warren St, Smith Hall Room 136, Newark, NJ 07102 and GRAY, Floyd, Mineral and Environmental Resources- Tucson Office, United States Geological Survey, 520 North Park Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719, pjstokes@arizona.edu

Geoscience attracts few African American and Hispanic/Latino majors. To examine potential barriers to recruitment, we interviewed geoscience majors -- 21 white, 9 Hispanic/Latino, and 9 African American -- from two large, urban universities in the U.S. We identified 1,143 “critical incidents,” or self-reported life experiences, that affected choice of major. The critical incidents were classified by time period, sorted into categories, and compared.

We found that white, Hispanic/Latino, and African American students reported very different experiences while growing up. For instance, 81% of white students reported outdoor experiences (e.g., camping, hiking) as children, whereas Hispanics (33%) and African Americans (22%) reported statistically significantly fewer outdoor experiences as children. African Americans also reported significantly fewer science-related interactions with family (e.g., watching science television programs) than whites and Hispanics while growing up. In college, we found that African Americans reported less exposure to the geosciences than whites and Hispanics. Also in college, we found that both Hispanics and African Americans were more likely to report negative critical incidents involving family members (e.g., skepticism about choice of major) than whites.

Our results can inform recruiting and retention practices. In the short term, geoscience programs can provide field trips for prospective majors, target on-campus advertising towards diverse groups, meet with academic advisors for incoming freshmen to encourage African American and Hispanic students to enroll in introductory geology courses, and provide major and career information to parents of prospective majors. Promoting and targeting outdoor events to underrepresented minority families, particularly those living in urban areas, could have beneficial effects in the long term.