Paper No. 133-5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM
ENGAGING COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRANSFER STUDENTS IN TENNESSEE TO IMPROVE RECRUITMENT, RETENTION AND SUCCESS IN 4-YEAR GEOSCIENCE PROGRAMS
A new NSF GEOPATHS project involves faculty and students at the University of Tennessee (UT) and three regional community colleges: Pellissippi State, Roane State, and Volunteer State. This project engages community college students at the freshman and sophomore level through a) classroom visits by UT faculty and alumni, b) enrichment activities, such as field trips, internships and participation in research projects, and c) through assigning UT faculty mentors to the students while they are still working on their 2-year degree. The same mentors will work with students throughout the transfer process and completion of their 4-year degree in geology or physical geography. Enrichment activities include an annual experiential learning workshop for participating faculty and an annual 3- to 5-day residential field experience for students and faculty at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The field experience includes hands-on learning activities on a variety of geoscience topics that are designed to resonate with college students, while working with diverse faculty and students in one of the nation’s outstanding outdoor classrooms. Follow up activities during the students’ sophomore year include 1-day field trips, a visit to UT, and opportunities for participation in research projects or internships. Enrichment activities and mentoring will help community college students develop support networks that can reduce the social barriers that are often encountered when transferring to a large state university. A key expected program outcome is greater diversity in student populations in 4-year geology and physical geography programs at UT, because of the differing demographics of student bodies found at the partner community colleges. Participating faculty will also work with their respective administrators to develop improved transfer pathways and better methods to track the progress and challenges faced by geoscience transfer students. The project includes external evaluations carried out by the UT College of Social Work Office of Research and Public Service, with formative and summative components, using a mixed-methods approach.