GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 307-3
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM


EIFERT, Helen, MUSSER, Margaret and STEWART, Alexander K., Department of Geology, St Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617,

Women have historically been underrepresented in the STEM fields and, specifically within the geosciences, have experienced a slow decline in undergraduate degrees over the last decade (AGI, 2016). St. Lawrence University (~2400 undergraduates), New York’s oldest co-educational university, however, is bucking that trend. With a 19th rating by Forbes magazine for best colleges for women and minorities in STEM, about 60% of STEM majors are female. St. Lawrence is a rural school in the foothills of the Adirondacks and attracts students interested in the outdoors and for opportunities to work in it. Specifically, the university has been known for its geology program for decades with students receiving more individual support and real-world opportunities. From the 888 geology graduates since 1950, we analyzed patterns of female involvement using geology department alumnae/i records of graduation rates and theses. Our particular focus was on the top three cohorts of peak female graduation rates: 1978-1982 (n=60), 1997-2001 (n=28) and 2012-2016 (n=28). These data reveal a significant increase in female participation in research within the most recent cohort (2012-2016) with women averaging 71% of senior theses compared to 32% (1997-2001) and 16% (1978-1982). The percent of female graduates who completed a thesis within these three cohorts, moreover, has increased from 18% to 43%. A probable factor in this upward trend is the advent of the SLU Fellowship Program in 1999, which provides funding for summer research usually leading to theses. In addition, this increased involvement by females in the department is supported by personal observations of the current geology student body. All geology department students are privileged with many opportunities for research, travel and individual attention. These experiences, including field courses abroad, research opportunities, working with alums, internships and fellowships combined with our close-knit group of professors and students are what make being a geology major at SLU so appealing. With 100% of our geology fellows this past summer being female and all intending on translating their research into a senior thesis, the trend for women in geology at St. Lawrence University appears to continue upward.