GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 30-9
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


STOFFEL, Jennifer L., SCHMIDT, Rebecca L. and MCCARVILLE, Katherine, School of Science and Mathematics, Upper Iowa University, 605 Washington St, P.O. Box 1857, Fayette, IA 52142

The field of geosciences faces a shortage of trained professionals. Geosciences are among the least ethnically diverse of the STEM fields, which further reduces the pool of self-identifying future geoscientists. The diverse student body at Upper Iowa University (UIU), combined with a strong interdisciplinary field sciences curriculum, presents the opportunity to contribute to change, but there are obstacles.

Selection of a college major relies on influences, sustained identification with or interest in that major, and descriptors in the major itself. A recent report indicates that 60% of college geoscience majors reported previously taking an Earth Science course, yet Earth science coursework is rarely offered at the secondary level. Studies show students rank geoscience low in the perceived ability to help the environment or society. Students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to choose fields of study with high potential earnings, yet most students remain unaware of the many rewarding career opportunities in geosciences.

Recent work indicates that lack of diversity in a field of study correlates with the false perception that ability is innate. Because many students come to geoscience burdened with misconceptions and preconceptions, this struggle can become a barrier for students. Underrepresented students may disproportionately misjudge that the complexity and perceived difficulty of geosciences coursework is beyond their ability to learn. Students who are financially and academically disadvantaged are less likely to select a challenging course of study than their counterparts.

To overcome these perceptions and successfully recruit more students into the geosciences, exposure and transformative experiences are important during the freshman and sophomore college years. UIU engages students who self-identify as geoscientists in field experiences, metacognitive reflection, mentorship, undergraduate research, and client-initiated service projects in environmental Earth science. Cultivating the knowledge, skills, and dispositions (KSD) that may influence student self-identification and development as geoscientists promotes entry and supports advancement in the geoscience education and career pipeline.