GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 222-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-1:00 PM


TIERNEY, Kate1, SWANSON, Benjamin1, TASSIER-SURINE, Stephanie2 and CRAMER, Bradley1, (1)Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Iowa, 115 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242, (2)Iowa Geological Survey, University of Iowa, 340 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242

As a result of an NSF - Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) grant begun in 2016, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa began a re-evaluation and re-design of the Geoscience and Environmental Sciences curriculum that included new opportunities for field-based coursework as well as new pathways to integrate students into the department, their programs, and the university overall. Whereas the results of this multi-year project and re-design include a small total number of students, those who participated in the program had significantly higher retention rates as well as a significantly improved rate of matriculation to graduate school compared with their classmates.

Specifically, this project introduced three leveled, non-field-camp, field courses for first-and-second-year students, third-year students, and fourth-year students. This integration of “low-stakes” field courses well before they were expected to perform in a traditional “field camp” provided ample opportunity to allow students with limited outdoor experience to become familiar with how to think in the field. Inside the classroom, two new courses were introduced in the curriculum as required seminars that focused in the first/second year on familiarizing students with the breadth of the disciplines as well as introducing them to the range of opportunities and research on campus. The third/fourth year seminar was focused on career-oriented topics, public presentations, job interviews, and resume/cv writing.

These combined opportunities allowed faculty to interact closely with students outside the classroom at many stages of their progress and then help students begin the process of research work on campus. The ability to have students who may not know how, to find a prescribed pathway to begin their own research projects was the final piece of the puzzle that provided an additional sense of agency and self-advocacy. Collectively, these three components of programmatic re-design dramatically improved student recruitment, retention, and matriculation.