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Broadening Geosciences Preparedness through Cross-Campus Experiential Partnership

Nontechnical Abstract

Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU), a geoscience-limited institution, addresses the need for diversity in geoscience fields, both in academia and in industry, through its IUSE GEOPATHS-EXTRA program. MSMU’s partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) expands environmental and geoscience opportunities for female, underrepresented, low-income, predominantly first-generation college students. Leveraging the STEM capacity of USC and its Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, the project will generate greater academic interest and awareness among early-level MSMU undergraduates in geoscience and environmental fields. It will also provide participants with the academic and field experience necessary to succeed in advanced degree programs and careers in these fields.

Underrepresented minority university students enter majors in STEM fields at a similar rate to other students, but completion rates are lower (National Academies, 2011). MSMU’s GEOPATHS program provides female, minority, low-income, predominantly first-generation college students with undergraduate hands-on research experiences, active learning in introductory courses, and membership in a STEM learning community aimed at increasing interest in the sciences and improving student outcomes. The GEOPATHS program will recruit early undergraduates at MSMU for year-round catalytic experiences designed to: 1) introduce participants to oceanography and environmental science fields through project-based learning at USC’s marine research station on Catalina Island, 2) conduct field/laboratory studies mentored by faculty and researchers, 3) build expertise and confidence for subsequent participation in national programs and advanced USC courses not available at MSMU, and 4) inform students about geoscience graduate school and workforce opportunities. At the same time, the program will fortify MSMU’s goals to develop an environmental science track for students, develop cross-campus practices between USC and MSMU geoscience programs, and broaden USC’s ongoing initiatives to attract diverse populations into STEM graduate programs. Through these activities, the project intends to contribute significantly to the existing body of knowledge concerning strategies for entraining and retaining underrepresented students in geosciences majors and career paths.