January 10, 2016
Day 3 of the 2nd Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education saw some very exhausted yet positive department heads and chairs, looking forward to finalizing their plans to head back with to their institutions. This was a half-day session that involved some working and discussing our individual plans, as well as sharing some thoughts about the future. It also gave each of us a chance to revisit why we had come together for the past several days (see the bottom of my name tag in the image to the left).
In our final large group session, there were several “next steps” we were challenged to think about… what external help is needed for us to achieve our goals with our departments? What are the resolved issues? How can we implement a general community consensus of what is needed to improve undergraduate geoscience education further? (*I’m sorry I don’t have any answers for you to these questions – which, granted, will vary from institution to institution) One interesting suggestion that came from the audience was that when a department hires new faculty, consider putting in $1,000-$2,000 for pedagogical professional development so that new faculty can attend SERC workshops.
The issue of math in the geoscience curriculum came up again – and as one audience member put it, perhaps we were still “dancing around the issue” too much and did not address it as fully as we could and should. Chris Keane from AGI shared that the “quantitative skills” the geoscience workforce is looking for really boils down to problem solving, and employers are looking for those math courses where students had problems to solve that involved quantitative skills, including statistics.
Chris Keane also recommended that everyone keep an eye out for the latest AGI Geosciene Student Exit Survey Report (due to come out this Friday – I’ll place the link here once the report is live). AGI also has a Critical Needs document that faculty and students should take a look at, which outlines in detail the case for geoscience across societal issues.
The final presenters were Jeff Ryan (USF) and Lina Patino (NSF) to talk about funding options departments should consider (see slides below – click on to enlarge).
Many of the participants are disappointed that the funding has ended to host these two Summits. The two-year college community is interested in having their own Summit of 2YC faculty to address their unique (and some not-so-unique) issues with a wider attendance from 2YC faculty. Certainly, we as a discipline are still in some early stages of discussions and moving forward with action plans for incredible excellence and innovation in undergraduate geoscience education.
I’ll end the celebration at the Summit with a slide that Sharon Mosher (UT-Austin) started with today. It is up to heads and chairs, along with support and cooperation from department faculty, to improve the educational learning experience and preparation for employment/graduate school of our students.