Teaching AMS undergraduate courses at a small, rural minority-serving community college

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Michael T. Leach, New Mexico State University - Grants, Grants, NM

Handout (20.5 kB)

New Mexico State University (NMSU) at Grants is a community college campus under the NMSU system. The campus is located in rural northwestern New Mexico, and is both a Hispanic and Native American serving institution, with high student percentages in both minority categories. Challenges of distance, family and work conflicts, and weather issues hinder traditional face-to-face instructional efforts. This, compounded by the traditional student fear of science and math courses, makes instruction of science-based courses difficult at best.

AMS undergraduate courses in meteorology and oceanography are able to overcome many of these barriers. Traditional science courses require face-to-face contact at least for laboratories, but the AMS courses are able to overcome this barrier by utilizing Internet-based labs. In advertising the AMS classes, there is a big emphasis placed on relevancy due to their real-time laboratory component. Advertising also is used to make the scientific aspect appear as fun, or needed knowledge, with catch phrases such as “Why do I need to learn about the ocean? I live in a desert.” or, “Study and learn about hurricanes as they occur.” Local media outlets such as newspapers and radio are additionally utilized to promote the courses. Additionally, innovative uses of face-to-face sections and online sections of the course, with allowances to transfer between sections as students' situations change, have resulted in better meeting of student needs and greater retention.

NMSU-Grants has seen a consistent enrollment in the AMS undergraduate courses since their adoption. Minority enrollment has been high, and there have been several minority students that have chosen to major in science. The AMS undergraduate courses offered by NMSU-Grants have been instrumental in the recruitment of these minority science majors.