Monday, 23 January 2012
Minority Student Knowledge of and Interest in Geoscience Careers
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
A survey of 309 middle and high school students in Mississippi conducted as part of NSF's Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) program suggested the potential for meteorology to raise awareness and interest in the geosciences. Because the purpose of the OEDG program is to increase the number of members of underrepresented groups who go on to geoscience majors and careers, survey responses were examined comparing Caucasian with non-Asian Minority responses. The responses indicated minority students knew fewer scientists (in reality) than Caucasian students. They also named fewer scientists who are on television. There were no differences in the number of TV geoscientists the students could name. The reason for this appears to be the prominent place local TV meteorologists played in the student's responses. Forty percent of the television scientists named by minority students were local TV meteorologists, compared to only 7% of the Caucasian students' scientists. There were no significant differences in the number of geoscientists named by Caucasian vs. non-Asian minorities. However, 93.8% of the geoscientists named by minority students were television meteorologists, primarily local TV meteorologists. This compares with 57.1% of the Caucasian students' named geoscientists. Caucasian students were also the only respondents to name storm chasers as television scientists and geoscientists. While there are African American television meteorologists on air in Mississippi, all of the local TV meteorologists listed were Caucasian. Al Roker was the only African American that the researcher could identify in the responses. Also relevant to university meteorology programs hoping to attract minority students were findings related to geoscience and science attitudes. Somewhat consistent with literature on occupational interest that shows African Americans' interest in math is higher than Caucasians, no differences were found between groups in the sample for the statements “I enjoy my math classes,” “math is hard for me” or “geoscience majors require too much math.” Minority students reported a greater enjoyment of their math classes, but the difference was not significant. Minority students did know fewer people in real life with careers in the geosciences, so this area shows potential for interested meteorologists to involve themselves with middle or high schools. Other findings that will be presented include differences in preferred career characteristics and science and geoscience attitudes.