189 Withdrawn

Tuesday, 8 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Michael T. Leach, New Mexico State Univ., Grants, NM

New Mexico State University (NMSU) Grants campus is in the unique position of being both a Hispanic serving institution as well as a non-tribal Native American serving institution. Our enrollment is 43% Native American, 33% Hispanic, and 24% other (mostly Anglo-Caucasian). We believe that we are the only community college that is both Hispanic and Native American serving in the nation. NMSU Grants is in the third year of a five year title V grant designed to improve offerings and increase minority headcount in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. The AMS climate studies course fits well within the goals of this grant, as does the previously introduced and currently taught AMS courses in weather science and ocean science.

There are challenges to teaching AMS climate studies at NMSU Grants. Our service area is a rural population with a population of about 26,000 within our service area. 71% of our student population is first generation college students. Because of the rural location and small service area population, the student headcount is 381 full-time and 932 part-time. Our service area is technology poor. Many students still must use dial-up Internet service. Cibola County is a very poor rural county, with greater than 30% of the population in poverty.

Some of the solutions to these problems are already built in to the AMS Climate Science course package. Through experience with the other two AMS courses, we have found that face-to-face courses have too small an enrollment to justify their existence. As a result, AMS courses have been offered only online in the past, and the climate science course will follow his pre-established trend. NMSU lists courses system-wide, so our campus is able to specialize and draw enrollment from the other NMSU community colleges. In this manner, our campus is able to draw from a larger student population, and have sufficient enrollment to justify their existence. We are also able to reach local students that work in the mining industry or at the paper mill on shifts, and cannot attend face-to-face classes. All AMS classes are taught as introductory courses. No prerequisites are required to enroll in the course. Through experience, we have found that some local students want face-to-face interaction. These students are invited to attend an optional open lab offered on Friday afternoons, in which the course instructor and a qualified work study student are present to assist students. The open lab is open to all geography students, not just AMS students, so often the lab will have students from two or three different classes present. This has not proven to be a problem thus far, and all students attending have their educational needs met.

Offering new courses at a small college requires a degree of salesmanship. New courses that are not advertised rarely have sufficient enrollment to succeed. We have found that a catchy phrase works well. For example, when the AMS ocean science course was introduced, we made posters and circulated them to all campuses. The catch phrase was “Why should I take oceanography? I live in the middle of the desert.” The poster then gave a few bullet answers as to why oceanography was important to desert dwellers. We also used newspaper advertisements and the instructor did a radio spot on the class. All of these efforts helped to boost the enrollment for the introduction of the course. Our catch phrase for the climate science course will be “Learn the science behind climate change.” We will emphasize using the scientific approach on a very politically charged topic, so the student has the basis to draw their own conclusions.

The plans for introduction of the climate science course call for following the tried-and-true methods described above. There will be one modification in the pedagogy of the course, however. The introductory week of the AMS courses often uses filler materials such as readings and discussions to fill the void until the AMS calendar for presentation of the material begins. This allows students to become comfortable with the class, and also allows time for students in outlying areas to receive their books. For the climate science course, the introductory week will include material and a corresponding laboratory exercise covering ocean floor sediments and their uses in studying the climates of the past. This author was fortunate to have been selected to attend “School of Rock 2012 – Introduction to Climate History for Minority Serving Institution Faculty” at the Gulf Coast Repository for Ocean Floor Core Sediments, sponsored by the Deep Earth Academy. Material obtained from that workshop will be utilized to prepare opening week materials to introduce climate science students to the climates of the past, and how knowledge of the past is the key to the future.

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