Raising Geoscience Awareness Among Underrepresented Minority and First Generation Undergraduate STEM Students in New York City

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Monday, 3 February 2014: 5:15 PM
Room C109 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Dr Reginald Blake, New York City College of Technology, Brooklyn, NY; and J. Liou-Mark and N. Blackburn

The United States faces a critical shortage of geoscientists. Over the last 15 years, the total number of individuals choosing geoscience studies and careers has decreased. Of those students who initially choose coursework in these fields, few actually graduate with degrees. This decline in the number of students in the geoscience pipeline, coupled with increasing rates of retirement among persons trained in the early 1960s, point to a potential geoscience resource crisis, as fewer students from underrepresented groups pursue further studies in the geosciences. Projected market demand and current enrollment trends suggest that the United States may experience a serious short fall in the number of engineers and scientists needed to fill jobs within the next decade. The country must take serious steps to create a diverse, well-trained and multicultural geoscience workforce. The ability to attract more underrepresented minority geoscience students, including women, is a significant challenge faced by the academic community.

Through a National Science Foundation Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences grant, the New York City College of Technology created a vibrant geoscience internship experience for underrepresented minority and first generation college students. During Summer 2013, the internship program expanded the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and New York City Police Department sponsored Subway-Surface Air Flow Exchange (S-SAFE) project to include a comprehensive promotion of the geosciences. Undergraduates not only participated in the plume dispersion experiments of the S-SAFE project, but they also attended seminars presented by geoscientists; they explored and made oral and poster presentations on over twenty different geoscience topics, and they created informational brochures on each geoscience topic. Of the 88 participants, approximately 95% of them were non-geoscience majors. A pre- and post-knowledge test showed a significant increase in general geoscience comprehension. Surveys showed that participants were intrinsically motivated to learn more about the geosciences, and that they have become active geoscience learners after the internship. This program was supported by NSF OEDG grant #1108281, the Brookhaven National Laboratory, the New York City Police Department, and the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority.