Community College students account for over 40% of all undergraduates in the US as well as the majority of minority students attending undergraduate courses. With issues in the geosciences such as; being the least diverse of all major STEM fields, an increasing number of retiring geoscientists, and a projected geoscience job growth not matching the number of geoscience graduates, the geoscience community needs to look at community colleges as a solution to these issues. A key factor for students entering and excelling in the geoscience is the opportunity for formative undergraduate field experiences. Formative field experiences go beyond one-day field excursions by incorporating field projects, interactive learning, and community building between participants in regions students are unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, these types of formative experiences often require logistics and resources that are not available or known to community college faculty. In order to build a framework for implementing formative field experiences by community colleges a two-week “field exchange” between two community colleges with different geological, social, and cultural settings was conducted.
Supported with a supplemental grant from NSF, the “Border to Beltway” program provided 11 students from El Paso Community College and another 13 from Northern Virginia Community College with two one-week regional geology field trips: First, to West Texas in March 2014, and second, to the mid-Atlantic region in May 2014. Students were selected based on academic standing, non-traditional (minority, female, over 35, veteran) status, and interest in geology. Data collected on the project regarding the implementation of the field exchange is provided below:
Post-project summary (PDF)