The effectiveness of courses developed to recruit and retain minority students in the geology major at California State University, Sacramento

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Lisa C Hammersley, California State University Sacramento, Sacramento, CA, United States
The lack of diversity in the geosciences has long been recognized as a problem. While improvements have been made, the proportion of Bachelor’s degrees in the earth sciences awarded to Hispanic students in 2012 was only 5.6%, a huge disparity with the 17% of the U.S. population that is Hispanic. At California State University, Sacramento, 19% of the student population is Hispanic but, of the 61 students that earned an undergraduate degree in geology between 2005 and 2010, only four were Hispanic. In response to the lack of diversity in the geology major, we developed a new Geology of Mexico course with the goal of recruiting Hispanic students to the major. We present a quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of this course in attracting Hispanic students, encouraging them to take more geology courses, and recruiting them to the major. Data was collected in the Geology of Mexico course and in the equivalent Physical Geology course. During the period evaluated, 93% of enrollment in Geology of Mexico was Hispanic compared with 18.5% in Physical Geology. We found that Hispanic students in Physical Geology earned lower grades than did nonminority students, while Hispanic students in Geology of Mexico earned grades comparable with nonminority students in Physical Geology. Overall, Geology of Mexico students also showed more positive attitude changes to the geosciences and were more likely to take another geology course. The recruitment rate into the major for Hispanic students in Geology of Mexico was comparable to the recruitment rate for nonminority students in Physical Geology. Since 2008, the proportion of Hispanic geology majors has risen from 4.5% to 14.1% and, notably, the proportion of underrepresented minorities has increased from 4.5% to 22.2%, reflecting a significant overall increase in diversity of the major. In order to increase retention of minority students, we developed a field course for new majors who were not yet ready for upper division courses. This field trip allows students to get to know the faculty and to create bonds with fellow new majors, thus creating a stronger bond to the department and developing a cohort effect earlier in the students' educational path.