Attracting Urban Minority Students to Geosciences through Exposure to Careers and Applied Aspects in Newark, NJ

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Alexander E Gates and Michael J Kalczynski, Rutgers University Newark, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Newark, NJ, United States
A solid pipeline of URM students into the Geosciences has been established in Newark, NJ by introducing them to applied opportunities. Prior to an OEDG program designed to engage URM students, there were no students from or near Newark interested in pursuing geosciences at Rutgers-Newark or Essex Community College, the two local urban campuses. By infusing activities that showed the applied aspects of geoscience and opportunities for careers into regular high school lesson plans, a significant number of students became interested. These students were recruited into a 4-week modular summer institute that focused on energy, mining resources, environment and surface processes. About 90 students per year attended the institute which included 2 local field trips per week, presentations by industry professionals, activities that placed academic subjects into career perspective and a research project that directly affected the well-being of the students and their families. The most interested dozen of the 90 students were invited to participate in a high profile applied project that received significant media coverage, further enhancing their impression of the importance of geosciences. Previous graduates of the program were employed as assistants in subsequent programs to recycle the experience and enthusiasm. This had a positive effect on the persistence of the assistants who viewed themselves as role models to the younger students. The results are burgeoning numbers of URM geoscience majors at Rutgers, offering of geoscience for the first time in 30 years at Essex Community College as well as a new 2+2 geoscience track and several dual-credit courses at local high schools. An important aspect of this pathway or pipeline is that students must be able to clearly see the next step and their role in it. They are very tentative in this essentially pioneering pursuit. If they don’t get a sense of a welcoming community and an ultimate career outcome, they quickly lose interest and retreat to a pursuit or major that is more traditional.