A Century of Geology-Curriculum Response to Society: A Case Study at Oregon State University

Monday, 15 December 2014
Anita Grunder and Jenda A Johnson, Oregon State Univ, CEOAS, Corvallis, OR, United States
Over the past century, the geology curriculum at Oregon State University has remained constant in some areas and changed in others in response to internal (faculty and university) and external (economic, and intellectual) drivers. A decadal summary of 100 years of the geology curriculum at Oregon State University reveals socio-economic patterns. From 1913, when the School of Mines was established, to 1932, when it was dismembered, the geology curriculum was designed in support mining engineering. In that time, the geology department (est. 1914) moved from the School of Mines to the School of Science. Several decades of paleontology-intensive curriculum followed under the leadership of noted paleontologist Earl Packard, as dean and chair. The curriculum transitioned from support of the oil industry in the 60s and 70s, with a strong field emphasis engendered by “Doc” Wilkinson, to increased structure and tectonics emphasis in response to the tectonic revolution under the leadership of structural geologist Robert Yeats. In the last few decades the program has grown diverse in environmental and climatic interests.

 The early curriculum required a three-course series in determinative mineralogy plus petrography and 3 courses in petrology (igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic), making a core of seven; we require 3 courses today. Like all students in the School of Mines, those with the geology specialization were required to take a field course in surveying and to spend several summer months working in the mining industry. This strong field tradition persisted through time with an introductory field methods class coupled with a summer field camp. The total number of weeks dedicated to field classes, excluding the work experience requirement, has varied from as high as 12 credit-hours to the present 6 (quarters basis). On the other hand, increased short field experiences are reflected by incorporation of more field trips in nearly all courses since the 80’s, fostered by accessible transportation.

 General education courses delivered by geology faculty have mimicked these changes, from early service courses in basic geology for engineering, mining and agriculture to a diverse slate of courses from basic geology to natural hazards and climate.