Broadening Geosciences Preparedness through a Cross-Campus Experiential Partnership

Adriane Clark Jones1, Diane Y Kim2, Karla Heidelberg2, Xiaomei Cheng1 and Jessica Dutton2, (1)Mount Saint Mary's University, Los Angeles, CA, United States, (2)University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Strengthening the geoscience pipeline requires investments in evidence-based strategies to broaden access and reinforce retention. In 2017, Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) in partnership with the University of Southern California (USC) was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education in the Geosciences (IUSE Geopaths) grant (NSF #1700871). The program forges a model partnership between a minority-serving geosciences-limited women's college (MSMU) and an R1 university (USC). The program supports three annual cohorts for year-long scaffolded programming in oceanography and earth sciences. Programming includes two research-intensive experiences at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island, year-round developmental workshops, and opportunities to present at conferences. Pre and post-program surveys aligned with the goals of the program measured the students’ self-assessment of their 1) confidence in skills, 2) knowledge of the field, and 3) future educational and careers goals. The surveys collected quantitative data based on Likert scales and qualitative data as free responses. Cohort 1 (n=13) completed the program in December 2018; 100% reported that the program met or exceeded expectations (avg. score = 9.4), and listed the opportunity to conduct authentic research and present their findings at professional meetings as the most valuable experiences. Comparing the pre and post surveys showed students entered the program with a high level of interest in geo/environmental science and left with an increased knowledge of both the disciplines and career pathways. This directly supports the program goal of introducing oceanography and environmental science fields through project-based learning. Students entered the program with high self-confidence in their academic skills. After the program, we measured a statically significant increase in their self assessed abilities to give scientific presentations and take upper-division lab courses—skills that align with the project goal of preparing students for future success in the sciences. Surprisingly, we found the program did not change the students’ desire to pursue a career in the geosciences, which remained low; however, their overall interest in pursuing a STEM career remained high.