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How to Make a Geology Major: A Recipe for Success from GeoFORCE Texas

Eleanour Snow
Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78758

GeoFORCE Texas, now in its 9th year, is an outreach program of the Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas at Austin. The program is designed to increase the number and diversity of the future high-tech workforce by encouraging mostly minority, at-risk high school students from rural southwest Texas and inner-city Houston to pursue challenging classes in high school in preparation for science, engineering, and mathematics degrees in college. This fall, GeoFORCE’s 4th cohort started college, and in the spring of 2013, our first cohort will graduate from college. GeoFORCE has been successful in achieving its goals. As of summer 2012, GeoFORCE has engaged over 1100 students. Table 1 details the overall statistics of the program.

These numbers are impressive, but they are particularly striking when compared to U.S. and Texas numbers overall, where 31% of college students graduate with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) degrees, 0.27% in geology, and 4.4% in engineering. Minorities lag behind their counterparts in both bachelor’s degree and STEM degree attainment, and GeoFORCE is changing that as well. GeoFORCE students have shown remarkable persistence in STEM majors and in college overall.

GeoFORCE began in rural southwest Texas in 2005, with 65 students who had just completed the 8th grade. The program expanded to inner-city Houston in 2008, and to the north slope of Alaska in 2012. It has grown to include 668 high school students, and 434 graduates, now enrolled at more than 80 different colleges and universities. Each summer we take students, in cohorts of 40, on spectacular field trips around the country, teaching them about geology, engineering, and natural sciences. We also mentor and support them through high school and into college, with help in high school course selection, SAT (scholastic aptitude test) preparation classes, and college and financial aid application workshops.

There are several elements built into the design of the program that have significant impact on its success: sustained engagement, academic confidence, and emphasis on geosciences and engineering.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90158©2012 GCAGS and GC-SEPM 6nd Annual Convention, Austin, Texas, 21-24 October 2012