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Strategies to Build a Diverse Geoscience Workforce - Lessons from Community-Based Research in Louisiana

Rebecca Haacker-Santos
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307

Research shows that even academically well-prepared students encounter significant challenges when applying to and entering graduate school. These challenges may especially discourage students from historically under-represented groups and prevent highly talented students from entering the geoscience workforce. SOARS, a program designed to broaden participation in the atmospheric and related sciences, prepares its students to face these challenges. We will discuss how key SOARS program element— such as such as authentic summer research experiences, strong mentoring, and a community of peers—supports our mission of engaging and retaining students in the geosciences. Many students from under-represented communities choose not to pursue graduate school in the geosciences in part because it offers fewer opportunities to serve their community than other fields. To address this, SOARS protégés participate in educational projects or research with clear societal relevance, organize and offer hands-on science outreach to low-income after school programs and spend time doing research in partnership with local and indigenous communities in the United States. Our presentation will describe one such community-based research project in coastal areas of Louisiana. SOARS’ strategies have shown clear results. Since its inception 16 years ago, 75% of program participants have gone on to graduate school in the geosciences, math and engineering, or 89% if we include students who earn graduate degrees in non-STEM fields. SOARS alumni are employed in academia and scientific careers and help shape the future geoscience workforce.


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