CSULB’s Geoscience Diversity Enhancement Project (GDEP) recently received a $1 million commitment from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will support mentoring and outreach efforts to encourage students in ethnic groups underrepresented in the geosciences to pursue college degrees and careers in the fields of geology, physical geography and archaeology. Funding runs through 2011.
The new grant, referred to as GDEP Track 2, will build on the original GDEP which ran from 2002-04. The program will offer an in-depth mentored summer research program for selected high school and community college students, which was the primary activity of the original GDEP. In addition GDEP Track 2 will offer community outreach field trips throughout the academic year for larger numbers students and their families. The field trips introduce students to the physical environment of Southern California as well as inform them of career opportunities in geology, physical geography and geoarchaeology. Additional summer field trips will be conducted with the campus chapter of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). CSU-LSAMP is sponsored both by the NSF and the California State University, providing a statewide program for the enhancement of math and science skills for minority students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). GDEP Track 2 will also work with local government agencies, NGO’s, and corporations to create internships for graduates of the summer research program.
“This program is good for the university and for the geosciences as a whole,” said principal investigator Chris Lee, a georgraphy professor at CSULB. “The components are designed to increase the diversity in the geoscience related programs at CSULB. We have seen small but promising changes in the student demographics of the Geology, Geography and Anthropology Departments as a result of the original GDEP. Our overall goal is to increase our diversity to more closely reflect the campus and community populations we serve. Beyond that, on a national level, it is important to have more diversity in the sciences. CSULB can be a spearhead for that. The components of this program were designed to create a model that will be transportable to other universities.”
GDEP Track 2 builds on unusually strong intercollege and interdisciplinary activities among 16 faculty members from CSULB's geology, geography, geoarchaeology and environmental science disciplines to create a working prototype for an integrated academic and workforce development program. The program utilizes collaborative partnerships with high schools (Cabrillo, Lakewood, Long Beach Polytechnic, Millikan, and Wilson) and community colleges (Cerritos, Compton, El Camino, Long Beach City, Orange Coast, Saddleback and Santa Monica) to promote education and careers in the geosciences. A select student population from partner institutions will participate in focused field research and supported internships while a larger number of students and their families, as well as CSU-LSAMP students, will be exposed to the geosciences through classroom visits, workshops and community outreach field trips. Through these partnerships, CSULB will leverage its scientific and educational resources to attract, retain and better prepare students for opportunities in the geosciences.
Lee explains that for him, one of the program’s biggest appeals is the opportunity to work with high school seniors and university undergraduates. “It’s great to work with students who are just getting going in their academic careers when it is still possible to expose them to academic and career possibilities they may not have known existed. It is my goal to get as many undergraduate and graduate students as possible out there working in situations that give them experience which leads to employment in geoscience related fields.”
From 1999-2002 Lee directed a NASA Regional Earth Science Application Center (RESAC) tracking wildfires, which he brought from his previous position at CSU Dominguez Hills.
One benefits of the original GDEP was its role as a confidence booster. “When students see they can take on new, and sometimes complex tasks, they are more confident,” he said. “Students put together posters on their research and there is even support in the new grant to send students to regional conferences to present papers and posters. Several students each year are asked to return as mentors. An assessment component of the both the original and the new grant also tracks students once they have completed the program. You really do see that the program has touched these students and changed their lives. We are looking forward to building on the legacy of the original GDEP by reaching even more students through GDEP Track 2. ”