Strategic Plan for Geology
Context For Planning
The Geology Department has 12 TT faculty, 2 Affiliate faculty positions, and an AP lab coordinator. During the 2016-2017 academic year, 2 visiting faculty will help cover the load deficits created by a TT faculty resignation along with 1 TT faculty on sabbatical in the Winter, 1 TT faculty member on half-time disability, and 1 TT faculty member on phased retirement. Three of the 12 full TT faculty loads are committed to teaching pre-service teachers in the Integrated Science program (GEO 201, 202, 203 ~ 2 sections/year), SCI225 (4-5 sections/year), and GEO 319 (1 section/year). These are faculty with expertise in Geoscience and pre-service teacher education. The Geology Department is in the midst of a period of growth and change. The numbers of students served by the department has increased steadily and significantly (~25% growth) over the last 5 years. During the 2015/16 academic year the department served ~ 1650 students in 100-level general education classes (~ 300 more students annually since Fall 2011). Our numbers of departmental majors have increased (from ~100 to 125 since 2011) to the extent that we have had to add lab sections in several core courses. All of our required major courses and many of our elective courses are at or exceeding capacity. Increasing demand, high pay for geoscience professionals, and the high regard for our graduates likely account for nearly 100% of our graduates finding professional geoscience employment and/or funded graduate studies. Two summits held at the University of Texas and focused on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education have provided a broader disciplinary context for our departmental changes and defined objectives. The first summit in January of 2014 engaged a broad cross section of the geoscience community (2 GVSU faculty members participated) to discuss the content, competencies, and skills needed by geoscience undergraduates, the best approaches to teaching, and strategies to broaden participation. Following broader community surveys and discussions, a second summit in January, 2016 (attended by the GVSU unit head) engaged heads and administrators to define strategies for implementation of the best practices identified by the summit. Our curricular changes and goals for improved pedagogy are directly aligned with some of the recommendations from these summits. (http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/events/future-of-geoscience-undergraduate-education/) One major initiative over the last several years has been work toward a significant departmental curricular revision with the goal of creating more flexible pathways for students that better align with the changing workforce. This curricular change has been approved by the CCC and is on track for implementation starting in Fall 2017. Implementation of this change will be a significant departmental focus over the next few years, including development of effective advising plans for new and transitioning students, creating and revising courses, particularly at the 200 and capstone levels, and ensuring that learning goals are effectively mapped across the curriculum. One of the objectives included in this plan involves implementation of the new curriculum. The department faculty have also identified key student learning goals (content and skills goals) and generally identified where those skills are introduced, reinforced, and mastered in the curriculum. During the process of implementation we intend to more specifically map those skills across the curriculum and devise approaches to assessing how well we meet our curricular goals. Once the curriculum is in place we will be more ready to create specific objectives related to assessing the effectiveness of our new curriculum. The Geology department has also been significantly impacted by changes in the nature of our teaching, research and support space associated with the remodeling of the Padnos Hall of Science. One significant change has been in the nature of our faculty research space. In concert with the desires of the college we have revised the nature of our research space from individual spaces to shared research spaces with shared function and resources. This change is still ongoing and may lead to defining new objectives related to faculty and student scholarship in the future. One objective we anticipate pursuing in the near future is the addition of hybrid course options among our general education offerings. We have not included this specifically as an objective at this time because we recognize the significant time commitment this requires of faculty to initially implement and we have chosen to wait to identify this as a specific objective until we have one or two specific faculty members committed to the enterprise. The Geology Department faces an imminent change in department leadership. The unit head for the last 6 years (Peterson) is stepping down and a new unit head (Mekik) will take over starting in July, 2016. This change in leadership, compounded by in-progress changes in curriculum and space resources, has led us to define a small number of objectives. This provides opportunities in a couple of years to assess and revise.
Provide a geoscience knowledge base and practical skills so students can make informed decisions and predictions regarding geologic issues, approach and solve scientific problems, teach earth science content, and be successful in graduate programs and ultimately in geoscience careers.
The geology department is a catalyst, creating a thriving geoscience community drawn from the faculty, students, public, alumni, and academia through the practice and encouragement of excellent teaching, scholarship, outreach, and geoscience literacy. Departmental (Geology, Earth Science, Geology-Chemistry) majors, Integrated Science majors and the broad General Education audience we serve come to understand basic earth materials and processes in the context of geologic time. Our educational vehicle is the earth, making field experiences paramount and learning to view the world as a scientist and communicate findings vital for an informed citizenry. Students completing the B.S. in Geology or Geology-Chemistry successfully compete for geoscience jobs and graduate schools and become confident, problem solving scientists actively raising the level of public and academic discourse on geological issues. Graduates with an Earth Science B.S. can effectively teach earth science content to a high school or middle school audience. Students completing a General Education Physical Sciences Foundation course or Theme course in Geology gain a broader earth perspective that better prepares them to understand many complex issues faced by society.
" The department values student-centered teaching excellence that engages students in the process of science and critical thinking " We value a faculty that is actively engaged in basic and/or applied research, including the pursuit of funding to support research, creating opportunities for quality undergraduate research at a variety of levels, and publication in peer-reviewed venues. " The department values and has a strong tradition of field-based and experiential education. " The department values rigorous standards for teaching and learning. " The department regards quantitative literacy, ability to effectively use primary sources, and articulate and effective written and verbal communication as essential skills for our students. " The department values the fostering of curiosity, creativity, competence, confidence, hard work and smart work, persistence, perseverance, and professional and scientific integrity among our students and modeling of these characteristics among faculty. " The geology department values a diverse and collegial environment between and among faculty and students, in which students are both nurtured and challenged to explore, make mistakes, and try new experiences. " The department values interdisciplinary and international experiences that lead to involvement in the broader GVSU community and beyond.