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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.

Mission

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.

Vision

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.

Value Statement

" 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.

Strategic Priorities, outcomes, and key objectives

Strategic Priority Area 1: Actively engage learners at all levels.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 1.A.1

Increase the number of departmental majors (Geology, Earth Science, Geology-Chemistry) that participate in significant, beyond-the-classroom high-impact experiences (such as original research projects, internships, service learning activities, study abroad) by at least 10 % above current levels. (Aligns with CLAS 1.A.1)

Baseline

High-impact practices (HIP) (AAC&U - https://www.aacu.org/leap/hips) include First-Year Seminars and Experiences, Learning Communities, Writing-Intensive Courses, Collaborative Assignments and Projects, Undergraduate Research, Diversity/Global Learning, Service Learning, Community-Based Learning, Internships, Capstone Courses and Projects. In geology, field trips and experiences would also be include in this list. Within the Geology department, 100% of our majors participate in several high-impact experiences. Nearly all of our courses provide students with field experiences, most of our 3-400 level classes require students to participate in collaborative assignments and projects that involve observation or data collection along with writing or presentation of results. In addition, all students participate in a writing-intensive capstone course and students pursuing a Geology BS participate in a 6-week external field course. Many of our students also participate in what we define here as significant high-impact practices (SHIPs) outside of the classroom, including activities such as undergraduate research, internships, study abroad, and service-learning activities. For students participating in SHIPs, these are typically the highlights of their undergraduate experience that inspire them toward professional success. Over the last 5 years we have seen an increase in the percentage of students participating in SHIPs from ~30% to ~ 50%.

Progress

2016 Status
Minimal Progress
Work in progress.

Strategic Priority Area 2: Further develop exceptional personnel.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 2.A.1

Increase the number of hours of our introductory general education geology courses taught by tenure-track and affiliate faculty, particularly the courses that are entry into the major (currently this is GEO 111) and increase the breadth of tenure track faculty teaching those courses. (Aligns with CLAS 2.A.2)

Baseline

Over the last ~ 10 years, the Geology department has had at least two visiting faculty on staff each year. We have seen significant increases in enrollment in our majors courses that has led to the addition of extra labs and has reduced the opportunities for tenure track faculty to teach introductory classes and labs. We have been fortunate to hire quality visiting faculty; however, we feel it is important for experienced faculty with a long term connection to the institution to be engaged with introductory students. We have partially addressed this by converting one of our visiting faculty lines to an affiliate faculty position starting in Fall 2016. Baseline is the average number of contact hours of introductory courses taught by tenure-track and affiliate faculty over the last 5 years (ending Winter 2016)

Progress

2016 Status
Minimal Progress
No significant progress yet.

Outcome E: Grand Valley strategically allocates its fiscal, human, and other institutional resources.

Objective 2.E.1

Increase faculty participation in formal workshops and activities related to teaching and pedagogy aimed at enhancing faculty awareness and engagement with documented best practices. These workshops might be internal (e.g. run by FTLC) or external disciplinary workshops (such as those run by SERC). We will aim for an increase of 10% over 6 years. (Aligns with CLAS 2.E.1)

Baseline

The department will compile and tally a list of the formal teaching workshops (internal and external) attended by tenure-track and affiliate faculty members over the last 5 academic years (2001/02  2015/16)

Progress

2016 Status
Not Yet Initiated
Work in progress.

Objective 2.E.2

Increase the number of applications submitted by faculty (successful and unsuccessful) for external funding by at least 10%. Applications include those for equipment and research (faculty and/or student). (Aligns with CLAS 2.E.2)

Baseline

The number of external applications for the period (2001/02-2015/16) will be tallied from FARs with confirmation by faculty members.

Progress

2016 Status
Substantive Progress
Work in progress.

Strategic Priority Area 3: Ensure the alignment of institutional structures and functions.

Outcome A: Grand Valley's learning environment is personal, challenging, and transformational, supporting excellent academic programs and co-curricular opportunities.

Objective 3.A.1

Implement proposed curricular change to departmental programs and courses starting in Fall 2017 and create effective advising resources to guide new students and existing students impacted by the change in courses and requirements (Aligns with CLAS 3.A.1)

Baseline

The Curricular change package has been approved by the college curriculum committee (CCC) and should be on track for implementation in Fall 2017. The curricular proposal includes documents outlining details of the change and sequencing of courses; however, more specific revisions to the academic year schedule of courses and detailed advising documents have not been completed.

Progress

2016 Status
Substantive Progress
Work in progress.

Strategic Priority Area 4: Enhance the institution's image and reputation.

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