A key goal of federal government recruitment policies is to attain a workforce that draws from all segments of society and that leverages diversity to deliver the best public service (OPM, 2011). However, the federal earth science workforce—and the academic programs that produce graduates—does not yet mirror the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of the U.S. population. For example, underrepresented minorities (African American, American Indian, and Hispanic or Latino of any race) composed 30 percent of the U.S. population in the 2010 Census, but received only 7.2 percent of earth science bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009 (NSB, 2012). Underrepresented minorities make up 3.5 percent of earth science-related positions at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS; Box 5.1)1 and between 2.2 and 8.1 percent of all geoscience and environmental science occupations (2003–2009 average; Gonzales and Keane, 2011). Women comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population and received 39 percent of bachelor’s degrees in geoscience (NSF, 2013). They hold 21 percent of USGS earth science-related positions (Box 5.1) and 30 percent of all geoscience and environmental science occupations (Gonzales and Keane, 2011). This chapter describes the types of programs that have succeeded in attracting or retaining minorities and women on earth science pathways and the factors that made these programs successful, based on results published in the literature and discussions with experts on earth science diversity programs at the committee’s workshop. These programs could help federal agencies leverage their earth education and training efforts to improve their recruitment of a diverse population in both high school and college (the committee’s Task 6).
Most federal agency guidelines and operational definitions of diversity related to program design and evaluation are focused on race/ethnicity, gender, physical (dis)ability, socioeconomic class, and increasingly on returning student or first-time-in-college status and veteran status. Under-
1 Comparable figures from other federal agencies are not publicly available and may be higher or lower depending on factors such as the agency mission, mix of occupations, and proportion of federal employees and contractors.
BOX 5.1 Diversity of the Earth Science-Related Workforce at the U.S. Geological Survey
At the request of the committee, the USGS provided the current race/ethnicity and gender profile of its earth science-related occupations (i.e., geology, geophysics, hydrology, general physical science, physical science technicians, and hydrologic technicians), which make up 41 percent of its workforce. For these occupations, underrepresented minorities (African American, American Indian, and Hispanic or Latino) compose 3.5 percent of employees and all minorities (including Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and two or more races) compose 6.2 percent of employees. Hispanic/Latino and Asian are the largest minority groups, each composing 2.8 percent of the workforce, followed by African American (1.0 percent), American Indian or Alaska Native (0.8 percent), two or more races (0.7 percent), and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (0.2 percent). Diversity varies by occupation, with a relatively high fraction of underrepresented minorities in general physical science, physical science technician, and hydrologic technician positions. Asians are more represented in geology, hydrology, and geophysics positions than other minority groups.
Women currently compose only 21 percent of the USGS earth science-related workforce. Their representation is greatest in general physical science, physical science technician, and geology occupations.
SOURCE: Jo-Ann J. Dominique, Office of Diversity & Equal Opportunity, U.S. Geological Survey.
representation is also typically taken into account, using dimensions of identity easily accounted for by the U.S. Census Bureau. Although the 2010 Census began to account for an increasingly multiethnic and mixed-ethnicity population in the country, only Black, American Indian, and Hispanic or Latino of any race are considered “underrepresented minorities.”
The National Research Council report Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads (NRC, 2011) laid out a roadmap for increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and for improving the quality of their education. The report found that of all possible actions that could be taken by academic institutions, government agencies, scientific societies, or industry, two would have immediate impact on critical transition points for underrepresented minorities: (1) undergraduate retention programs that increase graduation rates and (2) teacher preparation and student programs that increase participation in undergraduate and graduate education (NRC, 2011). Proven interventions for underrepresented minorities have been most thoroughly explored for academic education programs, but they are also applicable to federal agency education programs. Effective programs include the following:
• Summer programs that include or target middle school, high school, and undergraduate students (NRC, 2007, 2011). These programs stimulate interest through hands-on research and develop student cohorts that provide mutual support. In the context of the framework presented in Chapter 3, these are examples of awareness or engagement activities.
• Research experiences at the undergraduate and graduate levels (NRC, 2007, 2011). These programs encourage the further development of competence in and identification with the field. As discussed in the Chapter 3 framework, research experiences can help guide students to professional preparation.
• Opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to network, participate in national conferences, present research results, and join study groups, social activities, tutoring, peer-to-peer
support, and mentoring programs (NRC, 2007, 2011). These professional preparation opportunities help socialize students within a discipline, promote academic success, and prepare them for careers. Mentors can play a key role in providing information, guidance, and support at critical decision points in students’ careers.
• Financial programs that are based on need or are targeted at supporting undergraduate and graduate study (Smith, 1997; NRC, 2011). Affordability is key to the success of underrepresented minority students, and financial assistance is commonly required to provide access to adequate facilities, equipment, and course curricula.
• Efforts to lower barriers to the participation of underrepresented minorities in college, such as developing K–12 STEM outreach activities to cultivate potential future students; establishing strong connections between programs and institutions; and developing, implementing, and enforcing admissions policies that increase diversity of the student population (NRC, 2007, 2011). Such efforts address some of the system-level challenges described in Chapter 3.
The above programs open doors of opportunity to underrepresented minorities, but they could also help attract and retain students of all backgrounds. An example discussed at the workshop is GeoFORCE, a program established at the University of Texas in 2005 and aimed at bringing young people, particularly underrepresented minorities, into earth science.2 The program engages more than 600 eighth-grade students in summer field trips that introduce earth science concepts and emphasize hands-on science. Student cohorts continue through high school, building a foundation of geology expertise and a community that is sustained through a support network of peer cohorts, their adult mentors, and college students who previously participated in the program. Students also receive resources and mentoring to help them prepare for college, apply for admission and financial aid, and find summer internships and jobs.
GeoFORCE recruits girls and boys in high-minority, economically disadvantaged regions. In inner-city Houston, the school population is 35 percent Black, 61 percent Hispanic, and 82 percent economically disadvantaged. Between 40 percent and 65 percent of ninth graders fail to complete high school. In the rural southwest, 90 percent of students are Hispanic and 78 percent are economically disadvantaged. Dropout rates (5–45 percent) are substantially lower than in Houston, but less than 15 percent of adults have college degrees. In contrast, all students in the GeoFORCE program have graduated from high school and 97 percent have entered college.3 Two-thirds of the college students are STEM majors, including 12 percent in earth science. These figures are significantly higher than national averages.
Research suggests that programs that have increased the number of minority students graduating in STEM fields commonly take a comprehensive approach that includes the integration of students into college academic and social systems, the development of knowledge and skills, and support, mentoring, monitoring, and advising (e.g., Tinto, 1987; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997; Maton et al., 2000; Matsui et al., 2003). Lessons learned from federal earth science education and training programs also suggest that certain factors are important for creating success. Factors for success discussed at the committee’s workshop are summarized in Box 5.2 and factors important for the success of projects in National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) Program are summarized in Box 5.3.
BOX 5.2 Workshop Discussions on Ways to Increase Diversity
Key points raised by individuals at the workshop included the following:
• Follow best practices by engaging early with students, developing cohorts of students, connecting people to places, emphasizing field and real-world experiences, including math and reading preparation, involving families and communities, or linking with service learning projects.
• Link successful model programs into pathways leading to careers.
• Help students envision themselves working in earth science careers, including those that are culturally and societally relevant.
• Use previous student cohorts to acclimate and motivate new students.
• Find leaders who champion the programs.
• Obtain a sustained commitment and access to resources (e.g., financial aid, mentors) within and across organizations.
• Increase focus on minority-serving institutions and on community colleges and pathways to 4-year colleges.
• Create partnerships with new communities and partnership coalitions to expand existing projects and build engaging and inclusive experiences.
• Evaluate programs to determine success, including tracking students to determine outcomes after they leave the program.
BOX 5.3 Lessons Learned From NSF’s OEDG Program
A review of the National Science Foundation’s Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences Program (Huntoon et al., 2010) identified best practices for OEDG projects:
• Incorporating strong mentoring components.
• Including role models (e.g., faculty or graduate students) as leaders in the project.
• Considering the professional development of all involved with the project.
• Planning for sustainability (e.g., through institutionalization or the acquisition of research equipment).
• Broadening a project’s reach through time by encouraging people or organizations not directly involved to take actions that contribute to attainment of the project’s goals.
• Demonstrating relevance of earth science (culturally, personally, or professionally) to the target audience.
• Developing or strengthening institutional partnerships and personal connections.
• Communicating with multiple stakeholders throughout the project.
• Appreciating/accommodating the perspectives of the target audience during the project design stage and throughout the project.
• Involving students in research and professional events within the earth science community.
• Involving participants in field experiences.
Huntoon et al. (2010) also identified practices to avoid, including one-time or short interventions, intervening too late in students’ careers, providing inadequate financial support, and providing insufficient advance training to investigators running the programs.
The workshop discussions and lessons learned from the OEDG review are consistent with published findings. In a special issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education, Riggs and Alexander (2007) found that programs that successfully support minority students in the earth sciences share a common set of factors. First and foremost, they have components that are deeply rooted in specific ethnic and cultural communities (e.g., Huntoon and Lane, 2007; Miller et al. 2007; Pride and Olsen, 2007; Riggs et al., 2007). Typically a few individuals in each program are intimately connected to the concerns, needs, and aspirations of a particular minority group and have also built bonds of trust and friendship in these communities. These connected academics and community members understand how to reach and engage potential earth science students.
Second, the universities and colleges involved in successful programs are often connected into networks and collaborations that leverage the strengths of each academic partner and provide a clear educational pathway, often from community college into graduate work (e.g., Gilligan et al., 2007; Pandya et al., 2007; Robinson et al., 2007). These networks are commonly supported by the upper administration of these universities and colleges, which provides not only recruitment support, but also access to programs that may be beyond the means of individual faculty or departments (e.g., Stokes et al., 2007). Third, funding, particularly from federal agencies, is critical to spur development of new programs or to augment existing ones (e.g., Chigbu et al., 2007; Pyrtle and Williamson-Whitney, 2007). Long-running programs may be supported by several organizations, including federal agencies, private companies, state agencies, and universities.
An example of long-running collaboration among academia, industry, and government discussed at the workshop is the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program,4 which was established in 1983 and is hosted at Fort Valley State University, a historically Black university. The program currently operates as a 3+2 program—minority and women students major in biology, chemistry, or math at Fort Valley State University for the first 3 years, then transfer to a partner university for 2 years to complete degree requirements in an energy field, such as geology, geophysics, health physics (nuclear power industry), or engineering. Students receive full scholarships and internship opportunities supported by partner corporations (including oil/gas companies and electric power utilities), government agencies, and universities. To date, the program has graduated 27 geologists and geophysicists, 7 health physicists, and 76 engineers. About half have gone on to careers in the energy industry, and all graduates are employed in STEM fields.
The participation of women in earth science education has been increasing for several decades, although women have not yet reached parity with men (Gonzales and Keane, 2011). Women currently receive 39 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 47 percent of master’s degrees, and 41 percent of doctorate degrees in geoscience (NSF, 2013). A range of social factors undermines the progress of women in earth science. During formal education, women often suffer from a lack of mentors and poor guidance and advice (Holmes and O’Connell, 2005, 2007). Montelone et al. (2006) argued that the way earth science departments market and represent their academic field on Web sites presents an image that is less inclusive for women and minorities by, for example, omitting images of diverse individuals and women in prominent roles. Studies from chemistry, physics, and engineering (e.g., Etzkowitz et al., 2000; Hodgson et al., 2000; Whitelegg et al., 2002; RSC, 2008)5 suggest that the lack of family-friendly policies, challenges with mentors and advisors, and an often unsupportive
4 See www.fvsu.edu/academics/cdep. Partner universities include Georgia Tech; Pennsylvania State University; University of Arkansas; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Texas, Austin; and University of Texas, Pan American.
5 See also meeting and workshop reports of the NRC Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/cwsem/index.htm.
and inflexible workplace culture contribute to the early departure of women from Ph.D. and academic tracks for industry or other fields.
The literature on barriers to the participation of women in earth science and how to overcome them is sparse and is commonly based on surveys and samples of convenience. The nature of earth science and pathways to earth science careers differ from those of other scientific fields, and so the literature on women in science in general is not always directly applicable to women in earth science. Consequently, it is not clear what types of education and training programs might be most effective for keeping women on earth science pathways. Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) suggest that addressing issues of unconscious biases may increase the representation of women in science.
Task 6 of the committee was to describe ways that federal agencies can leverage their earth education and training efforts to improve their recruitment of a diverse population in both high school and college. Agencies can strengthen the participation of minority students in earth science by supporting education and training programs that follow the effective practices discussed above. By working with other agencies and organizations, federal agencies could stretch the resources available for meeting their diversity goals.
To gather input on ways to leverage resources, the committee discussed the topic at the workshop (see Box 5.4) and also asked federal education program managers three questions:
1. What partnerships (federal, state, local government; academic; industry; nongovernmental organization; others) have you formed (whether active or inactive) and how have they contributed to the success of your earth science education project/program?
2. What other partners would it be constructive to work with in the future and why?
3. What are the barriers (if any) to working with other federal agencies to leverage earth science education programs, and how have you overcome them?
Only four agencies (USGS, NSF, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) answered the questions. Their responses suggest that they partner primarily with other federal agencies working on community-wide initiatives (e.g., earth science literacy) or issues of mutual interest (e.g., the USGS and NSF fund summer interns through a UNAVCO program), with university diversity programs (e.g., GeoFORCE), and with professional societies, which carry out supporting activities (e.g., connecting agencies with university programs, conducting workshops at universities). A few agencies have leveraged federal dollars to gain contributions from private companies, mainly oil companies. Respondents desired increased collaboration, especially with industry and with professional societies that could connect agencies to private companies. Barriers to increased collaboration include different discipline foci, limited flexibility on funding mechanisms, poor familiarity with the various education and training programs, and a lack of time to seek collaborators or pursue partnerships. Some ideas for developing or strengthening collaboration are discussed below.
The agency responses to the committee’s questions and the workshop discussions suggest that many federal earth science education and training programs operate in isolation. The framework described in Chapter 3 shows how agencies can place their programs in a common context, which would help them discover other programs with similar goals, identify program gaps and overlaps,
BOX 5.4 Workshop Discussions on Ways to Leverage Resources
Key points raised by individuals at the workshop included the following:
• Create a community of practitioners across federal agencies, professional societies (especially minority-serving societies), academic institutions, and industry to build a program framework and to share information and best practices from successful programs.
• Look for synergies in areas such as goals, missions, and data sets.
• Leverage existing programs (e.g., NSF’s OEDG Program, University of Texas’ GeoFORCE program, Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Development Energy Program) to create cohesive education and training networks.
• Partner with organizations that offer complementary strengths (e.g., expertise, geographic location, recruitment reach, convening capability) or different funding abilities.
• Divide work on joint projects such as program solicitations and outreach to broaden capacity.
• Share information tools, such as Web tools that match opportunities with students.
• Use interagency memorandums of understanding to break down barriers and facilitate coordination for internships, outreach and recruitment activities, and teacher professional development.
• Develop common evaluation frameworks and surveys to improve the efficiency of evaluation efforts.
identify potential collaborations or divisions of labor, and take advantage of lessons learned and effective practices to strengthen programs. As noted above, collaborations are especially important for moving minority cohorts through the various education opportunities toward a career. Once partners and programs are identified, agencies could use memorandums of understanding, intra-agency special interest groups, or other mechanisms to establish cooperative relationships.
Collaboration with Professional Societies and Nongovernmental Organizations
A number of professional societies and nongovernmental organizations already collaborate with federal agencies on specific programs. They can also play a role in helping advance students through the framework of federal earth science education and training opportunities. Currently, it can be difficult for students to find available opportunities because each agency advertises its own programs. As a consequence, slots for participants may go unfilled. Professional societies, which already advertise academic vacancies, could partner with federal agencies to advertise openings for internships and other student opportunities. Professional societies and nongovernmental organizations focused on diversity (e.g., National Association of Black Geoscientists, Institute for Broadening Participation) play an especially important role in connecting underrepresented minority students to available education and training opportunities. Providing an essential resource to future professionals would benefit the societies and organizations, and increasing the visibility of programs would benefit the agencies and students. Easy access to information about federal opportunities for education and training may also help retain students in earth science.
Collaboration with Private Companies
The earth science knowledge and skills sought by private companies overlap with those sought by federal agencies. Among the skills commonly sought by employers in a variety of disciplines are critical thinking, complex problem solving, the application of knowledge in real-world set-
tings, and effective communication (Hart Research Associates, 2013). An earth science employer, ExxonMobil, is routinely looking for minority graduates who have a quantitative focus, are proficient in English, and are able to thrive in corporate culture (e.g., balance risk and restraint, task-and result-oriented, team players).6 Many of these skills have been identified as important for the earth science workforce (see “Earth Science Knowledge and Skills Identified in NRC Workforce Reports” in Chapter 1).
To find the hands-on problem-solving skills they need, businesses may sponsor programs that engage students in activities that develop these skills or create internships that expose students to real-world work environments (Stephens and Richey, 2013). Partnering directly with these businesses can raise concerns about using private money to support the missions of federal agencies. However, establishing coalitions of partners from federal agencies, private companies, universities, and professional societies (e.g., as has been done in GeoFORCE) would avoid these concerns while stretching federal dollars and bringing a wide range of expertise to bear on training the next generation of earth scientists. Professional society meetings—which draw presenters, exhibitors, and recruiters from all sectors—provide a venue for interested organizations to connect. Building such coalitions is not easy and it takes time to build trust and establish common goals and approaches. However, such partnerships could both benefit the profession and help federal agencies meet their missions.
Women have made substantial gains in earth science over the past several decades, and now obtain 39 percent of bachelor’s degrees. The sparse literature suggests that with attention to biases and mentoring, it may be possible to narrow or eliminate the degree gap between women and men. Compared with women, the gains of minorities in earth science education have been modest. Although it may be possible to apply some lessons learned from increasing the participation of women in earth science to the challenge of increasing minority participation, convolution of issues of culture and ethnicity with issues of gender adds complexity and uncertainty to potential solutions. Increasing the participation of minorities in earth science will require not only effective practices within individual programs but also attention to linkages between programs and system-scale inequities such as uneven access to mentors or financial resources.
Studies suggest that a variety of interventions are needed to increase the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, including (a) research experiences, either hands-on summer programs at the middle school to undergraduate level or research projects at the graduate and undergraduate level; (b) networking opportunities; (c) financial assistance to support undergraduate and graduate study; and (d) efforts to lower barriers to participation, such as developing K–12 STEM outreach activities to cultivate future students. Education and training programs that succeed in attracting and retaining minority students have some common elements, including intimate connections with communities and linkages with other programs to create clear educational pathways. The latter underscores the importance of thinking about education and training programs in the context of a system of opportunities that moves students from awareness to preparation for an earth science career.
Although some federal agencies work together to leverage education resources, many earth science education and training programs operate in isolation. By mapping their programs onto a common framework of education and training opportunities, agencies could identify potential partners or divisions of labor, as well as share effective practices for attracting and retaining minority students. Collaborations with professional societies focused on diversity could help connect
6 Presentation by Mike Loudin, project manager, ExxonMobil Campus Project, on September 17, 2012.
minority students to education and training opportunities, providing students with another avenue of information about open positions. In addition, broad coalitions among federal agencies, private companies, universities, and professional societies would stretch federal resources and bring a wide range of expertise to bear on building earth science pathways for more diverse students.