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Update on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education

Sharon Mosher, Dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored initiative on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education continues to work on changing undergraduate education to meet the needs of the workforce and society.

The recommendations of this national effort involved input from over 1,000 academics and geoscience employers. About 100 department heads and chairs nationwide have started implementing these recommendations into their undergraduate programs and curricula. The organizing committee, led by Jackson School Dean Sharon Mosher, is evaluating the heads and chairs successes and problems in implementing change over the past 18 months. The goal is to find solutions that will help others in similar types and sizes of departments overcome roadblocks and obstacles to change. Over the next year, the organizing committee hopes to codify the recommendations and best practices for implementation into a “Vision and Change” document.

At UT, this effort dovetails with President Greg Fenves’ Undergraduate Degree Transformation initiative and Project 2021. This past year, the Department of Geological Sciences degree transformation committee formulated preliminary plans for enhancing our undergraduate degree to increase undergraduate research and experiential learning and incorporate the recommendations of the national initiative.

The national effort is a response to the growing realization that future generations of geoscientists will need a wider variety of skills than past generations, and a looming workforce shortage, in part because a large number of geoscientists are nearing retirement age. Recognizing this also applies to graduate students and that only about 50 percent of students who earned a Ph.D. go into academia, the NSF has funded Mosher to expand this initiative to consider the skills and competencies needed by all geoscience graduate students whether they have future careers in industry, government, academia or non-governmental organizations, or are studying
Earth, atmosphere or oceans.

You can keep up to date on the initiative and view all the materials at jsg.utexas.edu. Click on the “Future of Geosciences Education” link.