GEO-Scholar: Increasing Undergraduate Participation in the Geosciences
This National Science Foundation (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (NSF S-STEM) project at the University of South Carolina (USC) will increase the number of students with demonstrated financial need who complete undergraduate geoscience degrees within the School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment (SEOE). The program will encourage applications from individuals belonging to groups currently underrepresented in the geosciences and from first generation college students. In addition to conducting outreach activities and providing scholarships, the project will employ evidenced-based program practices that are built upon existing successful programs at USC. These practices include a summer orientation, mathematics skills improvement, and a common course program. The program will help students to persist in geosciences majors and graduate in a timely manner. Providing scholarships to academically strong STEM students, who may not otherwise be able to afford college, will increase the number of STEM graduates prepared to fill the needs of national, regional, and local industries.
The GEO-Scholar program at the University of South Carolina will increase student exposure to the geosciences by developing an outreach program that results in increased interest, knowledge, and performance from targeted students. Each year scholarships will be awarded to 6 to 8 academically talented students majoring in the geosciences who demonstrate financial need. The project will increase recruitment and retention of students majoring in the geosciences by adding new programs and institutionalizing geoscience modifications to programs that currently exist at USC. The student support services will include an emphasis on improving mathematics skills, participation in a common course during the first year, and a summer orientation program. GEO-Scholars at USC will increase the number of well-prepared and skilled employees in the geosciences by working with faculty and public and private sectors to provide research, internship, and work opportunities that further familiarize participants with career opportunities in the geosciences. Assessment and evaluation will provide insight into the retention benefits of student scholarships, career development activities, and faculty mentoring and advising. Lessons learned and effective practices that emerge from the program evaluation data will be disseminated widely to the STEM education community and help increase widespread understanding of the attributes and practices of successful student scholarship and support programs.