About Tennessee GEOPATHS
The project involves partnering with geology and physical geography faculty at the University of Tennessee and three regional community colleges (Pellissippi State, Roane State, and Volunteer State) to engage students at the freshman and sophomore level through field experiences, internships, research projects and mentoring. A residential geoscience retreat at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, with faculty and students from UT and their home college introduces students to the project. They are assigned UT faculty mentors who work with them throughout the transfer process and their subsequent studies at UT. Faculty partnerships forged through this project are designed to facilitate smoother transfer procedures and provide greater opportunities for students.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville is the flagship institution of the UT system, with about 28,000 students and programs at the Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate levels. Undergraduate geoscience programs are offered through the Geology concentration (approximately 80 students) in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Physical Geography (about 20 students) in the Department of Geography. About 20% of UT students transfer from a community college, but the recent implementation of a state-wide program for free community college tuition for residents (the “Tennessee Promise”) is expected to increase this percentage. At present, UT doesn’t effectively track completion rates or challenges faced by transfer students and there are numerous anecdotal examples of courses that don’t transfer, as well as social/cultural challenges for transfer students.
The three partner colleges (Pellissippi State, Roane State, and Volunteer State) tend to have a higher proportion of first generation students than UT, with greater ethnic, racial and economic diversity. Pellissippi State and Volunteer State are suburban campuses located in/near Knoxville and Nashville, respectively. Roane State is in a rural setting. All three colleges have a strong set of introductory geoscience courses, offered by tenured faculty with PhD degrees in geology. The “pipeline” for geoscience students moving from community colleges to the University of Tennessee is slowed by lack of awareness of career opportunities, lack of field or research opportunities, and the institutional/cultural/social factors typical of moving from a small college to a major university.
The main goals of this project are to:
- Enhance recruitment and success of community college (CC) transfer students entering geoscience programs in geology or physical geography at the University of Tennessee (UT), through early engagement and building excitement about geoscience studies and careers;
- Prepare CC transfer students for greater success at UT, leading to faster graduation and more effective movement into the geoscience workforce or graduate programs;
- Increase opportunities for students at CC’s and increase diversity in geoscience programs at UT.