Campus: Long Beach -- October 5, 2007

Geoscience Diversity Enhancement Project at CSULB Receives $1 Million Commitment from National Science Foundation

The Geoscience Diversity Enhancement Project (GDEP) at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) recently received a $1 million commitment from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will support mentoring and outreach efforts to encourage students in ethnic groups underrepresented in the geosciences, to pursue college degrees and careers in the fields of geology, physical geography, and archaeology.

The new grant project, referred to as "GDEP Track 2," will build on the original GDEP, which ran from 2002-04. Funding for the project will run through 2011.

The program will offer an in-depth mentored, summer-research program for selected high school and community college students, which was the primary target group for the original GDEP. In addition GDEP Track 2 will offer community outreach field trips throughout the academic year for larger numbers students and their families. The field trips are designed to introduce students to the physical environment of Southern California as well as inform them of career opportunities in geology, physical geography and geoarchaeology.

Additional summer field trips will be conducted with the campus chapter of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP). CSU-LSAMP is sponsored both by the NSF and the California State University, providing a statewide program for the enhancement of math and science skills for minority students majoring in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

GDEP Track 2 will also work with local government agencies, NGOs and corporations to create internships for graduates of the summer research program.

"This program is good for the university and for the geosciences as a whole," said principal investigator Chris Lee, CSULB professor of geography. "The components are designed to increase the diversity in the geoscience related programs at CSULB. We have seen small but promising changes in the student demographics of the Geology, Geography and Anthropology departments as a result of the original GDEP. Our overall goal is to increase our diversity to more closely reflect the campus and community populations we serve.

"Beyond that, on a national level, it is important to have more diversity in the sciences," Lee added. "CSULB can be a spearhead for that. The components of this program were designed to create a model that will be transportable to other universities."

GDEP Track 2 builds on unusually strong inter-college and interdisciplinary activities among 16 faculty members from CSULB's geology, geography, geoarchaeology and environmental science disciplines to create a working prototype for an integrated academic and workforce development program.

The program utilizes collaborative partnerships with high schools (Cabrillo, Lakewood, Long Beach Polytechnic, Millikan, and Wilson) and community colleges (Cerritos, Compton, El Camino, Long Beach City, Orange Coast, Saddleback, and Santa Monica) to promote education and careers in the geosciences.

A select student population from partner institutions will participate in focused field research and supported internships while a larger number of students and their families, as well as CSU-LSAMP students, will be exposed to the geosciences through classroom visits, workshops and community outreach field trips. Through these partnerships, CSULB will leverage its scientific and educational resources to attract, retain, and better prepare students for opportunities in the geosciences.

One of the prime benefits of the original GDEP was its role as a confidence booster. "When students see they can take on new and sometimes complex tasks, they are more confident," Lee pointed out. "Students put together posters on their research and there is even support in the new grant to send students to regional conferences to present papers and posters. Several students each year are asked to return as mentors.

"An assessment component of the both the original and the new grant also tracks students once they have completed the program," he continued. "You really do see that the program has touched these students and changed their lives. We are looking forward to building on the legacy of the original GDEP by reaching even more students through GDEP Track 2."

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