Campus: CSU Long Beach -- October 10, 2001

National Science Foundation Awards $852,000 Grant to Cal State Long Beach for Project to Increase Underrepresented Minorities in the Geosciences

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year, $852,000 grant to California State University, Long Beach for a project designed to increase the number of underrepresented students in the various geosciences fields such as geology, geography, archaeology and environmental sciences.

The grant was funded through a new program within the NSF known as the "Geo-Diversity Initiative." Of the more than 80 proposals submitted, only 15 were funded, and the CSULB grant is believed to be one of the largest awarded.

Called the Geoscience Diversity Enhancement Program (G-DEP), the CSULB project will involve university faculty with faculty and students from five area community colleges and several high schools in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) in geoscience research during an eight-week summer program.

"In terms of increasing the number of underrepresented students, there has been a lot of progress made in certain fields, especially life sciences," said Elizabeth Ambos, principal investigator for the project and associate dean for academic initiatives in CSULB's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "But in the physical sciences, such as geology and physical geography, there has been much less progress made. This project was designed with that in mind."

The five community college partners involved with the program are Long Beach City College, Cerritos College, El Camino College, Orange Coast College and Irvine Valley College. The other partner, Long Beach Unified, is one of the largest and most diverse districts in the nation with more than 90,000 K-thru-12 students.

The primary goal of G-DEP is to increase the number of underrepresented students who have a broad educational and research experience in the geosciences. Ambos also believes the program will help enhance the quality and quantity of geoscience research and teaching by faculty members at the university, community college and high school levels.

Additionally, G-DEP is expected to increase the awareness by community college and high school students of the geosciences fields and related research careers and educational requirements.

"We have a number of students who take our (geosciences) courses only as juniors and seniors, and the most common quote we hear is, `Gee! If I would have known about this field, I would have majored in it,'" Ambos noted. "Well, we're trying to change that."

A number of the program's summer research opportunities have already been set. These projects will range from looking at coastal landforms down in Baja, California, geophysical archaeology to marine geology research, geo-chemistry, water resource and natural hazards research.

Students will learn safe procedures for the lab. They will learn how to conduct geoscience research and data analysis and interpretation. The experience--both lab and field-will culminate in poster presentations and presentations in their schools.

"In the geosciences fields, these types of research programs are rare, especially for community college and high school students," Ambos pointed out. "We already have a really exciting set of summer research projects set up, and these underrepresented students will be encouraged to learn science by actively participating in geoscience research."

During the first year, 10 to 15 students from the partnering community colleges and LBUSD high schools will be recruited for the program.

The CSULB G-DEP project will involve faculty from the university's departments of Geological Sciences, Geography and Anthropology.

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