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Volume 21 Issue 6 (June 2011)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 52–54 | Full Text | PDF (238KB)


Obstacles to the recruitment of minorities into the geosciences: A call to action

Suzanne O'Connell1*, Mary Anne Holmes2*

1 E&ES, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut 06459, USA
2 E&AS, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588, USA

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In 2008, >85,000 Hispanic, Black (U.S. National Science Foundation [NSF] term), and American Indian/Native Alaskan students, collectively called underrepresented minorities, received bachelor degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Of that number, only 192 Hispanic, 89 Black, and 28 American Indian/Native Alaskan students (NSF, 2010; Fig. 1) earned degrees in geoscience. Between 2000 and 2008, underrepresented minorities earned 16%–17% of STEM degrees and only 5%–7% of geoscience degrees.

The lack of geoscience undergraduates has been attributed to many factors (Velasco and Velasco, 2010), especially pre-college exposure (Levine et al., 2007). Most college-bound students do not study geoscience in high school, and this lack of exposure cuts across ethnic and socioeconomic divisions. Thus, high school non-preparation does not explain the discrepancy in percentages of white students versus minority students earning geoscience degrees.

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Manuscript received 4 Aug. 2010; accepted 15 Jan. 2011

doi: 10.1130/G105GW.1