Utah State University’s Department of Geosciences demonstrates and voices a concerted commitment to promote diversity, equity and inclusivity throughout its efforts and activities. Its recent selection by a leading scientific organization for an innovative recruitment network is a significant step toward its aims and an encouraging opportunity for USU.
USU Geosciences is among 15 new partner departments, selected from 54 applicants, for the American Geophysical Union’s Bridge Program. Initiated in 2019, the AGU Bridge Program seeks to increase the number of students from historically marginalized populations pursuing graduate degrees in the discipline’s range of fields.
USU, which joins the network of 46 institutions nationwide, is the first partner from Utah.
“Membership in this network gives us more visibility to students we wish to recruit,” said Dennis Newell, graduate director and associate professor in the Department of Geosciences. “The partnership also provides us with guidance on how to reach a broader, more diverse range of potential students.”
Attracting students from minority groups to geosciences is a challenge, he says, because these scholars have few role models from similar backgrounds.
“Perceptions of the geosciences include a white, male-dominated discipline, where participants are heavily involved in solitary fieldwork,” Newell said. “Many potential students of color feel they wouldn’t fit in, plus the prospect of conducting fieldwork feels unsafe, especially in certain parts of the country. The task ahead of us is to dispel those perceptions and create a welcoming, inclusive environment.”
The department has undertaken a number of efforts to promote inclusion, including hosting its annual community Rock and Fossil Day and as a long-time participant in the College of Science’s Science Unwrapped STEM outreach program and USU’s Native American Summer Mentorship Program. The latter brings students from USU Blanding to Utah State’s Logan campus in the summer to participate in research activities. Faculty members also travel to Blanding to offer geosciences courses.
Department of Geosciences faculty members also participated in the National Science Foundation’s Unlearning Racism in Geosciences (URGE) program to assess weaknesses and to develop ways to make their department and campus atmosphere more welcoming. As a result of their participation, faculty members drafted and adopted a new Geosciences Code of Conduct, emphasizing equitable treatment, inclusivity and mutual respect, as well as zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination.
“Everyone needs to do their part to affect change,” Newell said. “Being an AGU Bridge Program partner will become a central component of our graduate student recruitment efforts and bolster all of our department efforts toward diversity and inclusion.”
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science
Graduate Director and Associate Professor
Department of Geosciences