AUSTIN, Texas—GeoFORCE Texas, a summer college-preparation program designed to inspire students from the predominantly Hispanic region of southwest Texas to pursue university studies in the geosciences, starts its third straight year of expanded enrollment, sending 245 students into the field in seven states at geologic sites across the country.
|Tenth graders from GeoFORCE Texas survey the Colorado River from the bridge over the Grand Canyon dam.|
Photo: GeoFORCE Texas,
Jackson School of Geosciences
GeoFORCE encourages students with high aptitude in math and science to consider careers in science, particularly the geosciences. The summer academies offer week-long seminars blending college-preparation coursework with field trips to sites of geological interest around the country. Selected students, who attend at no cost, commit to take part in academies for four years throughout high school.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences manages GeoFORCE in partnership with Southwest Texas Junior College.
The Jackson School started GeoFORCE to address two pressing needs: inspiring the next generation of geoscientists and fostering increased diversity in the U.S. workforce. While GeoFORCE recruits from predominantly Hispanic southwest Texas, it is open to all students in the region regardless of background, as reflected in the diversity of its students.
More than 100 incoming ninth graders applied for 40 spots in the 2007 GeoFORCE summer academy. They join 82 students returning from last year’s academies and 123 participating in a two-day Texas-based component called Young Geoscientists.
Students have to maintain a minimum B average overall and in math and science courses to remain in the program. Since the program started three years ago, only two of the academy participants have chosen to leave GeoFORCE, none for academic reasons.
“The retention rate is extraordinary for a pre-college summer program,” said Eric Barron, dean of the Jackson School of Geosciences. “It shows the great potential of these high-achieving students and the excitement of the GeoFORCE approach to learning science from professionals in spectacular locations. We fully expect to find many former GeoFORCE students pursuing outstanding science careers in the years to come.”
As in past years, students in the ninth and 10th grade academies will visit sites in Texas, Arizona, Utah, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Ninth graders also visit The University of Texas at Austin campus, staying in dorms and attending classes led by professors.
Eleventh graders will visit geological sites in Oregon and Washington state, including Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, Columbia River Gorge, Kah Nee Ta Hot Springs and the Oregon coast.
GeoFORCE is modeled on the Mathematics, Science and Engineering Academy, created by Isaac Crumbly at Fort Valley State University in Georgia.
With 245 students enrolled for 2007, and plans for 320 students when fully enrolled next year, GeoFORCE is the largest geoscience pipeline program in the country and one of the larger science pipeline programs. Hispanics have the lowest rate of graduation from college in Texas (10 percent) relative to other Texas ethnic groups, according to statistics from Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock.
Funding for GeoFORCE is provided by industry sponsors Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Marathon (Tier 1), ConocoPhillips, Minerals Management Service (Tier 2), Alcoa Foundation, ATandT Foundation, Dominion Exploration, Halliburton, Marathon, Schlumberger, Swift Energy and Vulcan Materials Foundation (Tier 3).
Editors: Print-resolution images of 2007 GeoFORCE students at the Grand Canyon are available online.
For more information contact: J.B. Bird, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, 512-232-9623.