In an effort to increase enrollment, the Department of Geological Sciences will alter its curriculum and change its name to the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
The curriculum revision will increase the breadth of courses the department offers and develop a program that better reflects all Earth studies. The department is planning to change its name to emphasize its objective of teaching students all Earth sciences. This change will be representative of the curriculum revisions and the department’s overall objective.
The change will showcase opportunities that were “not so evident” before, said Johann Villalvir Miranda, a junior seeking a degree in geology.
“I didn’t know there were even atmospheric professors in my department until the name change was proposed,” Villalvir Miranda said.
The department’s current name creates the misconception for many students that the courses are limited to the study of rocks and minerals, said Kaj Johnson, associate professor of geological sciences and director of undergraduate studies.
“While historically geology is identified with studies of rocks, minerals and fossils, we want people to recognize that Earth and atmospheric science is a much broader science that includes things like studies of natural disasters and their impacts, evolution of rivers and the transport and storage of water, studies on energy resources and climate science,” Johnson said.
The change in curriculum is a reaction to a trend on campus — the migration of students to professional schools which have a clearer path to a future career. This migration is causing the enrollment in departments within the College of Arts and Sciences to decrease, Johnson said.
The Kelley School of Business and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs are schools that have implemented programs that allow students to find a niche area of study within the curriculum.
The Department of Geological Sciences intends to follow their lead by developing a program that provides students with the opportunity to explore Earth and atmospheric sciences that directly correlate with their interests, Johnson said.
The department plans to add three new introductory level courses focusing on different areas of Earth studies. One course will focus on Earth’s atmosphere, climate and history, while another will focus on rocks and minerals. A third course will focus on the Earth’s processes.
These courses will add to the department’s core curriculum and increase the opportunity for higher level courses that expand on each of these areas of study. These higher-level courses will provide students with more flexibility when deciding how they want to tailor their degree to fit their interests.
“For example, students interested in evolution of life can take more courses in geobiology, or students interested in Earth resources and environmental issues can take more courses relating to Earth materials and water resources,” Johnson said.
The curriculum revisions and name change are currently under review by the Committee for Undergraduate Education. If the changes are approved, Johnson said the department hopes to implement them by fall 2017.