Academic Provenance: Mapping Geoscience Students’ Academic Pathways to their Career Trajectories

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Targeted recruitment and retention efforts for the geosciences have become increasingly important with the growing concerns about program visibility on campuses, and given that geoscience degree production remains low relative to the demand for new geoscience graduates. Furthermore, understanding the career trajectories of geoscience degree recipients is essential for proper occupational placement. A theoretical framework was developed by Houlton (2010) to focus recruitment and retention efforts. This “pathway model” explicitly maps undergraduate students’ geoscience career trajectories, which can be used to refine existing methods for recruiting students into particular occupations. Houlton’s (2010) framework identified three main student population groups: Natives, Immigrants or Refugees. Each student followed a unique pathway, which consisted of six pathway steps. Each pathway step was comprised of critical incidents that influenced students’ overall career trajectories. An aggregate analysis of students’ pathways (Academic Provenance Analysis) showed that different populations’ pathways exhibited a deviation in career direction: Natives indicated intentions to pursue industry or government sectors, while Immigrants intended to pursue academic or research-based careers. We expanded on Houlton’s (2010) research by conducting a follow-up study to determine if the original participants followed the career trajectories they initially indicated in the 2010 study. A voluntary, 5-question, short-answer survey was administered via email. We investigated students’ current pathway steps, pathway deviations, students’ goals for the near future and their ultimate career ambitions. This information may help refine Houlton’s (2010) “pathway model” and may aid geoscience employers in recruiting the new generation of professionals for their respective sectors.

  • Heather Houlton*
  • Leila Gonzales*
  • Christopher Keane*
  • American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2011