In many other science and engineering fields, the professional society is a key component of the student culture during their education. Students in fields such as physics, civil engineering, and mechanical engineering are usually expected to be members and active participants in their respective professional society, which in turn is tightly integrated with the academic programs through student chapters or activities. This phenomenon does not readily exist in the geosciences, and may be part of the reason for above average student attrition rates and subcompetitive recruitment over the entirety of business cycles. Part of this is a result of 45 societies, including over a dozen that actively recruit student members, but in the same vein, no single society has universal strong cultural presence across the 800 undergraduate programs in the United States. In addition, given the diversity of professional opportunities are not obvious to students because of the traditional subject stovepiping see in the curriculum and societies. To test and address this issue, the American Geological Institute is piloting a program to build student awareness of the breadth of career opportunities in a social context while also promoting the role of societies as a key networking and development conduit. Early responses to this test have resulted in some non-intuitive patterns and may yield insight into the world view of new and prospective majors.
- American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2009