The introduction of the Geoscience Scholarship to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Academically Talented Students will allow the Geneseo geology department to attract more students to the major through scholarships from a grant from the National Science Foundation.
“Geology is the smallest [science] department here,” associate professor and chair of geological sciences Benjamin Laabs said. “We rarely see students come in, and we really just have a small number of students who come to Geneseo as freshmen and say ‘I’m going to major in geology.’”
The scholarship is designed to provide about 34 students with 114 scholarships yearly, each worth approximately $4,575. These scholarships will be distributed over a five-year period from April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2020.
The scholarship will be targeted to prospective Geneseo students specifically in the geoscience majors including geology, geophysics and geochemistry. Students declare the major before they apply and the scholarship would apply for the recipients remaining three or four years on campus.
Students involved in the scholarship program will also take part in other activities within the major. “We have very active alumni in the geology department,” Laabs said. “They’re engaged with the department and they want to talk with the students. They’ll be able to get career advice; it’s the beginning of a mentor program.”
In addition, students will go on field trips built into the major, especially during the first four semesters. “Students will have to maintain a minimum GPA and stay on track within the major to keep the scholarship,” Laabs said.
“The National Science Foundation gives an opportunity to start scholarships. We proposed this model last summer to the program and they liked it well enough to support it for five years, but we ideally hope to renew it after five years,” Laabs said. “In the first three years, we will be able to accept new scholars, while in the last two, these scholars will just finish with the program implications such as field trips and alumni interaction.”
As far as how to apply to become a scholar in this program, Laabs said, “Since the scholarship program just became official, we don’t have the applications in place yet. However, starting over spring break, students will be able to go the geological sciences website to learn more about applying.”
Laabs emphasized his hope that the introduction of these scholarships will draw students toward the geosciences.
“We want to see more students joining the major in their freshmen or sophomore year, because, for so many students, geology is a ‘discovery major’ and students don’t join until later in their academic career,” he said. “It then becomes difficult for them to complete all the required classes in four semesters. We want to see students pursue this major early in their schooling and stick with it through graduate school and as careers.”