Attracting bright students to pursue studies in soil science: A case study
Stephen H. AndersonA
Dept. of Soil, Environmental & Atmospheric Sciences, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA, Email email@example.com
Abstract A major challenge facing soil science education is responding to insufficient enrollment in undergraduate programs. This issue has prompted many institutions ofhigher education to discontinue soil science offerings. The objective of this research was to evaluate a case study highlighting recent changes in a traditional undergraduate soil science degree program designed to increase enrollment and participation through a new environmental science curriculum. The case study details the addition of an environmental science program within a traditional soilscience department at the University of Missouri. In 2004, a new environmental science curriculum was developed and offered for entering freshmen students. Over the next few years, five new required courses were developed by Soil Science Faculty for environmental science students. The effect of this offering has been to increase undergraduate departmental majors by approximately 45 to 50, with slightincreases in incoming test scores. Participation by these students in soil science courses, soil judging activities, and other departmental offerings has enhanced soil science and increased the number of graduates with Bachelor of Science degrees pursuing careers related to soil science. Key Words Education, environmental science, soil science curriculum, undergraduate enrolment. IntroductionChallenges with enrollment in soil science classes at the undergraduate level have caused many institutions of higher education to discontinue offerings of traditional soil science (Arnalds 2006; Baveye 2006; Baveye et al. 2006). These issues have occurred due to low interest of enrolling secondary school seniors in soil science, since they are unaware of opportunities in this significant discipline.Many students who wish to pursue careers in science do not understand how soil science can provide them with excellent career options. How do soil science educators develop curriculum to attract secondary school seniors? One major area related to soil science to which secondary school seniors are attracted is the study of environmental science. These students need to be provided with theopportunity to see the advantages of studying the earth system as a way to develop their credentials and allow them to pursue their interests in helping to solve environmental challenges that face society today. If soil science educators participate in the development and offering of Environmental Science curricula, more students will have opportunities to study soil science. Many disciplines may wish todevelop programs that cater to the interests of secondary school students in environmental issues. As a result, disagreements among different University colleges and departments can erupt over who “owns” Environmental Science and is permitted to develop environmental science programs. Such campus politics may stymie the active participation of Soil Science faculty in the development ofenvironmental science programs. The University of Missouri began offering a new Environmental Science undergraduate degree program in 2004. This program was established as an emphasis area in the Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences due in part to this department being under the umbrella of the School of Natural Resources. In order to develop depth as well as breadth, the EnvironmentalScience program at Missouri has three tracks: Land Management, Water Quality, and Air Quality. The objective of this paper is to present a case study on how a traditional undergraduate soil science degree program was re-designed to increase enrollment and participation through integration into a new environmental science curriculum. History of soil science at the University of Missouri The...
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