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SLCC ‘Rocks It’ With $334K National Science Foundation Geoscience Grant

Salt Lake Community College received a $334,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) aimed at increasing the number and diversity of geology majors and improving their transfer rates. The grant pays SLCC geology majors, known as “research ambassadors,” to conduct research projects. These ambassadors will use non-science majors from general education classes to assist with their projects, bringing the benefits of undergraduate research to a wider audience. Ambassadors will also receive mentoring from advanced students and faculty members from the University of Utah and Weber State University.

“Engaging students at the community college level in these kinds of activities has the potential to have a substantial impact on the number of students completing STEM degrees at four-year institutions,” said Chris Johnson, SLCC geology assistant professor and principal investigator of the program. “Half of students who complete STEM bachelor degrees start at a community college. As the only community college in the most populous portion of Utah, SLCC is an important component of the geoscience pipeline.”

This three-year grant will support 24 ambassadors who will mentor 48 general education students as they collaborate on projects. Research ambassadors and their student assistants will “learn science by doing science” as they conduct research in the field and collect real data to solve real problems. Participants will develop skills needed for academic and professional success while field sampling and mapping, using technologies such as X-ray fluorescence analyzers, water quality meters, GPS and GIS systems. In addition to the research and tiered mentoring program that this grant makes possible, SLCC will work with the University of Utah and Weber State University to establish transfer support programs that will last beyond the term of the grant to help SLCC students successfully transfer.

“We are delighted to receive this award from the NSF and to be able to work closely with the University of Utah and Weber State University in ways that will have positive effects for our students,” said SLCC provost Clifton Sanders. “It’s rewarding for SLCC to be part of a collaboration that allows students to interact with and be mentored by leading professionals and students in their field while doing meaningful and interesting research so early in their college careers.”

Geoscience careers are projected to be among the fastest-growing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This grant aims at bolstering student engagement and success during their first two years and increasing retention and transfer rates. Success in these areas leads to an increase in qualified new geoscientists entering the workforce.

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