Monday, October 8, 2012

Where we Stand:  The College of Geosciences Annual Assessment Report to the Associate Provost for Diversity
At all levels across the university Texas A&M is increasingly being driven by accountability and assessment data in decision making.  Activities and progress related to diversity and student and faculty recruitment are no exception.  In recent weeks we have completed data gathering efforts in the Dean's office to understand quantitatively where we stand relative to our peers on undergraduate and graduate enrollment trends and faculty and staff diversity.  We have also - with your help - taken a first cut at documenting aspects of our current workplace climate with respect to collegiality, freedom to express ideas and raise difficult issues, diversity, rank, gender, and job function.  All of this serves as only a starting point, and significant additional analysis is required, but we do now have a set of valuable benchmarks against which we can judge the effectiveness of our ongoing efforts.

We asked for comparison data from the University of Texas, Austin Jackson School of Geosciences, Penn State University College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Oregon State University College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.  None of these comparisons is perfect nor are the data sets complete, but we believe that structurally these are comparable equivalents by size, stature, and range of disciplines.  The detailed numerical data we gathered are presented graphically, available at the bottom this page.  Below we present the main highlights of this comparative analysis.

Undergraduate students
The most complete data we have make a comparison possible between our College, UT Austin Jackson School and Penn State EMS.  As major competing institutions for undergraduates and graduate students in our fields, these comparisons are particularly useful.  We find TAMU and UT to be virtually identical in terms of gender balance in the geosciences, at 37.7% and 39.3% women enrolled respectively.  Recent undergraduate degree completions at TAMU Geosciences show 41% female graduates.  The national average for geoscience degrees granted runs at approximately 40%, so TAMU and UT Austin are effectively at the national norm.

Comparing minority enrollments, particularly under-represented minorities, TAMU Geosciences compares very favorably with national statistics and continues to improve, and also has caught up and will probably soon pass UT Austin in attracting especially Hispanic students.  Our current enrollment stands at 15.5% Hispanic, 2.6% Black, and 0.3 % American Indian (18% under-represented students overall), and our Freshman enrollees for Fall 2012 show a sharp increase in diversity, with 28% under-represented minority (URM) students enrolled.  National averages (and Penn States figures) are generally around 4% for Hispanic,  1.5% Black, and 0.7% American Indian, so we compare very well nationally, but clearly there is room for improvement to reach parity with our surrounding region and state (22% Hispanic locally, 38% statewide; ~13% Black and ~1% American Indian both locally and statewide).  UT Austin shows enrollments very close to ours, at 18.6% overall URM, but the growth trends for our enrollments far outstrip theirs.  We ascribe this to the efforts of our coordinated recruiting efforts both on and off campus. 

Graduate students
The other student comparison possible with our current data set is in combined MS and PhDs graduate enrollments in general. Aggregating MS and PhD enrollments show that 42.1% of the graduate students in TAMU Geosciences are women, which compares favorably to the national average 41.6% for graduate degrees granted to women in the geosciences according to National Science Foundation data.  UT Austin and Penn State both have slightly lower female enrollments of 36.8% and 37.1% respectively, which suggests that the graduate environment for women at TAMU Geosciences is slightly more attractive or welcoming than these peers. At the MS level, TAMU Geosciences is especially successful at attracting and graduating women, with over 55% of recent degrees at this level across the College being awarded to women.

Minority enrollment at the graduate level is also above or at national averages for Hispanic, Black and American Indian graduate students, and TAMU Geosciences is consistently above UT Austin for all of these ethnicities, but again far from where we would like to be i.e. closer to parity with the population.  Penn State does a better job at attracting Black graduate students than we do (10 enrolled as opposed to 6), so sustained effort in recruiting is needed.  College-wide we have had some recent success in attracting minority graduate students with targeted efforts, so I am optimistic this trend will continue.

Faculty headcount data for all four of our peer institutions shows that TAMU Geosciences is in more or less in the middle of the pack with respect to both women and under-represented minorities on the faculty.  If we wish to become a leading institution, we need to be doing better on this front.  This has motivated current and planned efforts to ramp up our recruiting and retention of women and minority faculty, especially in the upcoming busy search season.  The national average in the geosciences is 14.3% women faculty, and we are only slightly better than that at 16.1%.  Penn State and UT Austin are better still at 18.5% and 19.0% respectively and the best among our peers is Oregon State at 25% women faculty members.  Arizona State lags our performance with only 13% female faculty.  With regard to under-represented minorities, Penn State is the clear leader with 7.3% faculty being URM.  Arizona State has 5.6% URM faculty (all Hispanic in this category), TAMU Geosciences at 4.3%, and Oregon State trails us at 1.8% URM (98.1% white faculty). 

What these numbers show is a strong disconnection between faculty composition and student (grad or undergrad) composition, in both directions.  This observation with these peer institutions and a separate nationally-drawn slate of peer institutions has motivated new research into why and how this is true, and what the factors actually are that increase the enrollment and success of women and minorities in the geosciences. 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

TAMU joins the ranks of Emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions

Exciting news about some significant progress in growing the impact of Texas A&M in serving the broader Hispanic/Latino community was reported today by President Loftin.

He reports in his regular 3/7 update that : 

* Building upon our land-grant mission, Texas A&M was recently recognized as one of the nation's 'top 25 colleges and universities serving Hispanics' by Poder Hispanic magazine: 

A visit to the linked Poder Hispanic page shows that the University as a whole has 16.1% Hispanic undergraduate enrollment (1,031 bachelor's degrees, 17th in the nation), over the threshold of 15% required to be classified as an "Emerging Hispanic Serving" institution for the first time.  Once we grow to 25% Hispanic enrollment, we will join the ranks of fully-fledged Hispanic Serving Institutions or HSIs.  

This milestone is also reflected in the College of Geosciences, and we also far outperform our national peers in serving this community.  
-Texas A&M Geosciences BS graduates in 2010-11 were 14% Hispanic
-BS graduates nationally are ~3.5 % Hispanic in geosciences 
Additionally, we were recognized by the American Institute of Physics in 2010 as a top producer
of geoscience BS degrees for Hispanic students (1 of 13 schools in the nation, including UT Austin, UTEP and UTSA) based on 2005-2008 graduation rates.  Our recent increase in graduation rates for Hispanic students will only enhance this reputation in coming years.

Good news, but a call to keep working hard at making an inclusive and welcoming College for all of our students.


Texas A&M Geosciences goes to New York!

Hello from Aggieland!

I am happy to report that the College established a big public presence in the Exhibits Hall of the Association of American Geographers annual meeting in New York City from February 25-27.  Our Department of Geography as well as other allied departments in the College enjoyed significant publicity as many of the roughly 7000 registrants strolled through.

Over 60 prospective graduate students from a huge array of institutions around the country and the world took information and requested follow up contacts.  Faculty, staff and graduate students from the College took part in the booth staffing efforts, and created a very welcoming public presence for A&M Geosciences.

We'll see the AAG again next year, April 2013 in Los Angeles, CA!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New NSF publication on reporting Racial and Ethnic Diversity in STEM

The National Science Foundation has just released NSF 12-304, a report from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) titled "Racial and Ethnic Diversity among U.S.- Educated Science, Engineering, and Health Doctorate Recipients: Methods of Reporting Diversity".

The report takes data on doctoral recipients and breaks it out according to Hispanic or non-Hispanic ethnicity, and then by single or mutiple races.  The report shows nicely how complex it can be to try to work with this type of demographic data in statistical tables, where definition is everything.  

Sadly there are not really many major new insights here.  80% of the STEM PhD recipients are still white and non-Hipanic,  and the overall total of self-reported multiracial PhDs is also very low, about 1.2%.   But, younger recipients tend to be more likely to report multiracial status than older PhDs, and in general American Indians, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiian PhD recipients were the most multiracial of all underrepresented minorities.  

Download the report and/or read it on the web at

Personally I welcome the NSF and NCSES trying hard to tackle the complexity of race and ethnicity in a manner that we can track through time quantitatively.  Their efforts help guide ours and help us benchmark our own progress in diversifying the geosciences here at Texas A&M.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Next Steps in the College and the meaning of Diversity

Greetings TAMU Geosciences,

Excellent comments and questions have come my way raising issues around the climate survey we have going.  Among them are two that I think are worth addressing here for everyone to see.

1. The ClimateQUAL survey is just the first step:
There is no way a very general survey like the one your are all now taking could ever be a complete sweep through all the various diversity and climate issues confronting the college.  But, what it can do is provide us all a 35,000 ft. overview of where our opportunities for improvement lie.  The plan from that point forward is convene groups of interested stakeholders to jointly plan the route forward, and hold focused meetings to flesh out solutions in much more detail.  I intend for most of this to happen during the early Spring of 2012.

2. What do we mean by Diversity?
This is a term that is sometimes loaded, always has many definitions among various people and organizations, and is always subject to revision.  I am not surprised this question came my way, so I will take my best shot at a working definition. 

I tend to take the most open view of diversity, preferring to include in that term all kinds of ethnic, gendered, cultural, religious, intellectual and sexual orientation diversity.  In the past decades, this term has most typically been shorthand for race and gender, but I think in an academic setting we really have to cast the most inclusive definition to have the most impact. 

The reason for adopting a broad definition is that it explicitly honors all the kinds of visible and invisible identity we carry with us, which are often handled very differently in social interactions and workplace/educational settings but which all come under the heading of "diversity".  A broad definition also offers the most tools for growing the pool of people who join us here at Texas A&M Geosciences.  If one looks at all dimensions of identity, then any given faculty member is likely to be able to connect to some similar aspect of identity of the widest array of students, for example, regardless of which other aspects of identity are different.  While it is ultimately desirable to have our College resemble the State of Texas in all aspects, we will not get to that place overnight, and we must get there with all the people who are working and studying here today.  By acknowledging the importance of all aspects of identity and diversity, then we maximize the dimensions along which we can build successful mentoring relationships and build the most welcoming environment that we can. 

Keep the hard questions coming!  I am glad to provide my perspective on all of these important issues for what that's worth and more importantly open the dialog of these topics as we move forward as a community of geoscientists. 

Until next time - Eric

Friday, December 2, 2011

College of Geosciences Diversity Climate Survey now live!

If you work in the College of Geosciences as a faculty member of any type, a researcher, staff member or graduate student, we would like to hear your input.

You should have received an e-mail from me directing you to the following survey:

Starting Wednesday November 30th and ending Thursday December 22nd at midnight,  the College of Geosciences is asking each of you to participate in the ClimateQUAL™ Survey.  This is a survey hosted by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and designed to help academic colleges and libraries better understand how their teams perceive 1) the College commitment to diversity and equity and 2) their own work environment.

We are conducting this survey to complement University-wide efforts, and to add a deeper understanding of current issues and trends specifically within our College.  The data gained from this survey will help us focus our ongoing and planned new efforts to build a more inclusive and welcoming College workplace environment for all of us. 

We are surveying all of you in the College who are central to advancing and supporting our academic, research and teaching mission.  Your confidentiality is absolutely critical to us, as we want a free and unfettered set of responses.  Please read the confidentiality guidelines carefully within the survey, and feel free to contact me with any questions.

Greetings from Aggieland!

This blog is designed to be a regular chronicle and discussion forum concerning activities in the Texas A&M College of Geosciences concerning Diversity, Graduate Student Recruitment, and Graduate Student Development.  It is written and mediated by Eric Riggs, Assistant Dean for all of these areas within the College. 

Please come back and visit often as we have many exciting activities ongoing to report!