Initial Publication Date: September 27, 2021
Volume 10, Issue 2 | Fall 2021



In this Issue:

From the President

Thoughts of transitions

by Sean Tvelia, Suffolk County Community College, NY

Summer is typically a time of recharge for many of us and after the last year-and-a-half we all definitely need a recharge. Summer also tends to be a time for professional development and field work. Although most professional development opportunities are still virtual, the ability to travel, relatively low/decreasing occurrence of COVID-19 in many locations across the US and world, and availability of COVID-19 vaccines allow faculty and students to finally get back to in-person activities. Recently I was fortunate enough to be invited to lunch with a group of students. seeing them in person was fantastic and really made me look forward to what the fall has to offer—and hopefully that will be all good.

In speaking with colleagues across the nation it is clear that, although the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be behind us, recovery from the pandemic is not equal. Although, as mentioned in my previous column, the planning this summer feels far better than what we experienced last year, the uneven recovery region to region, town to town, and demographic to demographic in some ways makes planning for the fall tricky—especially considering that those most negatively impacted by the pandemic are also those typically served by 2YCs. Ensuring an equitable educational experience in what is gearing up to be a semester in transition, back to "normal" will not be easy.

As a department chair I've been thinking about this a lot lately due to advising/counseling more students than usual. In many ways, the uptick in summer advising is refreshing since students are truly concerned about improving—not just getting into a specific class or fulfilling a prerequisite for a program. But many of the conversations are also heartbreaking. Some students fell from perfect 4.0s prior to the pandemic to academic probation. Others struggled academically prior to the pandemic and their academic conditions only worsened as family and economic stresses forced their attention away from school. In previous years these two groups may not have had many things, academically speaking, in common but experiences over the last year have left students in both groups second guessing their own ability or choices and wondering how they will overcome the academic hardship of the last year.

In the coming semesters, it will be our job as educators to reset those thoughts, help our students regain confidence in themselves, and continue lifting all students. As we return to our classrooms, labs, and workspaces, we must remember that our students will face a year of transition, a year that may combine both remote and on-campus courses that may be difficult to juggle. How we help our students navigate this will make all the difference.

My term as president comes to end in just a few months. I think about how my term would've been different had the pandemic never happened.  I like to think it would've been much better but then I reflect on all we have been able to accomplish under these extraordinary circumstances and I'm glad I had a part in that. It's impossible to know how things would've been. What I do know is that since the inception of our division, we have made great strides in advocating for 2YCs, developing this network of 2YC educators, and providing the professional development opportunities that help our members increase success within their classes, create inclusive curriculums, and introduce even more students to the geosciences. That shared mission helped us get through some of the darkest days and that's what we will continue to do. I look forward to working with Karen Layou, the incoming president, and the other officers to continue on this journey.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award Spring 2021 Honoree
Kusali Gamage of Austin Community College

by Joy Branlund, Southwestern Illinois College

The OAFA Committee is excited to recognize Kusali Gamage of Austin Community College (ACC) as our Spring 2021 Honoree.

Soon after Kusali started teaching courses at ACC in 2011, she explored ways to expose her students to the work of scientists, as well as possible career fields. In 2014, she developed classroom materials based on an ongoing International Ocean Drilling Program expedition (studying the Izu Bonin Mariana Forearc). Her students read an overview of the drilling cruise, followed the Expedition's blog for two weeks, and then composed questions which they asked to project scientists during a live video conference.

Inspired by positive student feedback and a desire to expose her students to more geoscience research, Kusali applied for an NSF IUSE:GEOPAths grant with two collaborators at UT Austin. The team was awarded the grant in 2016, and thus developed their Summer Undergraduate Research Experience Course (SUREC). In addition to summer research opportunities, the grant funds field trips to the Gulf Coast repository at Texas A&M University to expose ACC students to sediment and rock core analysis. These field trips happen each semester. According to Kusali, "During the 3-year program a total of 158 students have participated in the field activity and 24 students have participated in the summer research program. Twenty students from the summer program have successfully transferred to a four-year institution (UT or Texas A&M) to study geosciences or related STEM field." You can see what Kusali presented to SAGE 2YC at and her two publications in NAGT journals:

Kusali, you are indeed an outstanding adjunct faculty member, and we are grateful for the work you've done in expanding opportunities for two-year college students. We are pleased to support Kusali with a one-year complimentary membership to the NAGT Geo2YC Division, and she will be entered into the pool of honorees under consideration for the Annual Outstanding Faculty Award, which is sponsored by a professional development stipend of up to $750 from Pearson Publishing.

To our readership—tell us about yourself or your adjunct colleagues!  What wonderful ideas and strategies are you bringing to your corners of the geoscience world?  Please complete an Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award nomination today: 

SAGE Success:  Geotechnician Certificate program development

Geocareers with a two-year college certification

by Dave Mrofka and Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College, CA

For a number of years, my colleague Becca Walker and I heard from many students at our institution (Mt. San Antonio College--Mt. SAC, a 2YC in Southern California) about how they loved geology and were interested in pursuing a geoscience career. However, many of these students expressed that they either were not ready to transfer to a 4YC or did not aspire to complete a 4-year degree. They were interested in working outdoors and, when we mentioned the geotechnical sector, liked the idea of a geotech career. We decided to address this need by creating a CTE (Career and Technical Education) Geotechnician Certificate program at Mt. SAC.

The spark for developing the Geotechnician Certificate this program was a direct result of our involvement in the SAGE-2YC program (Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at 2 Year Colleges). During this multi-year program, Becca and I worked with other 2YC faculty "change agent" teams around the country to build regional networks of 2YC geoscience educators. Change agents were tasked with enacting individual, program, and institutional-level changes related to supporting student academic success, broadening participation, and professional pathways. We decided to create the Geotechnician Certificate program as part of our program and institutional-level changes.

Our first challenge was clarifying what the "geotechnical sector" means in the first place. Even though we had a general (but definitely incomplete) idea of which careers might be considered "geotechnical", we needed to understand the full breadth of possible career trajectories and positions for which a student with a Geotech certificate might qualify. By engaging stakeholders from local firms, public agencies, professors and forming an Advisory Committee (a requirement for certificate approval and curriculum approval), we learned that the geotechnical sector encompasses a large number of employers, including water agencies, petroleum companies, water testing firms, drilling firms, engineering geologists, solid waste management, and environmental cleanup firms, to name a few.

The next step: understand which technical and interpersonal skills would be most desirable to the widest variety of employers in the geotech sector. We had aided in our initial efforts by funding from the state's Strong Workforce Program (SWP) which is tasked with supporting career and technical education in community colleges. To create this skills list, we created a survey instrument focused on desirable skills and suggestions about what courses should be a part of the certificate and contacted approximately 40 agencies and firms in our region to complete the survey. We met with most of the survey respondents in person and others online or by phone. These meetings involved administering the survey and asking respondents about what they wanted and needed in an employee. Meeting in person was particularly helpful because it helped us find individuals willing to serve on the Advisory Committee for the certificate. As a result of these conversations, we learned that the primary desirable technical skills included data logging, soil compaction testing, sample chain of custody, report writing, water sampling, well sampling, soil analysis, HAZWOPR 40, and others.

Next, we moved on to developing the curriculum pathway for the Geotechnician Certificate. The program would be 4 semesters, with the last semester consumed by a work experience (internship) course. Therefore, our primary initial consideration was how much content and skills acquisition could be realistically implemented and achieved in 3 semesters of classroom instruction?

Based on discussions with local employers, we decided to embed skills within three new courses at Mt. SAC: Environmental Geology Laboratory (to complement our existing Environmental Geology lecture course); a geotechnical methods course focused on soils; and a methods course focused on water and environmental geoscience. In addition, we proposed the Work Experience course for the final semester of the program that would involve students completing an internship at one of the stakeholder's firms. Other courses include physical geology, environmental geology, elementary algebra, an information science class focused on Microsoft applications, elementary chemistry, a geology field studies class, soil science, public speaking, and Introductory GIS. In addition to serving geotech students, we were excited that the Environmental Geology Lab would provide another opportunity for Mt. SAC students to fulfill their General Education Laboratory requirement for transfer. Advisors were very keen to provide students with basic hazardous materials training, so we are also working on creating a HAZWOPR course; HAZWOPR is a popular OSHA certificate that provides training about basic protocols for dealing with hazardous waste scenarios. Adding the course to the certificate will also provide an income stream to support equipment and staffing needs.

There were, and continue to be, some major challenges to building the program that I imagine are similar for others building Career and Technical Education certificate programs. The biggest challenge was selecting the employment and success tracking codes (used by California to categorize certificates) that best fit our program. We discovered that our program didn't fit neatly into any single code because it encompasses so many possible career tracks. Rather than creating brand new codes, which would delay the approval of the certificate, we settled on "environmental tech". We also struggled to consistently "sell" the idea of a Geotechnical Certificate program to our department, though that's where the original idea came from. Some departmental concerns were related to which faculty would teach the geotechnical methods courses since we do not currently have a full-time faculty member in our department with a geotechnical background. We simply believed in the concept and in the faculty's capacity to learn the skills needed to teach the courses or find people who could. Overall, we have received a lot of support from our department and others at the college.

There are still some significant challenges. We are in the last stage of the curriculum approval process (with the certificate at the Chancellor's office level) but hope to receive final approval before we officially begin recruiting students for the Fall 2021 semester. The program was originally slated to begin in Fall 2020 but was delayed because of the transition to online classes in light of COVID-19 and the necessity of face-to-face classes for the geotechnical methods classes. Another challenge has been understanding what sort of equipment is needed to teach the methods classes. Much of our SWP funding has been used to purchase equipment suggested by the Advisory Committee, so we will be ready to use the equipment when the classes begin, but additional equipment needs remain. In terms of faculty training, we have externship funds for faculty that will connect willing instructors with local firms to learn important lab and field skills. One major way that our department has supported the certificate has been in consistently requesting a new full-time faculty position to lead the certificate program. The last major challenge is solidifying student internships for the Work Experience course that will be taken in the fourth semester of the program.

We are excited both to provide teaching and learning opportunities for faculty and to provide career guidance and training for many of our students at Mt. SAC who are excited about a well-paying and fulfilling career in a wide variety of "geotech" careers.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion


by Karen M. Layou, Reynolds Community College, VA and Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine, PA

Last spring, the National Science Foundation-supported Unlearning Racism in Geoscience initiative attracted over 4000 geoscientists to participate in active discussions regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in geoscience.  A group of twelve individuals including faculty from two year colleges or feeder campuses of larger university systems came together to work through provided curriculum.  By the end of the program, we developed a required deliverable that contains valuable resources for our 2YC community and beyond, including suggestions for inclusive teaching strategies and example diversity statements, mentoring and advising practices, options for further reading, and more.  See the resources below to find out more about the 2YC response to URGE and look for our presentations at GSA and AGU.

Geo2YC Pencil Photos

Community Announcements

GSA Connects 2021 (in-person and online options)

Please participate in NAGT-sponsored events in association with the annual Geological Society of America meeting (October 10-13, Portland, OR).  Please also join us for a VIRTUAL Geo2yC Annual Division meeting on Sunday, October 10 at 4pm Pacific - Zoom link will be available below.

Check out NAGT sponsored sessions and Division meeting Zoom links here

Here's a few of the topical sessions endorsed by NAGT you might consider:

T149: Building the Workforce of the 21st Century: Understanding Diversity, Intersectionality, Ethics, and Inclusivity in the the Geosciences and Implementing Transformative Change in Our Culture

T154: Best Practices in Place-Based Education

T159: Hands-On Teaching Demonstrations that Combine Geoscience and Societal Issues: Audience Participation Requested

T167: The Lasting Effects of the 2020-2021 COVID-19 Crisis on Geoscience Education: Insights, Problems, and Unanticipated Benefits

T168: Undergraduate Research Posters by 2YC 4YCU Geoscience Students (Posters).

GSA Connections 2021 - register here

AGU Fall Meeting (in-person and online options)

AGU Fall 2021 will be meeting in New Orleans, December 13 - 17.

AGU Fall 2021 - register here 

Scientific program will be available in early October.

Geo2YC Faculty Development Grants 

Next application deadline:  December 1, 2021

Have you participated in virtual professional development, or are you planning to attend regional or national conferences this fall or winter (face-to-face or online)? How about organizing a virtual or face-to-face workshop, field trip, or other activity? We'd like to help! The Geo2YC Division would like to support your efforts to promote geoscience education in two-year colleges. Please consider applying for:

  • Mini grants up to $500 to support an activity (workshop, field trip, etc.) which benefits faculty from multiple institutions.
  • Travel grants of $100 to help an individual attend a professional development activity (please note: this can support virtual professional development!)

Geo2YC Faculty Development Grants - apply here

GeoLaunchpad student internships

Geo-Launchpad is a paid internship program for community college students attending college in Colorado, New Mexico, and now expanding to Wyoming. In addition to a technical project, the students participate in a suite of professional development activities, including science communication, resume/cv workshops, scientific poster creation and presentation, field trips, and become part of a cohort of students from all over the U.S. who are participating in UNAVCO's other internship programs.

This internship also encourages faculty mentoring program, Whole Student Mentoring. The internship program requires that students apply with a faculty mentor from their home institution who agrees to support them before, during, and after the internship. The faculty participate in the Whole Student Mentoring program that provides information and resources to improve their mentoring interactions with students. Faculty will encourage students to apply for STEM internship opportunities, and ideally to transfer to a four-year program in geosciences.

For more information, contact Kelsey Russo-Nixon at


Future Newsletter Deadlines

We are pleased to announce a new form for contributors to submit articles, images and items of interest to the newsletter.


Questions about the submission form? Please contact Bridget James:

Questions about the newsletter? Please contact Andrea Bair:

Deadline for submission to next issue of the newsletter:

  • November 30, 2021 (Winter issue)