MS in Environmental Science

Student scientists in the field.
State
Texas
Academic Level
Graduate
Issue Area
Academic Program
Key Personnel
Program Focus
Discipline/Subject,
Mentoring

Overview

The mission of the Master’s Program in Environmental Science is to educate, inspire, assist, and prepare students through a comprehensive curriculum, emergent pedagogy, and collaborative research to become scientists and leaders in environmental science.

Goals:

  • Develop students’ science identity and prepare them to be leaders in environmental science. Increase graduation rates, thesis completion, and job placement among students.
  • Develop written and oral communication skills, teamwork, and leadership skills.

Developing the skills above is essential for all students but is most important for our Latino participants. Previous to implementing our intentional mentoring initiatives, Latino participants were challenged by a thesis project, lacked a science identity, and often did not complete the thesis or degree.

Program Description

Initial need analysis occurred in 2015, after recognizing that there were enthusiastic Latino graduate students interested in completing our thesis-track master’s program, but after a few semesters, they switched to the less challenging non-thesis degree. In consultation with employers who hire our students, the faculty understood that the thesis track would be the most beneficial for our students to be competitive in the job market, advance in these agencies, and become leaders in these agencies. The model tackles imposter syndrome through holistic mentoring, science writing, and public science communication, focusing on developing their science identity, in addition to: developing writing-to-learn pedagogy, experiential learning opportunities, professionalization opportunities designed explicitly for minoritized students, development of a science communication scholar’s program, recruitment of successful minority role-model professionals, and workshops for faculty to specifically address the unique need for mentoring and validation for Latino participants.

Outcome

  • The total number of Latino students enrolled in the program has increased from 9 (32%) to 23 (55%) to 32 (60%) over the last three years.
  • Latino student retention increased from 91% (prior to the implementation of the program) to 98% (2017-present; program participants), this was even while the overall program saw a slight decrease for the same time period.
  • Prior to the implementation of the program 33% of the Latino students pursued the thesis option, and after the implementation of the program 45% of the Latino participants completed the thesis-track.