Western Oregon University awarded a National Science Foundation grant to empower geoscience students with career pathways

Written by Maureen Brakke

Pictured: Earth and Environmental Science students in action on a spring volcanology field trip with Dr. Templeton.

MONMOUTH, Ore. The Western Oregon University Earth and Environmental Science program recently secured a three-year GEOPAths (Pathways into the Geosciences – Earth, Ocean, Polar, and Atmospheric Sciences) grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Research, Innovation, Synergies and Education (RISE) for approximately $420,000. 

This funding aims to bolster undergraduate engagement in the field through a multifaceted approach encompassing course-based training, service learning, and skill development. Spearheaded by Co-Principal Investigators Geology Professors Steve Taylor and Jeff Templeton, the project centers on the vital theme of water in the environment.

At its core, the initiative seeks to establish a robust Geo-STEM learning ecosystem, forging partnerships with governmental bodies, non-governmental organizations, and regional employers. Together, they aim to foster earth science literacy, tackle local environmental challenges, and inspire diverse student populations to pursue careers in geosciences.

Recognizing the importance of inclusivity, the project places a strong emphasis on engaging underrepresented groups such as minorities, females, low-income individuals, and first-generation college students. By providing tailored support, including scholarships, the project aims to cultivate learning cohorts, work-based experiences, and mentorship opportunities that empower students and enhance their sense of belonging in the field.

“The GEOPAths NSF award to the Earth and Environmental Science program will provide invaluable resources to support student success in the STEM disciplines at WOU,” said Steve Taylor, Ph.D., professor of geology and chair of the Division of National Sciences and Mathematics.  The majority of grant funds are dedicated to direct student support in the form of scholarships and facilitation of work-based experiences, leading to lifelong careers as geoscience professionals.  We are excited about this opportunity and are really looking forward to getting this project off the ground in the coming months.”  

Ultimately, the initiative not only seeks to diversify the geoscience workforce but address pressing societal issues, particularly in water management. Through innovative approaches to recruitment and retention, it aspires to contribute valuable insights to the broader field of geoscience education while equipping students with the skills and confidence to become future leaders in the profession.


About Western’s Earth and Environmental Science Program: The Earth and Environmental Science program at Western Oregon University provides a liberal arts education in geoscience with an emphasis on scientific methods, problem-solving, and interdisciplinary science education. A key objective of the program is to prepare undergraduates for careers as professional geoscientists and educators. The program also promotes the development of an informed citizenry for wise decision-making on issues related to natural resources, environmental quality, and sustainability in Oregon and beyond. Together we succeed.

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