January 13, 2021

Mesa College Geoscience Faculty as Agents of Change with the SAGE 2YC Project

By Lauren Dorst

sample image

Often, it’s not what students are learning, but how they are learning that determines their success in education. This metacognitive approach to teaching forms the basis of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers’ project, “Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges,” or SAGE 2YC, which empowers faculty members to improve STEM education through the adoption of student-centered pedagogy.

Following a one-year collaboration with SAGE 2YC, three Mesa College geoscience professors, Don Barrie (Geology), Bulent Bas (Geology), and Waverly Ray (Geography), bring refreshed intention to their teaching, leadership, and professional development approaches to better serve Mesa College’s students and ultimately, prepare them for success in the STEM workforce.

Through their affiliation with the SAGE 2YC project, the team of Mesa College geoscience professors had the opportunity to reflect on the unique needs of community college students – including those from minority, low-income, and first-generation backgrounds – and utilized theory, research, and their own experiences, to identify high-impact teaching strategies that support underrepresented student populations.

Such approaches include the creation of interactive activities and opportunities for active learning, a topic explored in-depth in one of the four workshops they hosted this past Fall. The equity-minded workshops were well received by participating Mesa and District faculty (with evaluation scores of 9.89 and 9.57 out of 10) and offered teaching and leadership strategies that faculty could apply to their instruction in real-time.

Don Barrie One participant writes, “I get something out of every workshop that makes my course more engaging and a better learning experience for my students.” Geology Professor Don Barrie praises the workshops for the opportunity they provided for innovative collaboration among faculty, saying “one of the best parts of the workshops we led was getting to trade ideas and strategies with geoscience colleagues throughout our District.” Following such feedback, additional workshop will be held next semester to continue to support a geoscience community of practice and address persistent gaps among Latinx, Black, Filipino, and first-generation students in STEM.

This focus on faculty training and engagement is a defining characteristic of the SAGE 2YC project. Recognizing current increases in adjunct positions within the two-year college sector, the project seeks to create models for professional development that accommodate both adjunct and full-time geoscience STEM faculty. At Mesa College, the HSI Grants Office was able to provide geoscience adjuncts with grant funding of approximately $500 each in support of their cross-disciplinary programs.Geoscience teaching toolbox

To further encourage collaboration and professional development among the San Diego community, Mesa College professors also developed a District Geoscience Teaching Toolbox. This Canvas “course” provides resources, best practices, and a space for online discussion to promote innovation and learning among the District’s geoscience leaders. “From three-dimensional mineral models to video tours of local earthquake faults, we shared innovative teaching resources to support students learning about the earth,” Geography Professor Waverly Ray explains.

Going forward, Mesa’s team of geoscience professors will continue their collaboration with colleagues and campus partners, and support students pursuing careers in geosciences and STEM with opportunities for field-based learning and career panels. Barrie and Ray have also been selected for the 2021 Leadership Development Program with 2YC, where they will build upon the past year’s lessons in leadership development.

“I’m looking forward to continuing this faculty collaboration,” Ray says, “to help meet the national project’s goals to advance students’ academic success, broaden the participation of community college students in the STEM fields, and prepare students for careers in the geosciences. There’s no better time to learn about the planet we call home and with a geoscience-focused community of practice, I’m better equipped to teach about the earth.”

Through collaboration and professional learning inspired by the SAGE 2YC project, Mesa College’s geoscience leaders will continue to make improvements within their courses, practice, and the community that benefit students at two-year colleges and strengthen Mesa’s geoscience programming.



Learn more about San Diego Mesa College’s Geology, Geography, and other STEM programs. Visit the Mesa College STEM Portal to view upcoming Events and Workshops.

Tags: Waverly Ray, SAGE 2YC, Professional Development, The Loft, Don Barrie, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, HSI Grant, Geoscience, Geography, Geology, Bulent Bas