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Department of Geological Sciences
Last updated 11/12/2002

Graduate Program Assessment

The graduate program in the Department of Geological Sciences is intimately intertwined with the research program of our faculty. For the last 10 years we have averaged approximately 100 active graduate students at any one time. The students are spread among on the order of 25 tenure track and research faculty doing multidisciplinary research on a diverse range of earth and planetary science topics including geophysics, petrology, volcanology, glaciology, planetary geology, structural geology, tectonics. Almost all of our graduate students receive some level of financial support from research and/or teaching assistantships and graduate fellowships. Each year we admit approximately 20 new graduate students and graduate approximately the same number. Typical time for a student to complete an M.S. degree is 2 to 3 years, and a Ph.D. degree 3 to 5 years. More than 50% of our graduate students are working towards Ph.D. degrees.

The department does not assess and revise its graduate program every year, but does monitor aspects of the program including:

  1. rate and quality of new graduate student applications and admissions
  2. rate of graduation and success of graduates in obtaining jobs
  3. rate of publication of original research by graduate students
  4. quality of teaching by graduate teaching assistants
  5. diversity among our graduate students
  6. other (special awards, donations from alumni, etc)

1) Rate and quality of new graduate applicants:

Our application pool has fluctuated between 100 and 150 applicants each year, and we typically accept 30 and ultimately bring in 20 of those accepted. Those accepted typically have undergraduate GPAs over 3.5 and GREs in the 700s. We find that our graduate applicants are also applying to Stanford, Berkeley, Texas, Michigan, Caltech, MIT, Columbia, Arizona, Washington and other top geological science programs. Our success in bringing in 2/3 of the students we admit is considered a good measure of the strong national reputation of our department's graduate education and research program Each year we nominate a top applicant for a Chancellor's fellowship, and we have had a number of students receive these fellowships, which suggests that our top applicants are on par with those being admitted into other graduate programs on campus.

2) Rate of graduation and success in graduates obtaining jobs:

Our graduate program has a high retention rate, with few drop-outs. However, some students who initially plan to continue for a Ph.D. degree do terminate their studies after obtaining an MS degree. In our 1996 PRP, we noted that our department was one of the top producers of new faculty hires among our peer universities. Other graduates get jobs in both government research and regulatory agencies, and also in the private sector.

3) Rate of publication of original research by graduate students:

Publication of original research papers by faculty and their graduate students is one of the key aspects of the department's success in obtaining continued funding from federal funding agencies for future research. The department also promotes student presentations at national and international professional meetings by providing $1,000 travel expenses for about 30 graduate students per year. These travel funds are provided though the William Hiss Award for Creativity in the Earth Sciences.

4) Quality of teaching of graduate teaching assistants:

FCQ's of our teaching assistants exceed the university average for this class of instructor.

5) Diversity among our graduate students:

Approximately 40% of our graduate students are women. The Alfred Sloan Foundation has recognized the department as one of the top two producers of minority Ph.D.'s in the earth sciences. As a consequence it has awarded the department a second Minority Graduate Fellowship grant for 4 years.

6) Other

A number of current graduate students have NSF graduate fellowships. Past graduates have shown their appreciation of our program by providing over $9,000,000 in gifts to the department in the last 9 years alone. These gifts that have enhanced our program by providing a new building, an endowed chair, new equipment, and various fellowship and awards for graduate students in the department.

Following our Comprehensive Program Review in 1996, the department revised its graduate program to make the presentation of courses more regular on an alternating year basis. We have also increased and modernized our graduate offerings as new young faculty have been hired to fill positions vacated by retiring faculty. New hires in the field of aqueous geochemistry, hydrology, paleontology and petroleum geology have enhanced our applied energy resources and environmental geosciences programs.

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Last revision 12/19/02

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