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Data-Based Decisions1

Curriculum Changes Resulting from Input by Advisory Board, Students and External Review

Prerequisite changes for Geology 3550 and Geology 3700

Recent student input to our Undergraduate Advisors suggested that prerequisites for Geology 3550, Sedimentation & Stratigraphy, and Geology 3700, Structural Geology, impacted their scheduling and possibly delayed their graduation.  Prerequisites for these courses were modified accordingly.  Effective Fall 2018


Splitting the Geology 3200 laboratory section from the lecture section

In response to the expansion of our online program and student input (see CoS Comments 2012-2013; F&F 2016), the laboratory section of Geology 3200, The Earth through Time, was split from the lecture section. This will provide students with increased scheduling flexibility, including taking the course online and then completing the laboratory at a later time if they are Geology majors.  Effective Spring 2017.


Increasing field component in Geology 3550 

In response to student input requesting greater field experience and the better integration of field and laboratory studies (see CoS Comments 2013-2014; F&F 2013, 2014), Geology 3550, Sedimentation & Stratigraphy, was modified to include more field trips (now 8) and the integration of field and laboratory studies with three specific project based on field data collection.  Changes effective Fall 2016.


Addition of second undergraduate advisor

Undergraduate students frequently do not meet with their advisor as frequently as they should (see CoS Numeric 2013-2016).  To facilitate and encourage student meetings with their advisor, a second advisor was added to the advising team.  As a female, this second advisor may also serve as a role model for female undergraduates.  Effective Fall 2016.


Development of new course, Geology 3400

In response to student input (see F&F 2014, 2015), a new course, Geology 3400, Communicating Geoscience, has been added to help our students refine their communications skill set.  Course was first taught in Spring 2016.  This became a required course for all Geology majors starting Fall 2017.


Adding Geochemistry back to our curriculum

Due to the retirement of a faculty member in the field of geochemistry, this very important aspect of our curriculum was largely eliminated.  Based on input from the Geology Advisory Board (see AB 2012), replacing this faculty member and reintegrating geochemistry into our curriculum became a top priority.  In the Spring of 2013 our new geochemist, Dennis L. Newell, joined the faculty and has added several geochemistry courses to our curriculum (e.g. Geology 5600, Geochemistry, Spring 2013; Geology 6190, Aqueous Geochemistry, Fall 2013; Geology 6200, Graduate Seminar in Geochemistry - Stable Isotopes, Spring 2014; Geology 6200, Graduate Seminar in Geochemistry - CO2 Sequestration, Spring 2016.)  


Development of new course, Geology 5420

In response to input from our undergraduate and graduate students to the Department Head we have added Geology 5420, Ore Deposits, as an elective course in our curriculum.  This course will help to prepare students for a career in the mining industry. The course was first offered under a Geology 6800 designation in Spring 2013.


Offering Geology 4700 and 5200 every year

Our Advisory Board (see AB 2011), students (see F&F 2011), and external reviewers (Regents’ 2009-2010) have consistently recommended that we offer the Geology 4700, Field Methods, and Geology 5200, Field Camp, every year. The alternate year scheduling of these courses resulted in some of our students having to take the courses at other institutions in order to graduate in a timely manner.  Starting in the 2012-2013 academic year, we began offering both courses each year, despite logistic and funding challenges associated with doing so. 


Making Geology 1110 Laboratory a separate one-credit course

Because the majority of Geology majors are transfer students, most of them have taken an introductory Geology course at another institution, many of which offer such a course as a three credit, lecture-only class without an associated and required laboratory section. Because of the importance of the laboratory component of the Geology 1110 Physical Geology course, undergraduate majors can now take just the laboratory section of the course at USU if they took the lecture section elsewhere.   Effective Fall 2011.


Emphasizing the importance of Geophysics in the undergraduate curriculum

In response to informal input from the Geology Advisory Board and our undergraduate students, we now require that all undergraduate students must take at least one geophysics course.  This course will also help to fulfill the 12 credits of 5000-level elective courses requirement and will, thus, not add to the total credits for the major.  Effective Fall 2010.


Reducing credit requirements for Hydrogeology/Engineering Geology Emphasis

One curriculum change resulting from our external review (Regents’ 2009-2010) includes reducing the number of courses and credits required for the Bachelor of Science degree in Geology with an emphasis in Hydrogeology/Engineering Geology by two courses and a total of seven to eight credits (from 88-90 credits to 80-83 credits) to bring the total number of credits required for this emphasis into line with the other Geology BS degree emphases. Effective Fall 2010.

Revision of elective requirements

Another curriculum change resulting from our external review (Regents’ 2009-2010) has been to modify undergraduate major requirements by giving students the freedom to choose more electives in related areas. This allows our students to choose electives outside of Geology that complement the major and result in broader educational preparation.  A minimum of 12 credits of 5000-level elective courses are required.  Effective Fall 2010.

Eliminating Geology 3520 and modifying Geology 3500 and 4500

In response to our external review (Regents’ 2009-2010), the General Geology undergraduate course sequence was streamlined by eliminating Geology 3520, Optical Mineralogy, and incorporating the most useful and practical aspects of this class into Geology 3500, Minerals and Rocks, and Geology 4500, Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. Effective Fall 2010.


Other Student-Centered and Programmatic Changes Resulting from Input by Advisory Board, Students and External Review

Remodeling of Geology room 101 as the Fiesinger Petrology Laboratory

In response to Advisory Board recommendations (see AB 2011) and student input (see F&F 2015) a laboratory enhancement effort, the Fiesinger Petrology Laboratory project, was begun.  In addition to providing enhanced laboratory facilities, the laboratory will also provide a student lounge area.  Fund raising took place in 2015, and completion of the laboratory occurred in Spring 2017


Addition of research faculty

In response to Advisory Board input (AB 2016) a conversation was started with College of Science administration during 2016 about the addition of research faculty to the Department. Kelly K. Bradbury was added to the Department as a Research Faculty member Fall 2016.


New field instruments

In response to student input (see F&F 2014, 2015), new instruments for field work was purchased:

  • Field-portable XRF unit, $25k, Spring 2016
  • Magnetic susceptibility meter, $2.5k, Spring 2016
  • Gamma spectrometer $25k, Spring 2016
  • Digital seismic unit, $22k, Spring 2016


Teaming of undergraduate and graduate students for field work

In response to Advisory Board (see AB 2012) and undergraduate student input requesting research experience with graduate students (see F&F 2011, 2013) and to enhance field safety for our students, the Department implemented the Undergraduate Field Assistant program where undergraduates receive a small stipend for assisting graduate students with their summer field work.  Effective Summer 2015.


Hiring of full-time Instrument Manager

In response to Advisory Board (see AB 2011) and faculty input, a full-time Instrument Manager, Andrew Lonero, was hired and began his work in the Department Fall 2015.  At the suggestion of the Advisory Board (see AB 2016) and faculty, this position is being changed from temporary to permanent effective Fall 2018.


Purchase of additional microscopes

In response to student input (see CoS Comments 2013-2014 and 2014-2015; F&F 2010), six Leica petrographic microscopes were purchased ($37k) to supplement existing scopes used in petrology courses (Geology 3500, Mineralogy; Geology 3550, Sedimentation and Stratigraphy; Geology 4500, Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology).  Petrographic microscopes purchased Fall 2014.  An additional three binocular picking microscopes were purchased for student use in Spring 2017.


Addition of department computer technician and transition to USU IT Service Desk Support Team

In response to Advisory Board (AB 2012, 2015) and student (CoS Comments 2014-2015; F&F 2011) input, an office staffer was added with the primary responsibility of maintaining Department computers used by students Fall 2013.  This function was shifted from office staff to an IT Service Desk IT Support Team Fall 2015.


Student representation at Department meetings

In response to Advisory Board input (see AB 2011, 2012), both undergraduate and graduate student representatives are now included at faculty meetings.  Effective Fall 2011 for graduate students and Fall 2012 for undergraduate students. 

1For sources refer to Outcomes Data on this website - “AB” refers to Geology Advisory Board recommendations; “F&F” refers to “Feed & Feedback,” the Geology senior exit interviews; “CoS Numeric” refers to College of Science senior exit interviews, numeric summaries; “CoS Comments” refers to College of Science senior exit interviews, student comments; “Regent” refers to 2009-2010 Regents’ Review of the Department of Geology.