Diversity in the Geosciences: Fort Valley State University's CDEP

Sherri Thomas, Conoco, Inc.


Gender and ethnic diversity within the sciences has been an issue for many years.  Unlike our technical counterpart, engineering, many students (counselors and their parents) are not exposed and are unaware of the geosciences and the opportunities within the field.  The lack of exposure is particularly a problem for women and ethnic minorities.  As a result, students do not choose the geosciences as a major or career choice as they embark upon their collegiate studies.  Thus, there is still a need to increase the number of women and people of color enrolled in geoscience programs in the US.  Although there has been a significant increase in the female population (approximately half of all BS and MS graduates), ethnic minorities still are under-represented at colleges and universities, and in the geosciences.

There are ways to correct this problem starting with students in primary school on up.  One way to combat this problem is to establish programs specifically targeting this issue.  An example of a program of this kind is Fort Valley State University (FVSU).  This program has the distinction of having the nation's only Cooperative Developmental Energy Program.

On July 1, 1983, FVSU received start-up money from the US Department of Energy's Office of Minority Economic Impact to implement an innovative Energy Education Program that would increase the number of minorities and women working in the private and governmental sectors of the energy industry.  The program at FVSU is called the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP).  The objective of the program is to develop a mutually beneficial long-term synergistic relationship between the university and private and governmental sectors of the nation's energy industry in creating a technology-oriented pool of minorities and women.  This objective is accomplished by the development of energy-based curricula, student internships/co-op programs, and by forming alliances with energy corporations and governmental agencies.  The geology and geophysics-based curricula is carried out in the form of a dual-degree program between FVSU and the University of Oklahoma.

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