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Credentials Display

Amy E. Sprowles1, Katlin Goldenberg2, P. Dawn Goley1, Steven Ladwig3, Frank Shaughnessy1, Kerri J. Malloy4, Cutcha R. Baldy4, Monty M. Mola5, Joshua R. Smith6, Mark A. Hemphill-Haley7, Melanie J. Michalak7, Claire P. Till6, Alison P. O’Dowd8, Gillian Black9, Patricia L. Siering1, Eileen Cashman10, Alexandru M.F. Tomescu1, Matthew P. Hurst6, Borbala Mazzag11, Sonja Manor11, Dale R. Oliver11, Jeffrey R. Dunk8, Jeffrey Abel12, Micaela S. Gunther13, Andre Buchheister14, Ruth Saunders4, James Floss15, Erin Sullivan16, Sarah Ben-Zvi16, and Matthew D. Johnson13

Abstract

At Humboldt State University (HSU), location is everything. Students are as drawn to our spectacular natural setting as they are to the unique majors in the natural resource sciences that the university has to offer. However, the isolation that nurtures the pristine natural beauty of the area presents a difficult reality for students who are accustomed to more densely populated environments. With the large majority of our incoming students coming from distant cities, we set out to cultivate a “home away from home” by connecting first-year students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to the communities and local environment of Humboldt County. To achieve this, we designed first-year place-based learning communities (PBLCs) that integrate unique aspects and interdisciplinary themes of our location throughout multiple high impact practices, including a summer experience, blocked-enrolled courses, and a first-year experience course entitled Science 100: Becoming a STEM Professional in the 21st Century. Native American culture, traditional ways of knowing, and contemporary issues faced by tribal communities are central features of our place-based curriculum because HSU is located on the ancestral land of the Wiyot people and the university services nine federally recognized American Indian tribes. Our intention is that by providing a cross-cultural, validating environment, students will: feel and be better supported in their academic pursuits; cultivate values of personal, professional and social responsibility; and increase the likelihood that they will complete their HSU degree. As we complete the fourth year of implementation, we aim to harness our experience and reflection to improve our programming and enable promising early results to be sustained.

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