Geo Learning Community

Geo Learning Community Group Photo
A group photo of the Geo Learning Community during a meeting.

Justine Schmidt, GeoFORCE Coordinator, is a 2023-2024 Student Belonging and Community Award recipient. 

The Geo Learning Community (Geo LC) provides support for geoscience majors who are from typically underrepresented groups in STEM education. The Geo LC supports these students through providing tutoring, contact with faculty, connection to opportunities at UAF, and social activities. 

With the support from our Student Belonging and Community Award we are offering a wide range of support and social activities for the undergraduate students that are part of the Geo Learning Community (Geo LC). To be a part of the Geo LC students must come from a background that is somehow underrepresented in STEM majors, whether that is gender, socioeconomic background, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., be a Geoscience Major or Minor, and maintain a 2.5 GPA. Through the URSA Award, we are able to pay some of our upper classmen to tutor first year students, as well as provide different social activities, such as hikes, movie and pizza nights, pumpkin carving and cookie decorating and more!

Carved Pimpkins- Geo LC
Geology-themed carved pumpkins from a Geo LC community building event during the Fall 2023 term.

How did you find out about URSA and what encouraged you to submit an application for funding?

I learned of URSA through my work as an advisor and have seen all the great things they allowed students to do with their resources. When I saw that there was a new Student Belonging and Community Award, it seemed perfect for the Geo LC. I worked with URSA through the proposal process, they encouraged me to apply, and they have helped me through every step of the process since. 

How does the Geo LC relate to your students' career or personal goals?

All of the students in the Geo LC have an interest in pursuing some sort of Geoscience-related career or educational path. By creating a place within the Geoscience world where they all feel welcome and valued, we hope to encourage them to continue to pursue a career in the Geosciences, despite the fact that they come from a different background than a majority of the people we currently see in the field. Pursuing a degree in a STEM field can also just be a lot of hard work, so we hope the Geo LC also provides a place for those students to have some fun and to find support among their peers, myself as the GeoFORCE Coordinator, and Sarah Fowell, Professor of Geology and GeoFORCE Alaska Director. 

If you could share one piece of advice with students interested in pursuing URSA in the future, what would you say?

For anyone interested in applying for a Student Belonging and Community Award in the future, I would highly encourage them to do so. Not only is it easy and pleasant to work with URSA, but it also has a big impact on students to be able to interact with each other in settings outside of the typical college world. We have also been able to use a portion of our funding to hire a few of the students in the Geo LC as tutors. This has not only been a boost to those students finances, but has also boosted confidence in their geoscience knowledge. Now, other students in the program see that they can also follow in those students' shoes and tutor in the future. 

If you have an interest in learning more about the Geo Learning Community or would like to apply to join, please contact Justine directly.

Justine Schmidt, GeoFORCE Coordinator
Phone: 907-712-7540