GP-IMPACT: The Community College Compass - Mapping a Guided Pathway into Geosciences

Lead PI: Cassie Xu

Unit Affiliation: Seismology, Geology and Tectonophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

August 2019 - July 2022
North America ; New York City, NY ; New York
Project Type: Research


The Community College Compass project will advance efforts in the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program by forming a consortium of partners to develop and implement a guided pathway into the Geosciences that will engage students across community colleges within the City University of New York (CUNY) system. Guided pathways in community colleges are a set of strategies that offer students highly structured learning experiences in which they are provided with clear academic and professional goals, cohesive academic programs, and aligned support services to assist them along program paths. Community colleges in the CUNY system have been chosen as the focal point because while they offer strong potential for diversifying our STEM workforce, low persistence in degree completion/transfer rates to 4-year institutions remains a challenge. For the Geosciences, the diversity challenge is magnified even further, creating a critical need to not only recognize this disparity, but to engage in conversations and activities that strengthen the multiple pathways into the Geosciences, including those from community colleges. Community college students who are not retained in the Geosciences represent a loss of talent and investment. The consortium has an opportunity to demonstrate that these well-connected networks have an important role to play in bringing diversity into our research communities and promoting inclusive excellence.

Part 2

This three-year project will use a collective impact framework and follow the guided pathway model to community college education. The PIs intend to study how a collective group can design and implement guided pathways into the Geosciences for community college students and strengthen awareness, interest, and ultimately recruitment and matriculation into geoscience majors at four-year institutions within CUNY. PIs hypothesize that by creating a consortium around a common goal, bringing together key representatives from community colleges, and introducing components of guided pathways specifically for the Geosciences, students will begin to better understand the field, but more importantly, how they can navigate their way through the multiple pathways into it. Rather than create a one-size-fits-all guided pathway in the Geosciences across CUNY's community colleges, the project aims to design elements (i.e. course sequences and maps, learning outcomes, and transfer procedures) of guided pathways, which can be integrated over time into existing programs and departments. The work of the consortium will provide evidence for how a set of research-based design principles and strategies to support students, particularly for the Geosciences, can yield stronger outcomes for recruiting students into the field and ultimately the workforce.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Jason Smerdon, Bryan Keller, Paul Marchese


Teachers College


Queensborough Community College


DATASETS: Data on impact of guided pathways for community college students


diversity community colleges stem education geoscience