Encouraging students to explore their possibilities and foster an interest in science and the environment.

Students posingThe mission of the UNO Minority Awareness Program in Geoscience is to provide quality classroom and field experience to high school minority students (Native Americans, African Americans, Spanish Speaking Americans, or other underrepresented groups) in order to interest them in a career in the earth sciences. Once a student has chosen to pursue a career path in Geoscience, qualifying students are provided scholarships and other support during their college studies at UNO through the program.

Our History

The University of New Orleans is located in a city rich in diversity and industries that employ geoscientists. It is in the ideal place to develop a strong diversity program in geology and geophysics. In 1974, Dr. Louis Fernandez received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to formally develop a minority recruiting program for geosciences. The focus of the initial program was a field trip for local minority high school students. That trip has gone on continuously every year since then and this year we will embark on the 36th such trip.

The field trip has been the best tool for recruiting outstanding minority students to the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The initial NSF funding disappeared long ago and is replaced by support from individual donors, private industry sponsors and creative use of departmental funds. The Minority Awareness Program in Geoscience has expanded to include scholarship funding for minority students in earth sciences at the University of New Orleans. The program also includes mentoring, and other support for minority students in the department.

Sunlight in the canyonAs a result, for 36 years UNO has graduated more minority, particularly Afro-American, Earth scientists than any other institution in the United States. The program, which started in what was then called the Department of Geology, has now become a College of Sciences program and the successful components of the program are being expanded to other scientific disciplines. One such success is the way the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University New Orleans continues to develop relationships with local teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools. This allows access to highly motivated, scientifically curious students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

The field trip is not the only reason for the department's success in recruiting minorities but it was the beginning of that success. Likewise, with the participating high school students, the field trip is not a one-time summer activity, but the beginning of what becomes for many, a lifelong study of the scientific mysteries and complexities of the earth.