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Letter: Join me in urging NDSU to keep the geoscience department

The research areas and projects that the geoscience department are currently working on are important for our societal needs ...

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My name is Joe and I have had a lifelong passion for the sciences, particularly the geological processes of our planet. Throughout my life, I have continually sought to deepen my understanding and knowledge of this field. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to attend college immediately following high school, and subsequently pursued a career that did not align with my professional interests. However, early in 2022, I was faced with a medical issue that prevented me from continuing in that career. With the support and encouragement of my wife, I made the decision to apply to North Dakota State University and enroll as a freshman in the geology degree program for the fall semester. It was with great disappointment that I received an email on Jan. 25th, informing me of the potential discontinuation of my program and the department of earth, environmental and geospatial sciences.

The cutting of this department was likely made without adequate input from the faculty, students and stakeholders. A more transparent and inclusive process should have been used to gather input and consider alternatives before making such a significant decision. The data that was used could not and should not have ever been considered. Enrollment and declared majors/minors are on the rise and using data from 2020 will not provide an accurate snapshot of the department's current status. It is flawed in its timing and depiction.

The research areas and projects that the geoscience department are currently working on are important for our societal needs, such as climate change, natural resource management, and environmental sustainability. The potential loss of valuable faculty and staff who have specialized expertise and knowledge cannot easily be replaced. This would not only harm the department, but also the university as a whole.

I would also like to highlight the department's commitment to outreach and community engagement. Our department has a strong tradition of educating the community, particularly in the areas of environmental stewardship and sustainability. This is especially important given that NDSU is a land grant institution. Our department plays an important role in fulfilling that mission to serve the public good. Our faculty and students are frequently involved in outreach activities such as educating K-12 students, providing workshops and training for community members, and participating in public events and forums to share our expertise and knowledge. This not only benefits the community but also enhances the education and professional development of our students. The discontinuation of our department would mean losing these valuable outreach efforts that are vital to our community.

As more nations, governments, and politicians begin to accept and understand our planet’s environmental crisis, significant funding will be earmarked for continued research and support for future scientists. Geoscience research can inform and improve environmental policy, natural resource management, and disaster response. This department also provides important educational opportunities for students, including fieldwork, lab experience, and hands-on training in the latest technology and techniques.

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Furthermore, cutting the geoscience department would undermine the university's reputation and competitiveness. Geoscience is a crucial field that is highly valued by industry, government, and other academic institutions. Eliminating the department would send a message that our university is not committed to supporting this important field, and would likely deter potential students and faculty from considering NDSU in other departmental areas.

Our R1 classification could be in jeopardy. Emphasizing the importance of supporting and investing in STEM fields should be paramount. Cutting the geoscience department would be a step in the opposite direction. NDSU could be a leader in the field of earth and environmental science and it is crucial to keep this department to maintain the academic reputation of the institution.

Overall, the decision to eliminate the geoscience department is not only short-sighted, but it would also have significant negative consequences for the university, the students, and the community. I write to you today to ask for help in convincing administrators to see the value of investing in the department and its future.

Joseph Allen is a geology student at North Dakota State University.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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