Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Selected to be an American Geophysical Union Bridge Partner

Students take notes on a rock

By Erin Philipson

Cornell’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) has been selected to be an American Geophysical Union (AGU) Bridge Partner. EAS is one of 18 out of 68 programs that were accepted into the AGU Bridge Program in 2020.

The Bridge program partners with academic institutions across the United States to recruit and retain underrepresented students who are applying to geoscience graduate schools. Bridge Program students only need to fill out one common application form to apply to any of the Bridge program institutions.  Applicants must be Hispanic, African American, American Indian, Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native, or Native Hawaiian U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents, or enrolled in the DACA program, and must meet other eligibility requirements.  Applications will be opening in mid December and closing on April 15, 2021 – this deadline is later than most other graduate programs to attract students who did not previous apply or were not accepted into a graduate degree program.

EAS is the first Cornell department to participate in a bridge program in the physical sciences – sponsored by professional societies and funded through the NSF INCLUDES Inclusive Graduate Education Network (IGEN). AGU joined this partnership with IGEN in 2018 to increase the diversity of voices and experiences in the sciences and “strengthen the research and discoveries that move progress forward for all of humanity.” The program aims to encourage a more diverse pool of students to pursue doctorates in the physical sciences.

IGEN aims to match the advanced degree participation rates to those of undergraduate student percentages and eliminate this disparity while increasing diversity in the reserve of future scientists. The network also includes the American Chemical Society, The American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, and the Materials Research Society.

The AGU Bridge program is designed to go beyond standard metrics and emphasize the full potential of the person represented by the graduate school application, which is in line with efforts made in EAS to create a more holistic review process for applicants of the MS and Ph.D. program. In the fall of 2020, EAS dropped the GRE requirement for both graduate fields from the admissions process.

The elimination of the GRE requirement is part of a department-wide initiative to create a diverse and equitable community. EAS formed the Diversity Equity Inclusion and Anti-Racism (DEIAR) faculty planning committee, led by Toby Ault, associate professor in EAS. This committee has been actively collating information about new and existing initiatives across colleges, on campus, and throughout the U.S. more broadly. The committee works closely with the Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (IDEEAS) working group to promote a more visible and equity-focused culture in the department. IDEEAS was formed in the fall of 2019 and represents a full cross-section of the department including students, staff, researchers, faculty, and emeriti.

Erin Philipson is a communication specialist for Earth and Atmospheric Sciences in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.