Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into Geoscience (IUSE: GEOPATHS)

Grants to USA IHEs to Increase Participation
and Outcomes in Geoscience Degree Tracks

GrantWatch ID#: 150826
Agency Type:


National Science Foundation (NSF)


10/10/17 5:00 PM (Submitter's Local Time)

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Grants to USA and territories colleges and universities to increase participation and educational outcomes in geoscience-related disciplines. The purpose of this program is to encourage and enable more students to pursue undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in the geosciences.

Synopsis of Program:

A well-prepared, innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is crucial to the Nation's health and economy. Indeed, recent policy actions and reports have drawn attention to the opportunities and challenges inherent in increasing the number of highly qualified STEM graduates, including STEM teachers.

Priorities include educating students to be leaders and innovators in emerging and rapidly changing STEM fields as well as educating a scientifically literate populace. Both of these priorities depend on the nature and quality of the undergraduate education experience. In addressing these STEM challenges and priorities, the National Science Foundation invests in evidence-based and evidence-generating approaches to understanding STEM learning; to designing, testing, and studying instruction and curricular change; to wide dissemination and implementation of best practices; and to broadening participation of individuals and institutions in STEM fields.

The goals of these investments include: increasing the number and diversity of STEM students; preparing students well to participate in science for tomorrow; and improving students' STEM learning outcomes.

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) contributes to the IUSE initiative through the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education: Pathways into Geoscience (IUSE: GEOPATHS) funding opportunity. IUSE: GEOPATHS invites proposals that specifically address the current needs and opportunities related to undergraduate education within the geosciences community.

The primary goal of the IUSE: GEOPATHS funding opportunity is to increase the number of undergraduate students interested in pursuing undergraduate degrees and/or post-graduate degrees in geoscience through the design and testing of novel approaches for engaging students in authentic, career-relevant experiences in geoscience. In order to broaden participation in the geosciences, engaging undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented groups or from non-geoscience degree programs is a priority.

The IUSE: GEOPATHS solicitation features two funding tracks: (1) Engaging students in the geosciences through extra-curricular experiences and training activities (GEOPATHS-EXTRA), and (2) Improving pathways into the geosciences through institutional collaborations and transfer (GEOPATHS- IMPACT).


GEOPATHS-EXTRA projects are focused on providing individual undergraduate students with sustained or catalytic experiences that develop their expertise in geoscience, enhance their professional skills, increase their access to professional networks, and demonstrably deepen their interest in, and knowledge of, geoscience career pathways. Introducing students to the geosciences through extra-curricular experiential learning, internships, field trips, and culturally-relevant or problem-based learning scenarios, are well- documented as successful approaches for recruitment.

More than a decade of empirical research has demonstrated the benefits to students from participating in undergraduate research, in particular, because it not only socializes undergraduates into scientific thinking and practices, it may also play a significant role in students' educational and career trajectories. AGI reports that more than 80% of bachelor's and master's graduates in the geosciences who participated in some form of internship during their education felt it was very important for their academic and professional development; yet, less than half of undergraduate geoscience majors participated in an internship-like experience. Increasing the number and types of opportunities that provide individual undergraduate students with authentic, career-relevant experiences – across all employment sectors – may increase both student engagement and retention in the pipeline. Many academic, private sector and government-managed facilities within the geosciences community could be leveraged to provide such experiences.

GEOPATHS-EXTRA proposals can be submitted by institutions of higher education that offer undergraduate courses or bachelor's degrees in any of the geoscience fields, with some restrictions (see eligibility criteria). GEOPATHS-EXTRA projects are expected to focus on the needs of individual students, primarily by offering cohort-based, extra- or co-curricular experiences that complement the submitting institution's existing bachelor's degree curriculum. Each cohort should involve a minimum of six students per institution.

Collaborations with other academic and non-academic institutions that create opportunities to expose participating students to a variety of working environments are strongly encouraged, as are collaborations that engage diverse undergraduate students from local community colleges and MSIs. While requests to support academic year undergraduate research as one component of a GEOPATHS- EXTRA project will be considered, they must not duplicate the types of undergraduate research experiences that can be supported through the REU Site and Supplement program solicitation.

Specific activities that might be supported through the GEOPATHS-EXTRA track include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Creating mentored geoscience-related internships, externships, or apprenticeship programs in collaboration with the private sector

-Providing students with service-learning or community-based opportunities related to the geosciences

-Establishing and conducting novel support programs aimed at retaining diverse students in geosciences

-Partnering with large research facilities, to provide students with hands-on training and experience using sophisticated geoscience instrumentation, large data sets, and/or models

-Engaging students in large, ongoing, and separately funded field-based research campaigns and subsequent data analysis and synthesis

-Creating competitions and prizes that offer capstone experiences at large or unique geoscience research facilities Engaging pre-service science teachers in activities that foster their interest in becoming secondary earth science teachers Providing experiences that help pre-college students transition more successfully into undergraduate geoscience programs Providing post-baccalaureate experiences to help students transition more successfully into graduate geoscience programs Establishing new multi-year, academic-year geoscience research opportunities for cohorts of undergraduate students at the awardee institution

Proposals submitted to this track should be designed to build on the evidence base for effective strategies for undergraduate engagement, recruitment and retention, particularly among underrepresented student populations. Similarly, they should be designed to contribute to the evidence base through formative and summative assessment and documenting the impacts of the experiences on student attitudes, learning outcomes, and persistence in the pipeline.

Competitive proposals will clearly articulate how the proposed activities scaffold to, and integrate with, the instructional program(s); carefully describe methods for recruitment and selection of students; and, discuss professional development activities that better prepare faculty and other professional participants for their roles as mentors/supervisors.


GEOPATHS-IMPACT projects are expected to establish new, or strengthen existing, institutional partnerships and collaborations that provide sustainable pathways and support mechanisms for facilitating transitions of undergraduate students at critical junctions: between high school and undergraduate geoscience programs; between two-year undergraduate institutions and four-year institution geoscience degree programs; between baccalaureate degrees in geoscience and the geoscience workforce; or, between baccalaureate degrees (in any field) and post-baccalaureate geoscience programs.

GEOPATHS-IMPACT projects are expected to focus less on the engagement of individual students in the geosciences and focus more on implementing systemic and sustainable approaches that can increase access to geoscience education and research opportunities and open doors to education and career pathways over time. The emphasis is on using NSF funding to establish programs, structures, and collaborations that can have lasting impact. For example, formal articulation agreements, e.g., between four-year and two-year institutions, can ease student transfers into geoscience bachelor's degree programs.

Education and research collaborations between institutions may also help first and second year students, who might otherwise not encounter geoscience before deciding on a major, explore the possibilities within the field. Providing reliable and current information about career paths and opportunities, as well as sustained mentoring, networking, and professional development are also important strategies in helping students make the transition from undergraduate to graduate study and beyond.

In addition, proposers seeking to develop institutional collaborations between two-year colleges and four-year programs that involve geoscience technician training are directed to NSF's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program.

Specific activities that might be supported through the GEOPATHS-IMPACT track include, but are not limited to, the following:

-Cross-listing and/or co-teaching introductory geosciences classes between 2-year and 4 year institutions

-Convening small workshops or strategic planning activities to establish new institutional collaborations

-Designing and testing novel bridge programs that help post-undergraduate students from non-geoscience fields transition into geoscience graduate programs

-Formalizing collaborations between geoscience departments and education schools that strengthen the preparation of pre-service geoscience teachers

-Conducting novel outreach programs aimed at recruiting more diverse students into undergraduate and graduate geoscience pathways

-Creating mechanisms to engage upper level high school or community college students in experiences that demonstrate the geosciences as a viable career path before applying for college admission or transfer to a 4-year program

-Creating summer bridge programs that expose incoming undergraduate freshmen to the geosciences

-Leveraging large research infrastructure (e.g., ships, Critical Zone Observatories) to expose non-geoscience and pre-service teacher majors to geoscience content and opportunities

-Creation of enrichment programs that develop undergraduate skills required by the evolving job market for geoscientists and increase their matriculation into jobs classified as geoscience

-Developing career-aligned collaborations between academia and the local private sector or state/local government that facilitate transitions between undergraduate programs and the geoscience workforce

-Proposers seeking to engage students at two-year institutions through this track are reminded of some of the specific barriers to attainment that these students must confront (e.g., References 16, 21, 22). These include: limited knowledge about college navigation; financial concerns; insufficient academic preparation, especially in math; misalignment of core courses across community colleges and four-year schools; limited advising, orientation, and mentoring; constraints affecting the academic and social integration of working students; and lack of self-efficacy.

Competitive proposals submitted to the GEOPATHS-IMPACT track will show evidence that all institutional partners are committed to and have been engaged intellectually in the design and execution of the proposed work. It is also important that proposals not only include details on the transition on which the project would focus on, but also demonstrate that the infrastructure is in place to foster the success of students once they transition to the new academic stage. A management plan, a sustainability plan, and a plan for tracking students should be described.

Proposals seeking funds to support an existing institutional collaboration must clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of current activities being implemented through the partnership and identify the gaps that would be addressed if additional resources were made available.


In FY 2018, NSF expects to make up to 16 awards through this competition, with ~8 awards being made in the GEOPATHS-EXTRA track and ~8 awards being made in the GEOPATHS-IMPACT track.

The average total award size is expected to be in the $300,000 to $350,000 range.

The duration of awards for both tracks will be up to 36 months.

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:
Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.

Who May Serve as PI:
There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization:
An organization may serve as sole submitting institution or as lead institution of a collaborative project on only one submission per competition, regardless of track, but may serve as the non-lead institution of a collaborative project more than once per competition. Additional eligibility requirements are described later in the solicitation.

Potential PIs are advised to contact their institutional office of research regarding processes used to select proposals for submission.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:
A Principal Investigator may serve in the role of PI or Co-PI on only one proposal per competition if they are at the sole-submitting institution or the lead institution of a collaborative project, but may serve as the Co-PI for a non-lead institution of a collaborative project more than once per competition.

Additional Eligibility Info:

The limitation on eligible organizations noted above applies only to sole submitting institutions or lead institutions of a collaborative proposal. All other eligible institutions identified in the PAPPG are eligible to participate as the non-lead institution of a collaborative proposal.

In addition, the following eligibility limitations apply:

NSF is restricting the eligibility of institutions that may serve as the sole submitting organization or the lead institution in a collaborative proposal in order to increase opportunities for smaller and/or primarily undergraduate institutions that have less access to significant Federal funding for STEM research and related infrastructure. Institutions of higher education (as defined in section 101 (a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965) in the United States and its territories that grant associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees in the disciplines listed in section IV.C. are eligible to submit proposals, with the following restrictions. Institutions identified by the Carnegie Classifications in effect at the time of this solicitation as "R1: Doctoral Universities, (highest research activity)" may not serve as the lead institution and may only submit proposals as the non-lead institution of a collaborative GEOPATHS-EXTRA proposal.

A list of the non-eligible R1, highest research institutions is available at:

Institutions of higher education (as defined in section 101 (a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965) in the United States and its territories that grant associate, baccalaureate, or graduate degrees in the disciplines listed in section IV.C. are eligible to submit proposals as the sole submitting organization or lead institution in a collaborative proposal, with no restrictions on institution type.

Letter of Intent is required and is due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time: August 18, 2017
Full Proposal Deadline is due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time: October 10, 2017

Full Proposals and may be submitted via FastLane or

View this opportunity on

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

M. Brandon Jones, GEO/OAD
(703) 292-4713

Amanda (Manda) S. Adams, GEO/AGS
(703) 292-8521

Lina Patino, GEO/EAR
(703) 292-5047

Elizabeth L. Rom, GEO/OCE & GEO/PLR
(703) 292-7709

Marilyn J. Suiter, EHR/HRD
(703) 292-5121

Keith A. Sverdrup, EHR/DUE
(703) 292-4653

47.050 --- Geosciences / 47.076 --- Education and Human Resources

NSF 17-574

See the full text of this grant

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