Mr. Joshua Villalobos is a full-time, tenured faculty member in geological sciences at the El Paso Community College. He is a native of El Paso and earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in geological sciences from the University of Texas at El Paso. He has taken on the challenges of re-energizing the teaching of geology at El Paso's two-year Hispanic-serving community college in order to inspire more El Paso students to pursue geology degrees. His mentoring is sustained by his sensitivity to the cultural perceptions, socio-economic situations, and family obligations that often face first generation and non-native students.
Professor Villalobos worked to bring an Associate of Science in Geology degree program back to the college-after an absence of several years--in order to provide his students with an educational pathway toward the University of Texas at El Paso. He was able to build the geoscience degree program from its beginnings (one declared major) to over 60 declared majors in seven years. He ensured that the program included sophomore level mathematics, chemistry, and physics courses in order to align with the four-year degree program at the University of Texas at El Paso. As a result of this work, El Paso Community College is now one of approximately 30 two-year institutions awarding associate degrees in geology, nationally. Since 2011, the college has annually produced nearly 8 percent of all associate geology degrees in the country.
Professor Villalobos has personally mentored 20 undergraduate students at El Paso Community College, providing them research experiences supported by small grants from the University of Arizona for supplies and equipment. Hispanic students comprise the majority of his mentees, along with non-traditional students and students with disabilities represented as well. His students have presented their work to research sessions hosted by the University of Texas at El Paso, resulting in faculty at the University joining the network of mentors for these community college students. As well, these research experiences have occasioned an increase in the participation of the community college's students in National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduate Centers. Sixteen of the 20 undergraduate students have gone on to four-year degree programs and two have already begun Master's degree programs. Professor Villalobos' 100 percent associate degree completion rate and a subsequent 80 percent rate for student articulation to a four-year institution is dramatically above the national average for community college graduation and articulation rates.
In 2011, after compiling preliminary results on the effectiveness of the research experience activities for his students, he received an NSF award to begin his latest endeavor--the Student Opportunities for Learning Advanced Research in the Geosciences (SO LARIS). This program is geared to expanding the experiences and mentoring that his students were receiving, but on a larger and institutionally based level, including initiatives for high school and middle school faculty. Professor Villalobos has made numerous presentations before workshops and meetings of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and the American Geophysical Union. He was a member of the organizing committee for an NSF-funded project supporting a January 2014 conference, The Future of Geoscience Undergraduate Education, at the University of Texas at Austin.