After graduating from the University of California, Davis, with a geology degree, Carabajal was hired by the National Parks Service and placed at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. They wanted him to do a hydrology project. He, however, wanted to tell park visitors all about the rocks — the fossils, the gold ore specimens, the tens of millions of years of history beneath the earth. “I always wanted to get people excited about this stuff,” he says.
Carabajal first learned of the IAGD when he saw a post shared on the Geological Society of America’s Facebook page for a geoscience education master’s degree program at UC, one focused on accessibility and inclusion. “Holy smokes,” he recalls thinking. “This is an opportunity to provide exposure to geology to people that may not even think about this as a possibility. It struck a chord. It seemed perfectly in line with what I wanted to do with my long-term goals.”
For his master’s thesis at UC, Carabajal surveyed geology professors throughout the U.S. to find out what they were doing to make their classes more accessible, with the goal of creating guidelines based on best practices. What he found was that though the professors he spoke to were well-meaning, there just weren’t enough “best practices” out there. And then Carabajal realized something.
“We goofed,” Carabajal recalls telling Atchison, his advisor. “We’re talking to the instructors when we should be talking to the students.”
Now Carabajal is doing just that. “The goal is to provide a starting point for instructors so they know what aspects of their classes may be exclusive, what language may be exclusive, what practices may be exclusive for different students, and then use that to create a more accessible field class for their students,” he explains. “It's that idea of Universal Design for Learning — the concept that when you make something accessible for all people, learning is improved for everyone, right? Starting that conversation with the students to figure out what they need from you and what you need from them is really important.
“If you have students with disabilities taking more geoscience classes and have instructors really open up, I think it would be better for the entire field. It's not something that's limiting the science — I think it's something that will truly expand how we understand the earth.”