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Breaking the Stigma around Community College: an astro[sound] bite

Feb 12, 2023

This an excerpt of an article by Kiersten Boley and Sabrina Berger for astrobites. Read the full article here.

Kiersten Boley is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate at The Ohio State University. She studies the connection between planet formation and the evolution of our galaxy along with magma ocean planet interiors and their evolution. She received her Bachelor’s in Physics from Georgia Tech, and began university at Georgia Highlands College.

Sabrina Berger is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Melbourne researching the high redshift universe both observationally and theoretically! She received her Bachelor’s degree in astrophysics at UC Berkeley where she did research in rocky exoplanet modeling. She started her higher education journey at Diablo Valley College.
What is community college?

Before we dive into the bite, let’s first all get on the same page about what an American community college is. In the US, community colleges are institutions where anyone can do the first two years of an undergraduate education and pursue an associate’s degree. There might be an eight-year-old and 88-year-old in an astronomy or physics class at your local college. Community college is a place where we can all access inexpensive and quality education within the US. They can act as an equalizer in the American education system where the ranking of your primary and secondary education is usually correlated with the affluence of your family. Because community college professors can devote more of their time to teaching and have to cater to a diverse range of backgrounds, they tend to make their classes more accessible while maintaining the rigor necessary for students to transfer courses to four-year universities.

Quick question — what is your opinion of community college? If you grew up in the US and didn’t go to one, our guess is that your opinion of community college is probably neutral or negative. Our goal for this astrobite and our two astro[sound]bites beyond episodes (Episode 67 and 68) is to work towards breaking the stigma around community colleges and share stories of those who attended. If you haven’t heard of astro[sound]bites, we’re a podcast spinoff of astrobites featuring four astronomy Ph.D. students who come together and synthesize astronomy research every other week. In these two astro[sound]bites episodes, we include stories from more than five community college attendees who later successfully pursued PhDs in astronomy, including Dra. Natalie Nicole Sanchez, Dr. Andria C. Schwortz, and even yours truly (i.e., both the authors of this astrobite)! We’re here to advocate for community college goers in an effort to diversify the backgrounds of those entering astronomy.

Our Experiences:

To give you a taste of some of the topics that we discuss in these astro[sound]bites episodes, we’ve included a brief look into our experience attending community college below.

Read the full article on the astrobites website.