Ours is an open-door institution. Any high school graduate may apply for admission, and most requests are granted. Because California’s community college tuition and fees are minimal, hundreds show up at the beginning of every semester—the parking lots are overflowing.
Marine Science attracts a large number of these students. Given our location and demographics (Orange Coast College is within five miles of superb surfing beaches and Newport Harbor, one of the world’s largest concentrations of private yachts), it’s no surprise that introductory oceanography has been the most popular class on campus for more than 25 years. We don’t have much of a chance to get to know students in the large classes (enrollments often exceed 350). These enrollees select the oceanography lecture course to satisfy a science requirement for graduation or transfer.
But for students wishing to take a lab science (often a requirement for transfer to a senior institution), economy of scale allows our department to offer many small follow-on classes (for which the large general oceanography course is prerequisite). It is in these small lab classes where we get to know our clientele. They are a fascinating and often surprising group. Here are some stereotypical examples, and how our faculty and staff assist them in mastering course content.