SARAH WITHAM BEDNARZ. Professor, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Geosciences, 2008-2014. Ph.D., Texas A&M University, 1992; M.A.T., University of Chicago, 1974; A.B. magna cum laude Mount Holyoke College, 1973.
Service to Geography (AAG): Secretary, Treasurer, Chair, Southwest Association of American Geographers, 2005-2011; National Councilor, Association of American Geographers, 2002-2005; Member, Association of American Geographers Nomination Committee, 1999-2000; Chair, Student Paper Competition, Geography Education Specialty Group, 1999, 2000; AAG Representative, Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) 1991-1995, Chair, 1995-1996, Project Director, 1998-2008; Secretary-Treasurer, Geography Education Specialty Group, 1993-1996; ARGUS Steering Committee, member, lesson developer, and reviewer; Editorial Board, Professional Geographer, 2001-2004; Reappointed 2005; Editorial Board, Southwestern Geographer, 2006-2010; Chair, Geography Education Materials Development Foundation; Member, Healthy Departments Committee, 2008-present.
Other Service: International Geographical Union, Commission on Geographical Education Commissioner, 2000-2004; Vice Chair, 2004-2008, Honorary Commissioner, 2008 to present. Commissioning Editor (North America), Journal of Geography in Higher Education. Co-coordinator, Texas Alliance for Geographic Education, 1987-2012 . Editorial Board, International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 2001-present. Advanced Placement Human Geography Test Development Committee, Member, 2006-2009; Chair, 2009-12. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Social Studies/History Committee, 2009-10. NAEP Geography Test Development Standing Committee, 2008-present. National Geography Standards Development Committee, 1990-1994; Revision 2007-2013. National Research Council Committee Member, Beyond Mapping, 2002-2003; National Research Council Committee Member, Learning to Think Spatially, 2001-2004. National Council for Geographic Education Executive Board, Publications and Products Committee, 1990-1993, Curriculum and Instruction Committee, 1994-1996; Associate Editor, Journal of Geography, 1987-1997. Society of Women Geographers Dissertation Review Committee, 2013.
Awards, Honors, Grants: Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence, Texas A&M University, 2008; Gilbert H. Grosvenor Honors for Geographic Education, Association of American Geographers, 2007; George J. Miller Award, National Council for Geographic Education, 2005; University Distinguished Achievement Award, Association of Former Students, 2003; Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award College of Geosciences, 1997; Texas A&M University International Programs External Advisory Board Award for Outstanding Service Promoting International Education and Awareness, 1997. PI or co-PI on grants from NSF, NASA, National Geographic Society, and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Professional Experience: Assistant to Full Professor, Texas A&M University (1995 to present); Lecturer, Visiting Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University, (1988-1995); Teacher, Grades 6-12 Social Studies, Language Arts, Evanston, Illinois; Hearne, Texas and College Station Texas (1974-1988).
Research and Teaching Interests: After a rewarding career teaching geography and other social sciences in middle and high schools in Illinois and Texas for 18 years, I completed a PhD in geography education. Since then I have focused my research on understanding how individuals learn the knowledge, skills, and practices of geography. I was principal investigator for two major curriculum and educational research projects, Mission Geography (NASA) and Advancing Geospatial Skills in Geography and Spatial Sciences (NSF); co-authored the national geography standards, Geography for Life (1994 and 2012); and helped to develop the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) framework in geography. Most recently I co-chaired the Geography Education Research Committee (GERC) of the Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education Project. During my career in higher education, I have been especially interested in how geography learning is related to geospatial technologies and in teaching introductory human geography courses in meaningful ways.
Statement: As we wrote in the Road Map for 21st Century Geography Education, in our rapidly changing, interdependent and complex world, the importance of the geographic advantage (Hanson 2004) and geography education is evident. Yet, like most geographers, I am concerned about the status of our discipline in the United States, both in elementary and secondary schools and in higher education. The AAG has done excellent work in the last decade to elevate geography in colleges and universities, especially in its support for initiatives related to early career faculty, careers in geography, healthy departments, and communicating about the practices of geography. It has collaborated with a range of partners to affect positive change in K-12 education as well. However, higher education is changing rapidly. We live in an age of metrics and accountability, of declining student enrollments, and of greater demands for diversity. These are areas in which our professional association could do more, specifically by developing tools, assessments, and “best practices” that departments and programs could use to benchmark achievement. If elected, I will work with members to devise such tools and policies, including methods to track geography graduate placement, issues related to diversity and healthy workplaces, and enhancement of undergraduate and graduate education.