Association of American Geographers
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President

(one to be elected)

Derek Alderman

DEREK H. ALDERMAN. Betty Lynn Hendrickson Professor and Head, Department of Geography, University of Tennessee. Ph.D. and M.A., University of Georgia, 1998 and 1993; B.A., Georgia Southern College, 1990. Email: dalderma@utk.edu; Twitter: @MLKStreet

Professional Experience: Professor of Geography, University of Tennessee (2012-present) with affiliated positions in Africana Studies, Center for the Study of Social Justice, and Disasters, Displacement and Human Rights Program; Assistant Professor to Full Professor (2000-2012) and Research Fellow, Center for Sustainable Tourism (2010-2012), East Carolina University; Assistant Professor and Co-Director of Center for Georgia Studies, Georgia College and State University (1998-2000); Visiting Lecturer, Georgia Southern University (1995).

Service to Geography: Vice-President, AAG (2016-2017); Co-Director, GFDA Early Career Workshop (2016-present); Chair, Award for Program Excellence Committee, AAG (2015-present); Facilitator, AAG Department Leadership Workshop (2015-present); Chair, AAG Publications Committee (2012-2014); AAG Regional Councillor (2011-2014); J. Warren Nystrom Dissertation Award Committee, AAG (2011-2012); Co-Founder, Study of the American South Specialty Group, AAG (2007); Chair (2002-2004) and Awards Director (1998-2001), Cultural Geography Specialty Group, AAG. Service to Southeastern Division of AAG: President (2007-2009) and Past President (2009-2011); Co-Editor, Southeastern Geographer (2004-2007); Chair, Honors Committee (2002); Southern Studies Committee (1998-present). State-level service: Advisory Board, Tennessee Geographic Alliance (2012-present); Co-Coordinator, North Carolina Geographic Alliance (2002-2004); President and Vice-President, North Carolina Geographical Society (2001-2003).

Other Service: Guest editor for 13 special journal issues; (Co)organizer of over 90 special sessions at professional conferences (including 48 AAG sessions); Peer reviewer for numerous book publishers, granting agencies, and academic journals (over 250 manuscript submissions to over 60 different outlets); Editorial Boards: Annals of the AAG (2016-Present), Social and Cultural Geography (2016-present), Journal of Cultural Geography (2013-present), Journal of Geography in Higher Education (2013-present),Tourism Geographies (2013-present), Southeastern Geographer (2000-2003, 2007-present), AAG Review of Books (2013-2016), Historical Geography (2004-2008), and Journal of Geography (2001-2004).

Awards and Honors: Distinguished Career Award, Ethnic Geography Specialty Group, AAG (2017); Diversity Leadership Award, University of Tennessee (2015); Media Achievement Award, AAG (2014); Meredith F. Burrill Award, AAG (2011); Outstanding Service Award, Southeastern Division of the AAG (2011); Best Journal Article Award, Urban Communication Foundation (2010); UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching (2009); Globe Book Award, AAG (2008); Research Honors Award, Southeastern Division of the AAG (2006); Research Achievement Award, East Carolina University (2006); Scholar-Teacher Award, East Carolina University (2005); Distinguished Professor of Teaching, East Carolina University (2005); Distinguished University Teaching Achievement Award, NCGE (2002); J. Warren Nystrom Dissertation Award, AAG (2000).

Research and Teaching: Broadly trained human geographer with interests in cultural and historical geographies of race, civil rights, and African American belonging; public memory, heritage conflict, and places of commemoration; the racialization of mobility, travel, and tourism; and social theoretical study of place naming and urban symbolic landscapes. Much work takes place in racially charged southeastern United States and addresses inequalities faced by African Americans in their ongoing struggles for cultural and political inclusion and social/spatial justice. Currently Co-PI on large NSF-funded project examining the contested place of African slave heritage within southern plantation tourism. Co-editor of forthcoming book and (co)author of one book and over 110 journal articles, book chapters, and other essays, including in Annals of the AAG, Professional GeographerProgress in Human GeographyPolitical GeographyEnvironment and Planning DJournal of Historical GeographyJournal of Heritage Tourism, Social and Cultural Geography, Tourism Geographies and Urban Geography. An advocate for innovations in geographic and civil rights education and teaching as active place-creating process.

Public Engagement: Delivered over 80 invited talks to universities, museums, and community groups; Interviewed or quoted over 180 times in media (e.g., CNNNew York TimesWashington PostUSA TodayMSNBCThe GuardianCityLabBBC News, and NPR Morning Edition); Provided unpaid assistance to over 40 government organizations, non-profit groups, and minority initiatives—including NAACP, SCLC, MLK National Historic Site, and numerous U.S. cities embroiled in street naming disputes; Founder and Co-Coordinator, RESET (Race, Ethnicity, and Social Equity in Tourism) research and outreach initiative (2010-present).

Personal Statement: It is an exciting time to be a geographer! Perhaps at no other time has the discipline been at the center of so many theoretical and empirical discoveries and debates—all of this happening as the broader academy and society increasingly realize the value of geographic concepts, information, and technologies. Even in the midst of these exciting developments, there remains a great need to elevate and clarify geography’s broader public identity. Many of us still encounter frustrating questions and comments that show how little lay communities know about geography. Raising the profile of the discipline is not simply a marketing concern for me as a Department Head. It is fundamental to achieving my goals—from recruiting more undergraduate majors to being included in campus discussions of STEM, from better serving traditionally under-represented groups to maximizing the employability of students. Fortunately, AAG is making major strides to advance geography by influencing legislation, participating in highly visible research projects, developing educational materials and programs, protecting academic freedom and science funding, and directly addressing diversity and inclusion. These initiatives will take on even greater importance as we navigate an uncertain, if not precarious, political environment over the next few years.

As President, I would like to assist in raising geography’s profile by enhancing the discipline’s “publicness,” admittedly an awkward word for capturing our capacity to engage with and hopefully inform and influence the wider public realm of ideas, practices, and debates. Different names are used in the literature to describe this idea (e.g., pubic geographies, public pedagogy, people’s geographies, community engagement) but the central idea is the same—geographers have an opportunity and arguably a responsibility not only to analyze issues and problems but also make critical interventions in how the public understands, debates, and acts on those problems. As pointed out by then-AAG President Eric Sheppard, public engagement includes but is not limited to geographers informing policy makers. Without an inclusive definition of who is the “public,” we run the risk of valuing elite perspectives and needs over the experiences and struggles of less powerful stakeholders. In response, a growing number of our colleagues are leveraging their research, teaching and professional practice to combat inequalities, but more can and should be done to rethink and advance the role of geographers within the work of civil rights. Going public can carry political challenges, but I believe it is crucial to demonstrating the efficacy of geographic education and research and articulating an ethics of care for people and places. The AAG is working harder to broaden the diversity of voices within the discipline. I will advocate for marshalling resources, talent, and time to focus Geography advancement efforts at HBCUs, tribal colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and women’s colleges.

It is easy to talk about large, lofty ideas, but exactly how does one create a more publicly responsive and responsible geography? First, a publicly engaged discipline is strategic and aggressive in translating and disseminating its perspectives and findings to everyday audiences and the popular media as well as within scientific, educational and government circles. For AAG, this might mean helping geographers increase and manage their interactions with the news media and public groups—such as through the development of an AAG expert guide for journalists, the generation of press releases for ground-breaking articles published in AAG journals, hosting a greater number of journalists and local leaders and organizations at AAG meetings, or training faculty and students in strategies for making their work accessible and evocative to people beyond the academy. Good communication—the fashioning our science into compelling stories that move people intellectually, politically, and emotionally—does not simply happen. Rather, it results from a set of intentional social practices to be learned and actively cultivated through disciplinary initiatives that I hope to develop by drawing upon the experience we already have in the AAG as well new voices, ideas, and modes of communication and early career training. As a Department Head, I can personally attest to the need for “healthy department practices” to help guide programs in social and mass media promotion, public outreach, and geography advocacy.

Second, public engagement is also about creating reciprocal, mutually beneficial partnerships with non-academic communities. Community, as I use the term here, refers to our discipline’s many public constituencies—from the local to the global, from the commercial to the not for profit, from the well-off and educated to those at risk. Hopefully, the knowledge co-created through these relationships can improve people’s lives, help them make sound decisions, and improve our own theorizations—whether in the context of climate change, natural hazards, transportation planning, or racialized violence. If elected, I would help AAG develop a series of academic discussions, professional development opportunities, and program initiatives that highlight the wide range of public conversations, interventions, and collaborations in which geographers participate (and can participate further) through their research, teaching, and service. For instance, AAG might consider developing a small grant program to seed community engagement projects within geography—especially projects demonstrating the discipline’s integrative power and the added value of bringing natural scientists, social scientists, and GIScientists together to address a common issue. Increasing geography’s relevance in the eyes of the public is a concern that unites us all.