Association of American Geographers
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(one to be elected)

Amy Lobben

AMY LOBBEN. Professor, Department of Geography, University of Oregon (2015 to present), Associate Professor, University of Oregon (2009–2015), Assistant Professor, University of Oregon (2004–2009), Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Central Michigan University (1999–2004). PhD, Department of Geography, Michigan State University (1999), MS, Department of Geography, Georgia State University (1996), BS, Geography, Georgia State University (1991).

Service to the Discipline: Leadership: Vice President – AAG (2019-present); Department Head – Geography, University of Oregon (2014-2017); Secretary for UCGIS, University Consortium of Geographic Information Science (2015-2016); Education Committee for UCGIS (2014-2015); Co-Chair, Commission for Maps and Mapping for the Blind and Partially Sighted, International Cartographic Association (2007-2009); United States National Committee for the International Cartographic Association (2001-2006); Past Chair, Chair, Vice-Chair, Association of American Geographers Cartography Specialty Group (2005-2008). Federal Funding Agencies: NSF scientific review panelist (Geography and Spatial Science, Cyber-Human Systems, SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships, Discovery Research K-12, Research in Disabilities Education) (2005-2019); NSF site review – Spatial Intelligence Learning Center (2011); AAG Initiative for an NIH-Wide Infrastructure (2011). Conferences: Organizing Committee for COSIT, Conference on Spatial Information Theory (2015), Organizing and Liaison Committee for the International Conference on Information Visualization (2002-2005); Organized many sessions for the annual AAG conference. Journals: Editorial Board for Journal of Spatial Information Science (2018 to present); With Sara Fabrikant, co-Editor, special issue, Cartographica (2009); Editorial Board, Cartographic Perspectives (2007-2009)

Research and Teaching: My career goal is to advance environmental accessibility for all people, and a great deal of my work is with people with disabilities. My philosophy is grounded by a belief that we must produce data science knowledge for social equity. As a researcher and teacher, I aim to: a) develop better knowledge of how people with disabilities encounter and process geospatial information in the world, b) catalyze the geography and GIScience community to develop tools that are meaningfully and truly accessible, and c) transform our built environment to make space for a more diverse and inclusionary public.

Broadly speaking, I bridge human geography and geographic information science. My research examines how the human brain acquires, processes, and makes decisions about geographic information, with a focus on neurogeography and disability/accessibility. Within neurogeography, I use traditional behavioral methods as well as neuroscience and neuroimaging to study the behavioral and neurological correlates of geospatial information processing. I believe that we gain a truer understanding of underlying geospatial constructs and abilities when we measure the same tasks in multiple ways across multiple populations of varying abilities, so much of my research is with diverse populations.

I drive myself to push boundaries and my philosophy for teaching and mentoring with graduate students as well as early career faculty is to strive for the highest bar possible. I aim to provide support and nurturing along with honesty. Like research, educational philosophies as well as programmatic structures should always be critically evaluated. Along that vein and recognizing the need and opportunity for a growing field of spatial data science, my colleague Chris Bone and I developed one of the first spatial data science programs/majors in a geography department in the United States. In addition, we authored an introductory geospatial technologies textbook, Our Digital Earth, an online platform that integrates text with hands-on activities with real-time data. To complement the new SDS program, we conceptualized and developed a new faculty cluster hire in spatial data science for social equity.

Statement: The AAG has for decades worked to identify ways to keep our field current, to catalyze programs, and to keep the discipline at the forward curve of innovation. But in this age when information, knowledge, disciplines, socioeconomic conditions, and political winds evolve at a dizzying pace, the race to remain relevant has turned into a sprint. Relevancy is, I believe, the issue we must focus on throughout geography.

If elected, the major roles I would take on reflect the key challenges that I see facing our relevancy as a discipline:

  1. Advocacy–to protect geography (and other scholarly disciplines) from the active attempts to dismantle research and discredit scholars and scholarship and to put the public back into the public trust of higher education.
  2. Re-envisioning geography–so that we continue to re-invent ourselves to address changing trends in society, higher education and the growing applications for geography in the government, private, and non-profits sectors.
  3. Nurturing the pipeline–to ensure that there is a next generation of geographers to succeed us and keep geography as vibrant discipline.

Signals from Washington suggest a rough road ahead for geography. The recent attacks on the validity of research, the move to discontinue data collection on topics ranging from hydrologic data to residential disparities, the active dismantling of research data sets, the personal attacks on scholars, and the continued overall trend in the reduction of federal investment in research and true public education are all alarming developments that AAG is fighting and should continue to actively combat. If elected, one of my major roles will be to provide strong and thoughtful advocacy for geography, which will require maintaining, strengthening, and extending our relationships and partnerships with key allies in governmental agencies and commercial sectors as well as in academia.

A second key objective will be to continue to strategically re-envision geography and the role we play in advancing scholarly knowledge and societal needs. Geography, as a discipline, is thousands of years old; a history that both confines and enriches us. This historical moment, however, perhaps like no other, is not a time to remain confined; we must be flexible and agile and move in new ways. The good news is that if we can move beyond our tightly held traditions, geography is particularly well suited to being adaptable; our discipline fluidly transitions between natural science, social science, and humanities. Geographers are, by nature and nurture, synthetic and robust thinkers, strengths that position us well as we rethink our academic programs and our activities in government and industry. In addition to traditional discipline-based curricula and employment sectors, we now see degrees and jobs in: environmental studies, geohealth, international studies, ethnic studies, data science, and more–all are geography. I would like to work with AAG and international partners to catalyze and exploit our strengths and develop intellectual communities, tangible collaborations, and educational programs all within geography and around key societal issues and trends in research, education, and employment.

Third, I will want the AAG to continue to actively support and celebrate graduate students and early career faculty through inclusive and responsive programs. But to build a future pipeline, we need to move beyond these groups: we most focus to a much greater extent on the undergraduate geographer. Again, this should be an area of strength–geography is tremendously well positioned to attract undergraduate students for both academic and career reasons. Building the student body will enhance geography’s position on university campuses and increase our influence in the employment sector and society. I would like to be part of the leadership that further develops, systematizes, and disseminates effective professional development programs that attract undergraduate students who are seeking meaningful careers and have a passion for making a difference in or world.

Finally, diversity and inclusion are not mere catchwords; they are a necessary condition that requires normalization if Geography wants to remain truly excellent and cutting edge. On the top of my to-do list at AAG would be to strive to make geography a leader among disciplines in achieving true equity and inclusion, broadly applied to all human existence. As a parent of a son with developmental and intellectual disabilities, I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past 18 years identifying and then working toward breaking-down barriers to equity and inclusion. There are many pathways to achieving inclusion, from top-down programs to grassroots initiatives. David Kaplan has outlined several key steps that can broaden participation and enhance inclusion. In addition to those and borrowing from my personal experiences, I would like to work on making AAG accessible to the growing population of people with disabilities. Simple, but important, steps such as providing all materials in accessible format, which may include tactile maps of venue, Braille or screen-reader friendly conference program, and accessible presentation resources in session rooms would not only enhance the inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities, but would establish an accessibility culture from the website down to the individual session rooms.

Geography, led by the AAG, is particularly well positioned as a global leader to recruit new students, advance research and innovation, and address major social issues of our time. AAG should continue to be the leading authority in our field and expand its role as a driver of innovation, judiciously identifying emerging challenges, needs, and opportunities.