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2015 Annual Reports of the AAG Regional Divisions

East Lakes Division (Tom Maraffa)

The 2015 Annual Meeting of the East Lakes Division will be held Friday and Saturday October 9th and 10th at the Kent State University Conference Center.  The opening reception will be on Friday evening, with papers and panels all day Saturday.  The meeting will conclude with annual banquet on the evening of the 10th

The Division is the in process of electing new officers which will be concluded by May 2015. 

Reports received from the departments in the region indicate healthy activity in program development including: 

  • An online graduate certificate and and masters degree in GISc at Kent State University
  • The first graduates in the Ph.D program in Spatially Integrated Social Studies at the University of Toledo, Fall 2014.
  • Wright State University reporting the development of GEO degrees and certificates at two community colleges in its service region.
  • Ohio Wesleyan University creating a new major in Globalization and Development.

The departments in the region are continuing to face challenges related to university budget pressures. In addition the growing prominence of STEM is requiring departments to both advocate for their role as either part of or complimentary to STEM as well as for the importance of liberal arts.  

Great Plains/Rocky Mountains Division (J.M. Shawn Hutchinson)

Departments in the region report continued successes in teaching, research, and geographic outreach.  At the graduate level, geography departments are actively meeting current, and preparing for future, demand for STEM-trained students.  One example of this is the new Master’s degree in Applied Geography and Geospatial Science that begins in Fall 2015 at the University of Colorado Denver.  The University of Kansas, whose geography department will soon be led by Nate Brunsell, will also be adding a doctoral program in Atmospheric Science.  Our region also benefits tremendously from a robust Geographic Alliance Network and dedicated state coordinators who actively support and promote geography education at the K-12 level.

Ongoing state and university budget woes remain persistent challenges.  This is especially true for our land grant universities and units housed within colleges of arts and sciences.  Arts and science academic units are being disproportionally impacted by mandated decreases in degree credit hour requirements, incoming freshman arriving at school having already earned a significant number of college credits, and the focus in many states on promoting “job” degrees over the benefits of a well-rounded liberal arts education.  It remains as important as ever to continue advocating for geography with university administration and legislators.

After a successful joint regional meeting with the Southwest Division in 2014, which drew over 300 geographers to sunny Albuquerque, our 2015 regional conference will be hosted by the University of Nebraska-Kearney (in Kearney, Nebraska) on October 2-3.  In 2016 and 2017, we will convene in Colorado Springs (hosted by the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs) and Grand Forks (hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of North Dakota), respectively.

As many already know, geography lost two prominent scholars this calendar year who called the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain region home.  We continue to mourn the passing earlier this year of James W. Merchant (University of Nebraska) and Stephen E. White (Kansas State University).

Middle Atlantic Division (Jeremy Tasch) 

The Fall 2014 Annual Division meeting—hosted by Frostburg State University— marked the 50th Anniversary of Geography at Frostburg State.  To help mark this occasion, the 2014 meeting inaugurated the Division’s 1st Annual Best Student Paper Award.  First place went to Zan Dodson, a doctoral candidate from the University of Maryland-College Park. Second Place, however, went to Martin Ndegwa, an undergraduate student from Towson University.  

In a break with current practice, MAD’s leadership resolved to charge annual membership dues (set differentially for students, part-time employed, and full-time employed) to help maintain and better serve its membership. In keeping with its resolve to better serve the Division’s diverse membership, the MAD-Board is examining a concern raised by colleagues working for the federal government and with non-academic organizations. Some of these members feel that the AAG’s membership fees are too high for the level of support these non-academically employed geographers receive from the organization. The MAD Board is continuing to discuss how it can help better support its professional members. Further, the Board is working to better meet the needs of its K-12 geography instructors and its contingent faculty members. As part of the Division’s revitalization, the Board is in the process of creating a contingent faculty committee;  a professional geographers Committee; a newsletter committee; and resurrecting the positions of Vice-Chair, Secretary, and Webmaster.   

MAD has switched to online nomination and voting, and the Board also now reviews and votes for its minutes online.   

The Richard C. Jaffeson Middle Atlantic Division (MAD) Fund

More than three decades ago Richard C. Jaffeson, AICP, MAD-AAG President for 1975-1976 and then again MAD-AAG President from 2002-2003, established a fund for the benefit of MAD-AAG. With his closing of the fund in 2014, MAD received just in access of $8,300 in residual funds. The MAD Board formed a subcommittee to help determine the manner by which MAD’s membership can best benefit from Richard’s foresight and generosity. 

MAD comes to Towson

If the annual MAD-AAG conference was ever hosted by Towson University, the division’s longest serving members do not recall and the university’s Department of Geography and Environmental Planning has no records.  Thus, until shown otherwise, fall 2015 will mark the first time that Towson University will host the annual MAD-AAG Conference. Among the planned highlights, the conference will feature the international research and instruction being conducted by the Division’s members; an interdisciplinary celebration of “place” as imagined through geography and poetry; and an evening performance by the only American Master of Mugham (planned, but not confirmed).

Middle States Division (Grant Saff)

General Regional Developments:

  1. The Annual Meeting was held at York, PA, October 24-5, 2014: At the Board meeting on 23 October, David Fyfe (President 2014), noted that 110 people had contacted him about attending, 102 were already paid up. It was projected that there would be 54 papers, 14 posters, 2 panel discussions. According to the Financial Report submitted to the Board by the Executive Director on 9 April 2015, after deducting all costs the meeting lost $646.02.

  2. At this meeting, the membership unanimously voted to amend the Constitution and admit Puerto Rico as part of the Division.

  3. The 2015 Annual Meeting will be held in Binghamton, NY on October 2-3.

  4. In accordance with offers of assistance made by the AAG to provide web hosting of the Division’s web sites, the Board turned over the future hosting of the Dvision’s Website to the AAG.

  5. Robert Mason, Temple University, has been elected as the new Regional Councilor, with his term beginning in July.

  6. Saff noted via email on 3/12/15, that a check Hofstra had received from MSDAAG for reimbursement for paying for our web-hosting expenses (to Bluehost for $53.74) had two signatures on it – the Executive Director and someone unknown to him who was not a member of the Board (and had not been appointed in the three years he had served on the Board). He requested an explanation from the Board of “why/how this arrangement came about and which elected representatives approved of making a non-Board person a co-signer of our checks?” At time of writing no response has been received.

  7. On 30 March 2015, I sent out a call to the members (including the new members from Puerto Rico) for responses to the President’s Challenge Question and for any issues that should be communicated to Council. At time of writing, 4 responses from members were received. A fairly large number of emails are still bounced back indicating that the AAG should perhaps create a better system for tracking membership.

Responses to the Challenge Question: Regarding how to increase diversity in Geogrpahy 

From a Professor at Rutgers, “… I was recently thinking about the lack of African Americans in Geography…I wish I knew how the AAG could improve its racial balance....” 

From a Professor at West Point, “I know this isn't exactly what the AAG is looking for, but at its core, our profession is one of exchanging thoughts and ideas with students.  However, academics tend to be incredibly like-minded… I think diversity of thought is more important than diversity of skin pigmentation...and is a topic the AAG should consider.” 

From a contingent faculty member at various Universities in New York, “…my experience this semester was that when I talked about subjects that students could identify with or about which students had very strong personal opinions, it seemed to attract them more to the subject and get them more involved in my teaching. The case in point was migration. With first generation students, they were interested because they could reflect on their own experience. With others, they often had very strong opinions on the topic. I realize that may also limit the areas in which one could involve minorities. But I thought the anecdote might be useful.”

A Professor from the Geography Department at Binghamton, comments that the Department has been slated as a growth department over the next 5 years,  “As a result, we hired three new faculty- all growth positions, not replacements.” Of these 3 new hires, 2 are Asians, one white and one of the 3 is a female. Of the 10 FT faculty, 5 are white, 3 Asian and 2 Black (8 males, 2 females). Of the current MA graduate enrollment, “23 are whites, 11 Asian, 6 Black and 4 Hispanic-Latino (34 males and 10 females).” He notes, “It should be clear from these numbers that we are one of the most diversified departments in the nation. While I cannot provide exact data on majors, we have made very good strides in diversifying that population too.”

My own anecdotal experience of teaching at a Private School in NY (Hofstra) is that the number of African-American students in my classes has fallen, while the number of Asian and Latino students has risen slightly. In terms of hiring, since becoming a Department in 2008, we have hired 9 contingent faculty members, with the following racial/ethnic breakdown: 1 African, 2 Asian (India, China), 4 white American, 1 African-American, 1 white from Europe (all are female). We recently conducted a GIS job search that attracted over 60 applicants, with a sizable number from Asia (mostly China and India). Only 1 of the applicants was clearly identifiable as African-American. The final choice was between two applicants, a white male and white female – with the white male being chosen (all of the FT female faculty members voted for this candidate). We have been unsuccessful in numerous attempts to have our African-American contingent faculty member hired to a tenure track position. At one stage, this faculty member accepted a non-tenure track visiting position in a Geography Department at a large research University in the region, but resigned after one year, citing the large classes and lack of contact with faculty in the Department. She subsequently left teaching for a year, before accepting more classes in our Department. This example highlights that even when you have very well qualified African-American geographers, you need sufficient institutional support to keep them within the profession.

 

New England/St. Lawrence Valley Division (Richard Kujawa) 

The New England and Saint Lawrence Valley Society remains a viable and visible region of the AAG.  In October 2014 the University of New Hampshire (UNH) hosted a successful regional meeting which featured another strong and well-attended public plenary.  The theme for this year was Water in a Changing World.  Jeffery Bolster, Professor of History from UNH presented the plenary lecture titled "Human Impacts on the Piscataqua Estuary and Gulf of Maine: The Long View."

The region’s refereed publication The Northeastern Geographer distributed its latest volume.  It continues to provide a refereed venue for papers, reviews and commentaries in the region.

A record eleven teams entered the World Geography Bowl.  The University of Massachusetts-Amherst was victorious. Almost eighty people participated in the pizza social which followed.

NESTVAL awarded paper and poster prizes for both undergraduate and graduate students as well as a Distinguished Service Award to John Hayes of Salem State University, Massachusetts and a Lifetime Award to Mark Motte, Rhode Island College.  Next year, NESTVAL will experiment with a faculty professional development grant program.

Future regional meetings are planned for Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts (2015), Bishop’s University in Quebec (2016) and Central Connecticut State University (2017). 

Geography departments and programs in the region report a broadly positive picture on program status with some bright spots but also some continued tightening of budgets and resources.  Based on responses from a sample of colleges and universities, there were a few new hires and a small number of confirmed or prospective post-doctoral positions.  For example, Clark University reported a new hire in Political Ecology (Rinku Roy Chowdury); the University of Vermont reported the possibility of a geographer being named to a postdoctoral position.  The University of Vermont has had success in the past with this postdoctoral recruitment program leading to permanent faculty positions in Geography.

In addition to core roles in several Environmental, Global Studies and Sustainability Programs, Geographers are integral to other developments.  Examples include:  New collaborative courses “Mapping American Childhoods” (with a sociologist at the University of Vermont); a service-learning collaboration with the Nature Conservancy focused on Dendrochronology (also at the University of Vermont); and a new multi-faculty member #blacklivesmatter course at Dartmouth, hosted in Geography.  Other initiatives include new tracks inside of Geography majors; continued engagement with the niche of GIS in higher education and the community; and new graduate concentrations or graduate initiatives. For example, a new interdisciplinary Minor in GIS at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts; a new undergraduate certificate pending approval at Rhode Island College; and continued development of the Community GIS lab at Keene State in New Hampshire.  The University of Maine at Farmington continues its practice of engaged scholarship with its undergraduate majors contributing 100 papers and posters in the last 5 years.  Several institutions have expanded inter-college or university collaborations.  For example, Southern Connecticut State University is in the process of building a collaborate relationship for seamless Study Abroad experiences at Liverpool’s John Moore’s University in the UK in Geography and Marine Studies; and in Quebec, where Bishops University (classes taught in English) will collaborate with the University of Sherbrooke (classes taught in French) on a new graduate program in Environmental Studies.

Geographers in the region continue their work with K-12 education. Geographic Alliances, operating individually and in concert, maintain and increase the visibility of Geography and work to consolidate and enhance K-12 curriculum and professional development.

 

Pacific Coast Division (Scott Mensing ) 

Highlights:

The Spatial Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California, under the leadership of John Wilson, has shown impressive growth in the area of GIS education. In particular, the Institute has added, or had approved six new programs over the next two years. These include new interdisciplinary Bachelors, Masters and PhD programs created in collaboration with other departments, including Public Policy, Architecture, Medicine, and Computer Science. 

Fall 2014, the University of Arizona School of Geography and Development (SGD) launched a new online Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems. This is a one year Masters’ degree that has over 30 students enrolled. In the fall of 2015, the SGD will begin a new Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology program.

At the University of California, Davis, the Geography Graduate Group is thriving and published their first newsletter, available online. The incoming class in fall 2014 had 21 students.

Full report from the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers, Scott Mensing, Regional Councilor

Update from the field:

Several campuses have shown healthy growth through initiation of new programs, particularly in the field of GIS.

The University of Southern California Spatial Sciences Institute continues to innovate and strengthen its role and impact. During the past 12-18 months the Institute has launched or received permission to launch six collaborative programs: 1) a new B.S. in GeoDesign (with the Price School of Public Policy and USC School of Architecture) and Spatial Studies Minor in Fall, 2015; 2) online Graduate Certificates in Geospatial Intelligence (now accredited by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation) and Geospatial Leadership to complement the existing M.S. and Graduate Certificate Programs in Geographic Information Science & Technology; 3) a new GeoHealth track in the Keck School of Medicine’s online Master of Public Health degree program; 4) garnered approval to launch a new M.S. in Spatial Informatics with the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science in Fall, 2015; 5) garnered approval to launch a new Graduate Certificate in Spatial Analytics for doctoral students in Fall, 2016; 6) garnered approval to launch a new Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Population, Health and Place (with the Departments of Preventive Medicine and Sociology) in Fall, 2016. The numbers of faculty, staff, and related activities are growing as well to support these new collaborations.

Fall 2014, the University of Arizona School of Geography and Development (SGD) launched a new online Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems. This is a one year Masters’ degree that has over 30 students enrolled. In the fall of 2015, the SGD will begin a new Bachelor of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology program.

The Geography Graduate Group (GGG) is alive and well at the University of California, Davis with the publication of their first newsletter, the Davis Geographer (Vol. 1 2014/2015). Students had a large part in bringing this newsletter to fruition. As noted in the message from the chair, Chris Benner, “Since we are an inter-departmental graduate group, with faculty dispersed across the entire campus, it is the continued cohesion, energy, and contributions of our students that is absolutely critical for our program to thrive.” The UC Davis GGG will have a booth at the 2015 AAG conference in Chicago. You can see all of the news at http://geography.ucdavis.edu/files/ggg/Davis%20Geographer%20Final_Volume%201%202014.pdf

In 2014 UCLA Department of Geography welcomed two new faculty members, Dr. Dennis Lettenmeier and Dr. Kyle Cavanaugh. Both are physical geographers.

In Fall 2014, the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Geography welcomed Dr. Jessie Clark, a political and feminist geographer studying the impacts of socio-economic and gendered development in conflict regions. In Fall of 2015, Dr. Kerri Jean Ormerod will join the department in a position shared between Geography and Cooperative Extension. This newly created position will focus on drought hazards and issues of water use in Nevada.

In October, 2014, the dedication was held for the Robert and Maureen Gohstand Leisure Reading Room in the Oviatt Library on the campus of California State University Northridge. The reading room has long been the vision of Robert (Bob) Gohstand, a Professor Emeritus from the Department of Geography in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Bob and Maureen created an endowment to help support the room and its collection of books well into the future

APCG news:

The APCG is in healthy financial conditions, with receipts greater than disbursements in FY 2014. Membership stood at 506 as of the Fall 2014 APCG annual meeting and looked to possibly top out at 560 by the end of the year. There were 110 new members in 2014. The division plans to re-establish the Membership Committee staffed with former Presidents to focus on approaches for recruiting new members. It was noted at the meeting that while there is a cadre of stalwarts, recruiting younger faculty has been a challenge. The incoming President is Steve Cunha of Humboldt State University.

The APCG 2014 annual meeting was hosted by the University of Arizona and held in Tucson AZ Sept. 25-27. There were 195 registrants and over 100 papers and poster presentations. Eight awards were given for outstanding student presentations and another eight scholarships and 23 travel grants were awarded, for a total of $10,650 awarded to student participants. The full business meeting minutes, conference report and treasurer’ reports are available online through the APCG division’s newsletter Pacifica at http://apcgweb.org/sites/default/files/editor_uploads/files/pacificaf14.pdf.

The 2015 APCG conference will be October 21-24 in Palm Springs, CA.

The division’s journal, the APCG Yearbook is available online through Project Muse and JSTOR, with issues through Volume 76 available (all but three most current years). 

 

Southeast Regional Division (Thomas Mote) 

SEDAAG annual meetings

SEDAAG will hold its 70th meeting November 22-24, 2015, in Pensacola, Florida, hosted by the University of West Florida. The 69th meeting in Athens, Georgia, in November 2014 was a success, with 410 people registered and a record number of organized sessions. SEDAAG is in negotiation with sites in South Carolina to host the 71st meeting in 2016. New editors for Southeastern Geographer were selected at the Athens meeting. Hilda Kurtz and Deepak Mishra from the University of Georgia will serve as co-editors beginning July 2015, replacing David Cochran and Carl Reese from the University of Southern Mississippi.

SEDAAG opportunities and challenges

The SEDAAG annual meeting continues to grow in its diversity of opportunities and as such is finding it difficult to complete the meeting in just 1.5 days. Few people remained for the business meeting in Athens.  These problems will be before the Executive Committee at the Pensacola meeting.  Student participation continues to be a major ingredient for attendance, and the division continues to seek participation from a variety of types of institutions. At the 2013 SEDAAG meeting in Roanoke, Virginia, the division supported, financially, the participation of several students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The supported students were actively involved in attending papers, posters, social events, and networking with students and faculty. SEDAAG again provided this opportunity for the Athens meeting and plans to do so again in Pensacola. The AAG might consider the benefit of a similar program at the national level. 

Geography in the Southeastern Division

The state representatives of Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia all responded to requests for information on the status of Geography in the Southeastern Division. The state of Florida has new rules about general education credits, and the new menus of required physical and social science courses do not include Geography, reducing exposure to the discipline in the most populous state in the division. Several departments reported pressure from declining state budgets, including threats to the future of Geography as an independent program some institutions. Most departments reported steady or increasing undergraduate enrollment in Geography, including some with record high enrollments. Kennesaw State University in Georgia began a 123-hour online B.A. in Geography in Spring 2015, and North Carolina Central University is seeking permission to grant a consolidated degree in Earth Science, Environmental Science, and Geography at the undergraduate level.

 

Southwestern Division (Ron Hagelman) 

With the exception of continuing budget cuts to the higher education in Louisiana, SWAAG programs are showing signs of growth and expansion. Membership and participation the regional meetings remains robust and the division journal, Southwestern Geographer, is publishing a new online version of the journal as of this year. The Fall 2016 meeting will be held November 4-7th in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting will be held jointly with the Applied Geography Conference and is being organized locally by Texas State University and The University of Texas-San Antonio. 

The Southwest Division of the AAG hosts a variety of departments and programs distributed across all states within the region. Our division includes faculty/department representatives from the following colleges/universities:                 

Arkansas

Arkansas State University

University of Arkansas

University of Central Arkansas  

New Mexico

New Mexico State University

University of New Mexico 

Louisiana

Grambling State University

Louisiana State University

Louisiana Technological University

Northwestern State University

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

University of Louisiana at Monroe

University of New Orleans           

Oklahoma

East Central University

Northeastern State University

Oklahoma State University

University of Oklahoma

University of Central Oklahoma 

Texas

Baylor University             

Stephen F. Austin State University

Sam Houston State University  

Texas State University- San Marcos

Texas A&M University- Kingsville             

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University- Commerce          

Texas Christian University

Texas Tech University   

University of North Texas

University of Texas         

University of Texas- Dallas

University of Texas- San Antonio               

University of Texas- Tyler

Fall Regional Division Conference

The SWAAG Conference and Business Meeting was held October 23-25, 2014 Albuquerque, NM. The meeting was held jointly with the Great Plains/Rocky Mountain Division of the AAG. Over 300 students and faculty attended the meeting from both regions. Local arrangements were lead by Maria Lane, University of New Mexico, and Shawn Hutchinson, Kansas State. The meeting was successful by all measures and included numerous paper session, panels, poster sessions, student awards, and a keynote presentation by AAG President, Mona Domosh.   

Reports from the Field 

New Self-Standing Department

Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, Texas) will be a self-standing Dept. of Geography is the fall 2016 semester.  They will be dividing from the current Dept. of History and Geography structure and have about 25 majors with two degree options: a BA and a BS. One reason for the  growth is their World Regional Geography course.  It is an option in the TCU core.  This spring 2015 semester TCU is teaching 13 sections of World Regional Geography with a total current enrollment of 485 students (5.7% of the total estimated undergraduate enrollment of 8500).  Another reason is the support of our dean and growth in their GIS program, under Kyle Walker’s leadership. 

New Geography Minor

The University of Arkansas Fort Smith now has a geography minor. As of fall 2010, their campus only had one geography course in the academic catalog: World Regional Geography. This course was taught to meet a social studies general education requirement and it was taught by an historian. Since that time, geographer Linda Fair has designed and had approved a geography minor. Their first geography minor graduated in December 2014 and five more will graduate in May.

Louisiana higher education continues to be challenges by budget cuts/shrinking enrolments

University of New Orleans (UNO) and Southern University New Orleans (SUNO) will be particularly hard hit due to their enrollment declines over the past few years. Some faculty remain hopeful that the legislators will be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat before the end of the session in June, but the legislators and Governor Jindal show no signs of changing current and proposed cuts. 

New BS degree in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST)

Texas A&M has created a new undergraduate BS degree in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST). Students have to choose one of three tracks to specialize in: (1) Computation, Design and Analysis - programming [the best one, obviously]; (2) Earth Systems Analysis - remote sensing, terrain analysis, and geomorph; or (3) Human Systems and Society - GIS for everything human - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__geography.tamu.edu_class_aklein_gist-5Fprototype_elements.html&d=AwIFaQ&c=OrYO-caJHQE1g_AJU3az1awi55It-bjDIQrtRiZ6WBk&r=lXg1ADNswCaHIdCtWvIeKQGQkuqDTj2VlO6c3yyuD98&m=WWovRJ2HN5khpvL8-LWsOsEZlcHvEAeiTMwQ2zvXk6g&s=ODI-2mZSk_7J21VuUdQzGwgMgp0ExwL301JK8v7W6gk&e= .

As of this semester (the second since we started it), they already have 63 majors!

New Geography Minor

Tarleton State University (Stephensville, TX) will be offering its first minor in Geography in its history, starting this fall. If enrollments are robust, they have plans to develop a major in coming years.

New” PhD in Geography

As of fall 2015, The Department of Geography at Texas State University will drop the “Environmental” qualifier from their PhD in Environmental Geography degree and begin awarding PhDs in Geography. 

Overall, all is well in SWAAG and we remain a stalwart, robust, and highly collegial division!