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2017 Annual Reports of the AAG Regional Divisions

Reports from Regional Councilors

Regional Councilor Chair Shawn Hutchinson shared the highlights to the regional reports, and he shared the full report electronically with members of the Council. The full reports will be published on the AAG website.

East Lakes

Patrick Lawrence reported that there is uncertain state support and concern for emerging potential policies impacting higher education in Ohio and Michigan. He said there is a need for more engagement with K-12 geography education including the Ohio Geographic Alliance, Advanced Placement (AP), and other high school college credit programs.

Great Plains-Rocky Mountains

Hutchinson reported that the GPRM meeting will be hosted by the University of North Dakota on October 13–14, 2017. Hutchinson noted the expansion of geotechnology (including GIS and UAV) and online programs buoying enrollment for many regional programs, many of whom continue to operate under increasingly challenging budgetary conditions.

Middle Atlantic

The division had no report, but Hutchinson reported that Rebecca Kelly of Johns Hopkins was recently elected regional councilor. 

Middle States

Robert Mason highlighted a response to a distressed department: Long Island University, Post Campus, which suspended admissions for the Geography major. Mason said division members are asking how, if at all, do departments respond to the administration travel bans at local and regional levels. 

New England/St. Lawrence Valley

John Hayes reported that NESTVAL had a successful meeting on the campus of Bishop’s University during October 14-15, 2016, in Sherbrooke, QC, Canada. The conference theme was “Multi-Scale Climate and Environmental Change.” The upcoming meeting will be hosted by Central Connecticut State University during October 20–21, 2017, in New Britain, CT. The conference theme will be “Geography in the Community.” The annual, peer-reviewed journal of NESTVAL, The Northeastern Geographer, will publish the next two volumes as special issues on Climate Change in the Northeast and Food Geographies of the NESTVAL Region. 

Pacific Coast

Sriram Khé reported that the upcoming APCG meeting will be in Chico, CA, during October 25–28, 2017. Hosted by the Department of Geography and Planning at California State University, Chico, the conference theme is “Sustainable Communities.” He reported that several new programs have been established within the region including four new undergraduate specializations and three new minors at the University of Nevada Reno and three new programs at the University of Southern California, including an interdisciplinary PhD and MS degrees, and an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor.


Thomas Mote reported that the next SEDAAG meeting will be November 19–21, 2017, in Starkville, MS, with local arrangements handled by Mississippi State University. He reported that departments are being creative and innovative about ways in which they attract students and seek support, with much emphasis placed in online programs, geospatial technologies and environmental-related studies. New undergraduate programs are now being offered, or are being proposed, at the University of Florida, Florida State University, Marshall University, and the University of Georgia. At the graduate level, East Carolina State University now offers a Professional Science Masters in GIS&T, and UNC Charlotte is considering a name change for their Ph.D. degree from “Geography and Urban Regional Analysis” to “Geography.” 


Darren Purcell reported that the University of North Texas Department of Geography and the Environment was selected as the inaugural winner of the Master’s Program Excellence Award. Additionally, the department will strengthen their international offerings with a China Field School in Summer 2017. He also said the Department of Geography at Oklahoma State University received state approval for a Global Studies BA. A new minor in Global Studies is pending approval. This is the fourth undergraduate program managed by the department, adding to their existing BA and BS in Geography and BS in Geospatial Information Science degree programs.

West Lakes

Julie Cidell reported that the regional meeting was successful despite being in a geographic extreme of the region: Marquette, MI. She reported that departments are trying many different approaches to increase enrollment and/or majors and asked if it would it be useful to do a survey of departments to see what changes have been made in the past 5-10 years and what effect they have had. She said members mentioned that they want the Association to do more in this regard.


Hutchinson reviewed the regional reports in response to the call of the Executive Committee to identify the impact of changes in federal policies. A few regions mentioned the effects of federal policies on their programs, with the federal travel policies raising concerns about international student recruitment. He also mentioned the expressions of appreciation for the Association responses to those policies. 

Hutchinson said the common theme among most regions was the effect of state budgets on higher education. Many of the regions’ reports mentioned issues regarding declining undergraduate enrollment, which may be related to online programs, AP credit, and transfer credit from other institutions. Purcell asked whether anyone had provided data about the effect of AP Human Geography, as the effect of the AP exam has been a common concern without supporting data. McAnneny suggested that other AP courses may also play a role. Hutchinson discussed the role of geography as a “discovery major” and the importance of contact in the college level. Cidell said that at the University of Illinois 6% of students took AP Human Geography, and of those students, only 6% enrolled in a geography course at the university. Purcell suggested reaching out to the 200,000 students taking AP Human Geography, as well as the people teaching the course. Bednarz emphasized the importance of creating a pipeline with teachers of AP Human Geography. Alderman talked about reaching out to high school guidance counselors, college and university advisers, and community colleges. Chris Hair mentioned the importance of media and video that explain what students can do with a geography degree.  MacDonald said that UCLA uses an open house with community colleges to attract students. Lawrence mentioned the use of the Penn State Geospatial Revolution materials for recruitment plus alumni videos, which have received positive feedback. Richardson commented that he is seeking support from National Geographic to produce promotional videos, but he said it is also worthwhile to determine what is available online that could be used pending permission. He said the media landscape has changed and this may need to be in the form of a social media campaign. Sue Roberts suggested that the Association have a repository of promotional materials that departments produced. Hutchinson mentioned that Kansas State University worked with media professionals in the university to produce brief videos that were targeted to prospective students and their parents. 

MacDonald asked that the departmental recruitment effort become an Association priority and suggested that Meridian Place hire someone to help develop media targeted for use by departments seeking to grow enrollment. He said there should be some video presence but the effort should use multiple media platforms. MacDonald said a report to Council regarding progress in this effort should be presented at the Fall 2017 Council meeting. At the annual meeting in New Orleans, he said there should be a session on best practices followed by a document on best practices. 

Khé asked about the regional councilor election concerns expressed by Bednarz, particularly in light of the delayed election in one region. Lawrence asked what mechanism is available for expressing concern and offering assistance when regional divisions struggle. The individual regional councilors shared the process for elections in their regions, focusing on nomination processes, eligible voters, timeline, and the form of the election. Richardson shared the rules for electing regional councilors. Bednarz recommended a sub-committee of regional councilors that would examine election processes in each region. 

MacDonald stated that Regional Councilors should be elected by AAG members in each regional division, regardless of their regional division membership status.


2016 Annual Reports of the AAG Regional Divisions

Reports from Regional Councillors 

Richard Kujawa, chair of the regional councillors, provided a summary of regional division updates with the full reports to be provided on the Association website. The highlights that he presented for each region are as follow:

East Lakes

Extremely limited funding for replacing or hiring additional faculty and for purchasing improved and emerging technologies, especially Geo Info Systems and Remote Sensing. General decline in geography BA and MA majors over the last five years (although many departments still teach large and increasing numbers of service classes and students including those for general education requirements all students must meet).

Great Plains/Rocky Mountains

2016 GPRM Regional Meeting to be hosted by the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs on October 21-22. 2017 GPRM Regional Meeting to be hosted by the Department of Geography at the University of North Dakota (date TBA).

Middle Atlantic

The MAD-AAG, for the first time, is able to fully fund its student Geography Bowl Team (The Mad Hatters) to compete at the annual bowl competition in San Francisco. And to assist with this effort, the US Bureau of the Census, Geography Division, agreed to cover student team members’ AAG Conference registration fees. Marking two concurrent developments, Towson University is the new host for the Maryland Geographic Alliance and hosted the 2015 Annual MAD-AAG Conference (if not for the first time, then certainly the first time for most of the region's current membership). Bringing together a record of almost 40 individual paper presentations, the keynote address drew attention to Baltimore's negative international publicity following the death of Freddie Gray, in order to reveal new research that points toward opportunities to reverse Baltimore's declining population and to revitalize the city's urban fabric.  

Middle States

Several departments have expanded, adding faculty, majors, and programs. The growth in programs is especially encouraging. Additions include a Sustainability MA (Binghamton), Meteorology & Climatology, BS (Delaware), Environmental Sustainability major (Oneonta), Geography A.S. (Monroe Community College), BS in GIS (Farmingdale), Geography BA (College of Staten Island), and a Professional Master’s in GIS (Temple). At the same time, there is much budget uncertainty and cutbacks. One major institution has had to eliminate travel funding for graduate students.

New England and Saint Lawrence Valley

In October 2015 Bridgewater State University hosted a successful regional meeting.  There were approximately 135 registrations with more than half registering as students.  Our keynote speaker this year, a tradition at NESTVAL to hold a public plenary, was Dr. Francisco Henrique de Oliveira from the State University of Santa Catarina in Brazil.  He delivered a fascinating talk on cadastral techniques and their impacts on land claims and property ownership in Brazil.  NESTVAL made a lifetime achievement award to Vernon Domingo whose tireless work on Geographic Education is known regionally and nationally through his work with the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance, his persistence, with colleagues, in trying to advance a state-wide curriculum in Geography, and through the Earth View touring globe. Our 2016 meeting will be held at Bishops University, near Sherbrooke, in the Province of Quebec.  NESTVAL while a region within the AAG is also a bi-national Geography Society and we work hard to keep our Canadian colleagues engaged in our work.  If you plan to attend, make sure you have a passport or enhanced license to cross the border.  Bienvenue au Quebec, La Belle Province!

Pacific Coast

Across the Pacific Coast Region there have been a number of new programs created within the past year. A sampling of these includes at the Univ. of Southern California an M.S. in Spatial Informatics and Ph.D. in Population, Health and Place; at San Diego State three new research centers with foci in social media data analytics, water resources and climate, and security; at Cal State, Northridge a new curriculum on Water resources with 7 new courses; at Cal State Chico a new B.S degree; at Pierce College an AA-T in Geography (Associate in Arts degree in Geography for Transfer) and an AA degree in GIS; at Portland State a new minor in Water Resources; at San Francisco State a new B.S. in Environmental Science; and at the Univ. of Washington a new online Masters in and Sustainability Management. On the whole there has been more growth in new faculty than loss of positions, a welcome new trend following the severe budget cuts of a few years ago. At least eight departments indicate new hires (Univ. of Washington, Chico State, UCLA, UC Davis, Univ. of Nevada, Reno, Univ. of Oregon, Arizona State and Oregon State) which appear in most cases to be new additions to the faculty.


The division’s Steering Committee approved the appointment of Hilda Kurtz and Deepak Mishra at the University of Georgia as the new editors of the SouthEastern Geographer. The journal is

published quarterly, has a robust queue of submissions, and continues to be managed and printed by the University of North Carolina Press. The incoming editors have discussed options for the journal name and publishing arrangements with the Steering Committee. The SEDAAG Executive Committee has discussed the name of the division in light of the AAG name change effective January 1, 2016. This topic will be considered further at the 2016 meeting.


The University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University have proposed a New Mexico Joint Doctoral Program in Geography, to be offered collaboratively. The proposal is going through the review process on both campuses and will spend at least a year going through the approval processes on each campus before moving on to state-level review, pending institutional approval.  Both departments are very excited about the PhD proposal. The program will focus on integrative human-environment dynamics and is designed to ensure that students master both theory and praxis, thus preparing them for scholarly and leadership roles within the academy and beyond. The University of Oklahoma Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability developed an MS in Geography and a Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Information Technologies.

West Lakes

While many states in the region are struggling with budget cuts, the state of Illinois’ continuing failure to pass a budget has resulted in no state funding for any Illinois institution of higher education to date during the current fiscal year. Western Illinois University has put faculty and other employees on furlough or layoffs; Eastern Illinois University is deferring salary payments in addition to staff layoffs; and Chicago State University may not remain open for the current semester. Private universities such as DePaul and Augustana are affected as well, as state grants for low-income students are not being disbursed, and universities are providing the funding themselves. On a brighter note DePaul University won the first AAG Program award and Illinois State University received an Honorable Mention. Congratulations to both programs.Additionally, a new concentration in the Geography BA, geohumanities, also awaits regents’ approval. 

Annual Reports of the AAG Regional Divisions