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Catalyzing Research on Geographies of Broadening Participation

Broadening the participation of under-represented minorities in
higher education by visualizing a geographic approach to access


Catalyzing Research on Geographies of Broadening Participation

The National Science Foundation has awarded $100,000 in funding to the AAG to engage scholars in geography and the spatial sciences in a research project entitled Catalyzing Research on Geographies of Broadening Participation. This effort will organize and inspire the geography and spatial science community to focus its unique disciplinary perspectives and significant scholarly capacity to address the following questions:

  • How can geographic research inform the larger academic enterprise engaged in developing a Science of Broadening Participation (SBP)?
  • How can geographic understanding and insights enrich efforts toward achieving diversity in higher education and the scientific workforce, particularly for geography and the spatial sciences?

With this research project, the AAG seeks to advance innovative, creative, and ultimately effective understanding about access and success in higher education for broadly defined underrepresented populations, including racial/ethnic minorities, women, persons with disabilities, economically and socially disadvantaged or marginalized persons, and others. As an intellectually diverse discipline encompassing traditions from critical geographies to GIScience and much more, geography is well positioned to substantially contribute to a National Science Foundation initiative aimed at developing a “Science of Broadening Participation.” Examples might include exploring the role of spatial data and modeling techniques to better understand the complex spatial contexts in which decisions are made about whether or where to attend college, or how theoretically-informed place-based qualitative analysis could permit deeper interpretation of trends in the participation of underrepresented groups in higher education and academe.


Nineteen (19) researchers were competitively selected to participate in this project, including senior scholars with advanced expertise and early career scholars with leadership potential and strong ties to underrepresented communities. Scholars interested in participating in this effort completed an online application. Using inforrmation provided in the application, participants were selected based on the following general criteria:

  • potential to extend state-of-the-art knowledge from their respective field to research on the science of broadening participation
  • potential to provide leadership in working with underrepresented communities
  • potential to collaborate in developing an interdisciplinary research agenda on geography's contribution to the science of broadening participation

Participants received support to attend a 3-day creative scholarly retreat March 29 - April 1, 2012 co-hosted by the Geography and Urban Studies Department at Temple University in Philadelphia. Working with the PIs and Senior Personnel, participants are developing a collective research agenda focused on geography’s diverse intellectual contributions to defining and developing SBP in order to inspire new research priorities, interdisciplinary collaborations, and funding strategies. They are also eligible to submit requests for a limited amount of funding support under the grant to conduct small studies related to the writing assignments.

Selected participants:

  • have written short briefing papers that describe how to extend state-of-the-art knowledge from their respective field to advance what we know about increasing the numbers of underrepresented populations in STEM fields, especially geography and the spatial sciences
  • have participated in a 3-day retreat to be held March 29 - April 1, 2012 at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA (travel support provided)
  • are actively contributing to the development of an interdisciplinary research agenda on the contribution of geography and the spatial sciences to an emerging Science of Broadening Participation
  • are working in collaborative writing teams to produce peer-reviewed publication(s) that either expand on briefing papers submitted prior to the retreat or explore new directions identified in the interdisciplinary research agenda (mini-grants to be provided on a competitive basis for this activity)

Please check back for news on how scholars at large may engage with the results of the initiative. 

The project is supported by the NSF Geography and Spatial Sciences Division and supplemented by NSF-wide funding for broadening participation. For more information about current AAG programs to enhance diversity see also


Geographies of Broadening Participation

GBP Application

Catalyzing Research on Geographies of Broadening Participation Participant Briefing Papers

Catalyst Research and Writing

Catalyzing GBP Project Goals:

  • To identify, engage, and support a group of scholars in geography and the spatial sciences working to improve our understanding for enhancing diversity, broadening participation, and promoting inclusion of underrepresented populations in higher education and academe

  • To develop a collective disciplinary agenda to initiate, guide, and strengthen research on Geographies of Broadening Participation

  • To contribute the significant and diverse intellectual perspectives and intellectual leadership of geography towards an emerging Science of Broadening Participation.


  • Research agenda for geography and the spatial sciences to enrich SBP
  • Papers on geographical perspectives on SBP
  • Dissemination to the geography and spatial sciences and broader scientific community.


Principal Investigators: Dr. Patricia Solís, AAG Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives (PI), Dr. Jean McKendry, AAG Senior Researcher, (co-PI) ; Senior Personnel: Dr. Ken Foote, University of Colorado, Dr. Jim Ketchum, AAG Special Projects Coordinator, Dr. Douglas Richardson, AAG Executive Director, Dr. Rickie Sanders, Temple University, Dr. Michael Solem, AAG Director of Educational Affairs, Dr. Rebecca Torres, University of Texas at Austin, Dr. May Yuan, University of Oklahoma.

Read more about other AAG diversity activities