Association of American Geographers
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New Resources

The AAG's Enhancing Departments and Graduate Education (EDGE) in Geography project supported the development of the following peer-reviewed articles:

  • Effective Mentoring in Geography, by Susan Hardwick and Fred Shelley. This paper provides arguments and a number of suggestions for designing a mentoring program in geography departments.
  • Making the Case for Geography, by Victoria Lawson and Alexander Murphy. From time to time, a geography department finds it necessary to inform others about the value of geography, either out of opportunity (e.g., establishing a new degree program) or in response to a threat (e.g., budget cuts that threaten the closure or merger of a department). This paper provides "talking points" that geographers can draw on to show why geography is indispensable to higher education and society.
  • Beyond the Department: Building Effective Relationships with Deans, Provosts, and Presidents, by M. Duane Nellis and JW Harrington. One of the keys to successful departmental leadership is establishing a productive, mutually respectful, and synergistic relationship with campus administration. This paper discusses strategies for enhancing a department's status in the eyes of university deans, provosts, and presidents.
  • Being a Geographer in a Blended Department: Views from a Multidisciplinary Perspective, by David L. Butler. Many geography faculty find themselves working in multidisciplinary departments. This paper discusses some of the challenges and opportunities of being a geographer working alongside colleagues from other disciplines.


Murphy, A. 2007. "Geography’s Place in Higher Education in the United States." Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 31(1): 121–141.

Request a free sample copy of the Journal of Geography in Higher Education (requires registration) or download the author's article.

ABSTRACT: Geography’s institutional position in US colleges and universities has strengthened over the past 15 years. Student numbers have increased, many existing geography programmes have expanded, and new programmes have been launched. This article documents these developments and situates them historically. Attention is then directed to reasons behind the discipline’s recent growth: heightened public interest in geographical issues, expanding awareness of geography in other disciplines, the geotechnology revolution, the growing job market for geographers, and improvement in geography education in some primary and secondary schools.

KEY WORDS: History of geography, geography education, social and institutional influences on geography, geotechnology, employment in geography.

Michael N. Solem and Kenneth E. Foote. (2004). Conerns, attitudes, and abilities of early-career geography faculty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94(4):889-912.

Concerns, Attitudes, and Abilities of Early-Career Geography Faculty Professional experiences during graduate school through the first few years of an academic appointment shape patterns of work and social behavior that prefigure the long-term success of new faculty members, including prospects for tenure and promotion. We explore these experiences through interviews and surveys with a sample of early-career faculty in postsecondary American geography. Our analysis reveals that teaching is the primary source of anxiety among new professors, many of whom begin their first academic positions with little or no preparation in learning theory, course design, or pedagogy. Many new faculty members struggle to maintain healthy personal and family lives, while adjusting to unfamiliar norms of their new institutions. New professors benefit from support offered by their department chairpersons and from working in collegial environments. Among women, we found a greater sense of self-doubt about their scholarly abilities and futures despite having records comparable in accomplishment to their male peers. Many women cope with this sense of marginalization by forming supportive mentoring relationships with other women faculty on campus and through disciplinary specialty groups. Networking with colleagues on campus and at academic conferences enhances the job performance and satisfaction of all faculty members irrespective of gender. Our findings underscore the importance of examining the social, professional, and disciplinary contexts of higher education to acquire a broader understanding of faculty development. This knowledge can help departments prepare new faculty for successful and satisfying academic careers.

Mark D. Bjelland. (2004) A Place for Geography in the Liberal Arts College? Professional Geographer 56(3):326-336.

This study charts the presence of geography at liberal arts colleges and explores the relationship between the liberal arts and the study of geography. The results of this study reveal a paradox: geography embodies many of the ideals of a liberal arts education and yet this study indicates an absence of degree-granting geography programs at 93% of institutions. Geography thrives, however, at a select group of liberal arts colleges, and these colleges are disproportionately important as the undergraduate origin for doctorate recipients in geography.

Moseley, W.G. “On Geography and the American Liberal Arts College.” AAG Newsletter 39(7):10


  • Bland, Carole, with Anne Marie Weber-Maine, Sharon Marie Lund, and Deborah A. Finstad. The Research Productive Department: Strategies from Departments that Excel. Ankar Publishing Company: Bolton, MA.
  • National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography. National Academy Press: Washington, D.C.
  • Wergin, Jon F. 2003. Departments that Work: Building and Sustaining Cultures of Excellence in Academic Programs. Ankar Publishing Company: Bolton, MA.


Professional Development

Enhancing Departments and Graduate Education (EDGE) is a long-term project to study the process of professional development in graduate geography.  Funded by the National Science Foundation, the EDGE project is reviewing the methods that departments use to prepare MA/MS and PhD students for careers in business, government, and non-profit (BGN) sectors. Through surveys, interviews, and workshops with departments across the nation, the project aims to promote awareness of professional development topics, workforce issues, and effective strategies for geographers seeking employment in BGN organizations.  


The Geography Faculty Development Alliance (GFDA) is a long-term, broad-based project to improve the learning and teaching of geography in higher education. The aim is to provide early career faculty and advanced doctoral students with the theoretical and practical knowledge needed to excel in the lecture hall, seminar room, and laboratory. Key objectives of the project are to foster a culture of support and success for early career faculty, to help them understand the fundamental interconnections between their teaching and research, and to advance the scholarship of teaching and learning across the entire discipline.