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The ALIGNED Approach

The pipeline principle— that is, building relationships among educational institutions serving students at different stages from grade school, middle school, secondary, community colleges, undergraduate to graduate levels—is fairly well understood as a framework for recruitment efforts in higher education. However, it is often overlooked how such pipelines are spatial in nature, and how characteristics of place impact recruitment outcomes and retention rates. Where universities are, where prospective students are coming from or might come from, and the dynamic of these origins and destinations matter a great deal. It is also important to recognize the varied starting points for many departments: a small liberal arts school in the rural Midwest has different realities to contend with concerning recruitment and retention than an urban commuter school on the east coast. With this in mind, the ALIGNED project is consolidating the set of resources and studies developed over the past several years by the AAG to design a toolkit that can support departments in their efforts to enhance diversity.

This toolkit will include, among other items, linkages to an expanded AAG Diversity Clearinghouse, an annotated bibliography highlighting cutting-edge research by geographers and related scholars that offer understanding about how spatial dynamics and place-based realities relate to efforts to attract and keep underrepresented students; careers information resources that promote broader inclusion; and outcomes from the AAG’s recent research on graduate education conducted through the EDGE project. It will also feature a mechanism to query spatial data and georeferenced information that can help departments identify their recruitment catchment areas, design diversity goals in relation to characteristics of communities of potential underrepresented students, and elaborate appropriate plans for how to best engage prospective young geographers.

ALIGNED is also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented students in geography to participate in professional networking through organizing special activities at the AAG Annual Conferences and through providing supplemental support for attending the conference to students with disabilities, community college students, and AAG Diversity Ambassadors. It is supporting more participation in the Visiting Geographical Scientist Program for faculty to visit Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges & Universities. To evaluate the toolkit design, the AAG is working closely with an institutionally-diverse, geographically-distributed set of ten pilot hybrid geography/geosciences departments and is reaching out to synergistic programs and resources from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, American Association of Persons with Disabilities, American Association of Community Colleges, White House Commission on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, and American Indian Higher Education Consortium, among other organizations.

This project highlights the unique advantages of our discipline for underrepresented students, including the high growth of jobs in GIS and geospatial technology fields, multiple exit pathways into employment, the opportunity to make a difference, interesting research subjects such as environmental justice, and many other benefits of careers in geography. Resources are being collected and developed to support departmental recruitment efforts.  For example, view information about the AAG's ALIGNED-sponsored "Geography in Focus" photo competition. The integrative subject matter of geography that spans human and physical sciences is being harnessed to encourage students to see the relevance of all geoscience fields and draw them into disciplines and to colleges and universities that they may have not otherwise considered.