Association of American Geographers
About AAG Membership Annual Meeting Projects & Programs Education Publications Calendar Of Events Jobs & Careers

The ALIGNED Project

Addressing Locally-tailored Information Infrastructure & Geoscience Needs for Enhancing Diversity

Where do we look to attract a more diverse group of students to our program? And what do we do once we find them?
These are common questions asked at the departmental level, the reproductive core of our discipline and the place where students enter and engage with universities through their majors. Despite growing national support for broadening participation in higher education, increasing university- level commitment to pursue goals of inclusion at their institutions, and widespread agreement with the goal of enhancing diversity within departments, undergraduate and graduate advisors can often find themselves at a loss for where and how to engage potential students from traditionally underrepresented populations.

Answering questions which include the interrogative “where” are quite familiar to many geographers, although in too few instances have we collectively directed this valuable academic perspective to applications for recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups within departments. Insights from existing geographic research and information systems awaits application to the design of knowledge-based, placespecific, locationally-informed strategies to enhance diversity in geography programs, enabling departments to define appropriate collective visions of diversity and devise effective and feasible plans to reach recruitment and retention goals.

To launch a process of collecting our current disciplinary insight to directly support the way departments address diversity in geography, the AAG has proposed and received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences Program for a project “Addressing Locally-tailored Information Infrastructure & Geoscience Needs for Enhancing Diversity.”

Learn more about the ALIGNED approach

 Access the ALIGNED Toolkit Beta (requires login)

 Explore the AAG Diversity Clearinghouse

NSF Award OEDG #0914645

Our advisors with expertise in geosciences, education, diversity, spatial analysis and other relevant fields are contributing their extensive experience working with diversity enhancement on their campuses, including from community colleges to doctoral universities at a broad set of geographic locations across the country. The diverse team itself represents traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, ethnic minority, gay, and foreign-born researchers in recognition of the value of multiple perspectives to help mobilize and retool departments with better ways to learn where to find and how to connect with underrepresented groups, including how to convey the relevance of geography and geoscience careers.  


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



AAG Diversity Programs

People Making a Difference

MSI Resources

ALIGNED Research Articles

Diversity Clearinghouse

Other Featured Resources


Principal Investigator

Dr. Patricia Solís, AAG Director of Outreach and Strategic Initiatives


Dr. Inés Miyares (City University of New York)

Senior Personnel

Dawn Wright (Oregon State University);Chrys Rodrigue (California State University—Long Beach); Michael Solem (AAG)

The ALIGNED Board of Advisors

Greg Chu, Cynthia Berlin; Darryl Cohen, US Bureau of the Census; Leslie Duram; Ken Foote, University of Colorado and AAG President; Wendy Jepson; Al Kuslikis, American Indian Higher Education Consortium; Victoria Lawson, University of Washington; Lisa Marshall; David Padgett, University of Tennessee; Renee Pualani Louis, AAG Indigenous Peoples’ Specialty Group and IGU Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledges and Rights Commission; Alex Ramirez, Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities; Rickie Sanders, Temple University; Rebecca Torres. 


AAG Staff

Jean McKendry, Joy Adams, Astrid Ng


Technical and Toolkit Mapping Work

Kevin Knapp, Tierra Plan LLC


ALIGNED Pilot Departments

Illinois State University, University of Missouri - Kansas City, University of North Carolina -Wilmington, University of Texas - Austin, Texas A&M University, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, Southern Illinois University - Carbondale



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