2014 Annual Reports of the AAG Regional Divisions
East Lakes Division (Tom Maraffa)
The East Lakes Division will hold its Annual Meeting with the West Lakes Division at Kalamazoo, hosted by Western Michigan University. The dates of the meeting are October 16-18. The 2015 Annual Meeting will be hosted by Kent State University. Originally planned as a joint meeting with the Applied Geography Conference, it will now be a stand-alone East Lakes meeting.
Based on the limited reports, universities and departments continue to be impacted by the financial condition of higher education in the region. The Geography Major at the University of Akron will likely be discontinued as part of a budget reduction plan announced by their administration. Similarly Wittenberg University, historically one of the strongest and most active private institution geography programs, will also discontinue its geography major. Changes in the public retirement system will result in a wave of retirements in the next couple of years, meaning that departments will be faced with difficulties securing replacements in an increasingly challenging budgetary environment.
Great Plains/Rocky Mountains Division (Brad Rundquist)
GPRM’s 2014 conference is set for Oct. 23-25 in Albuquerque, NM, a joint meeting with the Southwest Division. This marks the first cross-divisional meeting since the 2006 conference in Lincoln, NE, when GPRM met jointly with West Lakes. The conference is being organized by GPRM Chair Dr. Shawn Hutchinson, Kansas State University, and SWAAG Chair Dr. Maria Lane, University of New Mexico. The University of Nebraska at Kearney will host the 2015 meeting. UNK last hosted in 1990.
In general, departments in the region are doing well although concerns remain related to institutional budget restructuring and program prioritization, possible decreases in state funding, and emergence of competing programs on several campuses.
Middle Atlantic Division (Jeremy Tasch)
In early 2014 MAD-AAG held elections through electronic balloting. Running unopposed, the standing vice-chair, Tracy Edwards, Frostburg State University, was elected division chair as well as MAD’s geography bowl coordinator; the current secretary, Karen DeLong, Montgomery College, was elected vice-chair; former chair Michael Radcliffe, U.S. Bureau of the Census, was elected treasurer. The post of webmaster remained unfilled (MAD’s division website was last updated Aug. 20, 2013, and the last time business meeting minutes were posted was 2009). Of the division’s 387 AAG-dues paying members, 29 voted in the division’s election.
The 7% voting turnout suggests a range of issues, including one commented on by MAD members in response to a questionnaire shared online with MAD-members: “What types of changes (broadly envisioned, related to your work in geography) would you most like to see within our regional division?”
Members’ perspectives were solicited via the AAG’s “Knowledge Communities.” The responses coalesced around a common desire to have more frequent and organized opportunities to network, share job information, meet for lunches and dinners with guest speakers, and to meet more often for social-professional get-togethers. Broadly speaking, there appears to be a general interest to have more and stronger communication throughout the year (i.e., not only leading up to the annual MAD and AAG conferences), including more outreach to the community and more notice offered to K-12 colleagues.
Middle States Division (Grant Saff)
The Middle States Board is in the process of reaching out to Department Chairs to try to raise attendance at the annual meeting. They are particularly concerned about the lack of support that larger research institutions show for the regional meeting and are actively working to try to increase their support for the meeting. They consider their lack of encouragement of sending students to the meeting as short-sighted as it deprives students from meeting potential employers and deprives them of valuable job skills. It was suggested by the Board, that to help dispel notions that it was not advantageous for faculty/students to attend the regional meetings, the President of the AAG should consider devoting a column in the monthly AAG Newsletter about the importance of supporting the regional meetings. A few members noted that the proliferation of professional meetings (such as Applied Geography, NCGE, and the Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference) in the fall negatively affects numbers at the annual meeting.
The Board approved the joint purchasing of Geo-Bowl buzzers with 3 other regions. The AAG agreed to pay for half the cost with the remainder shared between the 3 regions. Some Board members felt that due to the regional support of the Geo-Bowl that the AAG should have agreed to pay the full cost of the buzzers.
There is a lack of communication between departments in the region. One suggestion to improve this is a meeting of department chairs (perhaps a regular meeting of chairs at the regional meetings) that “could lead to better communication and stronger interrelationships among programs.” A member from a SUNY institution suggested that it is possible that a SUNY department could propose a “Conversation in the Disciplines” and fund the first one. This is something the Board will need to explore before the meeting in York.
On a positive note, the College of Staten Island now has a new, official Geography major. They also hired a new full-time geography faculty member.
New England/St.Lawrence Valley Division (Richard Kujawa)
NESTVAL released the latest volume of its refereed publication The Northeastern Geographer.
The Annual Meeting for 2014 will be held October 24-25 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH.
While constraints on resources have played a role in limits on hiring and other budgetary challenges at some institutions, others have clearly bounced back and Geography departments and programs have benefitted. The upcoming election in Quebec will play a strong role in allocation of resources for higher education. In the U.S. portion of the region, highlights include new or replacement tenure-track positions at the University of Connecticut (which has an ambitious program to expand the visibility and quality of the graduate program there); at Central Connecticut (with new hires in GIS and Tourism); and at Dartmouth College with two new positions and two new post-docs. The University of Vermont, Westfield State University, and Southern Connecticut University have all made new tenure-track hires.
Programs that offer GIS certificates have seen growth in that sector while Keene State College in New Hampshire is opening a new Community GIS lab. NESTVAL Geographers have continued to support Geographic Alliances to advance Geography in K-12 education. The New Hampshire Alliance has secured a state-wide license for ESRI software for all K-12 schools in the state. Meanwhile, the University of Vermont continues its “across the disciplines” spatial analysis/GIS initiative. Finally it is important to note that several programs have been engaged in cross disciplinary partnerships in Sustainability, the Environment, and Food Systems – some of these at the graduate level.
Pacific Coast Division(Scott Mensing)
The APCG will hold its 2014 annual meeting September 24-27 in Tucson, Arizona. The meeting will be held at the University of Arizona and is being hosted by the School of Geography and Development, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Institute of the Environment and Southern Arizona Geographers Association. Chris Lukinbeal of the University of Arizona and Tina Kennedy of Northern Arizona University are coordinating the conference. Chris also happens to be the President-elect for the APCG.
The organization’s publication, the APCG Yearbook, published once a year since 1935, is now available electronically through JSTOR, exclusive of the most recent three years. APCG president, Sriram Khé, has blogged about once a month on geographical items of interest. The blog can be seen at https://apcgprez.blogspot.com/. He is encouraging a meeting-wide discussion at the APCG Presidential plenary entitled Quo vadis “where are you going” or more to the point for Geographers “where are we going?” This theme picks up from ideas generated through the AAG concerning the direction of departments and specialty groups.
APCG’s Executive Council and the Women’s Network will co-sponsor the Feminist Geography Conference 2014 “Who we are, what we do and why we do it” being held in Omaha, Nebraska. The APCG Women’s Network has a long history in support of women’s activities in Geography.
Southeast Division(Derek Alderman)
SEDAAG will hold its 2014 annual November meeting in Athens, Georgia. It has been 18 years since SEDAAG last met at the University of Georgia and it represents an important effort to encourage the (re)involvement of traditional major Ph.D. program programs in the Regional Division. The participation of faculty members from those programs has fallen off over the past several years. There is some anxiety among the Athens organizers about how to carry out guidelines for AAG-supported childcare at regional meetings. The AAG might consider making an initial contact with local arrangements folks with each region to coordinate, if the association has not already.
At the 2013 SEDAG meeting in Roanoke, Virginia, the Regional Division supported, financially, the participation of several students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It was a major success and the supported students were actively involved in attending papers, posters, social events, and networking with students and faculty. SEDAAG has plans for continuing this support of student attendance from these colleges, with the target being institutions in Georgia for the Athens meeting. The AAG might consider the benefit of a similar program at the national level.
Southwest Division(Ron Hagelman)
SWAAG hosts a regional peer-reviewed journal, The Southwestern Geographer. Until recently, the journal was cooperatively housed at The University of Houston-Clearlake and Texas A&M University. At the fall 2013 business meeting it was agreed that the journal needed to be reinvigorated and reintroduced to potential authors and reviewers. To that end, the Department of Geography at Texas State University volunteered to host the journal (its first home when it was started back in the mid-1990s). The journal will be moving to an Open Access online platform to ensure rapid turn-around, higher visibility, and easier access.
SWAAG has a new website: https://www.sw-aag.org. SWAAG leadership is currently exploring the best way to leverage this site with the capabilities of the Regional Division Knowledge Communities at the AAG. The site will be officially launched this fall in conference with our fall meeting to be held in Albuquerque, NM, and hosted by the University of New Mexico. The meeting will be held in conjunction with the Great Plains/Rocky Mountains Division.
Of both regional and national importance, The Texas State University Department of Geography is happy to announce the formation of the National Center for Research in Geography Education. This Center represents a partnership between the Association of American Geographers and the Texas State Gilbert M. Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education. Visit the NCRGE website for details at www.ncrge.org.
West Lakes Division (Laura Smith)
The 2014 West Lakes annual meeting will be held jointly with the East Lakes Division October 17-19 in Kalamazoo, MI, hosted by Western Michigan University. Lisa DeChano is serving as program chair.
Relevant to Council’s larger discussion of “rebranding” of departments, a number of departments across the region have recently been involved in the creation of new programs at varying levels that have been given names other than “Geography.” Last fall, DePaul University began a new MA program in “Sustainable Urban Development” in which about 60% of the classes are taught by Geography faculty. The University of Missouri Geography Department is in the planning stages of establishing a joint doctoral program with Geological Sciences that would be called a Ph.D. in “Geosciences.” The Geography Department at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville has developed three new minors open to any major across campus – Meteorology/Climatology; Urban Studies (interdisciplinary); GIS – that will go into effect fall 2014.
Department chairs from some of the smaller schools in the region report that their libraries no longer subscribe to GEOBASE as a result of restructured pricing options several years ago, which makes student geographic research especially challenging. Might the pricing options for GEOBASE for small schools be something the AAG could address?