AAG Early Career and Department Leadership Webinar Series Continues in Fall 2021

By Julaiti Nilupaer, Mark Revell, Ken Foote and Shannon O’Lear 

This May marked the culmination of a year-long series of webinars developed by the AAG in partnership with past president Ken Foote (University of Connecticut) and current council member Shannon O’Lear (University of Kansas). The Early Career and Department Leadership webinar series launched in fall 2020 as part of the AAG’s COVID-19 Rapid Response initiatives also represents a broader effort at the AAG to expand year-round programming for members and the wider geography community. Read on for results from this year’s series and news about the series that will kick off this fall.  To access the series, click here for Early Career webinars and here for Department Leadership webinars.

The series has featured two distinct but interconnected themes: (1) building and sustaining strong academic programs and (2) helping students and young geographers navigate their early careers. The department leadership thread has covered a wide range of topics, from the impacts of COVID-19 on the future directions of graduate programs, to questions about rebranding, renaming, merging or blending geography with other programs, to creating inclusive courses and curricula, facilitating respectful workplaces and being a good colleague. Early career-themed webinars have focused on articulating career pathways and helping young geographers build strong professional networks, as well as the value they bring to a diverse range of business, government, and nonprofit sector careers.

Locations of 536 attendees from Spring 2021 webinars. Approximately 84% of them were in the United States.

Over the whole year, the series has so far attracted 2,454 registrations. This spring, 536 live attendees across 23 countries (see Map 1) participated in at least one webinar. AAG survey data found that most audience members were either employed in higher education or were graduate students pursuing master’s degree or PhD; 77 percent of them identified themselves as human geographers. Regarding their overall experience (on a scale of 1-5), 72 percent of audience members rated a 4 or 5 (see Graph 1) and were looking forward to more opportunities to engage with panelists and other audience members. Graph 2 below highlights some of the attendees’ experiences. 

Graph 1. Feedback on attendees’ overall experience for Spring webinars

The AAG thanks those from across the discipline who volunteered to help lead the webinars. Altogether 42 panelists and presenters were involved during the year, including faculty, students, and professionals from a wide range of universities, organizations, and businesses. The organizers benefited greatly from suggestions made by panelists and the audience about topics to address in future webinars. We are sincerely grateful for every attendee who participated regardless of time zones, offered insightful comments, asked thoughtful questions, and provided honest feedback that will make the upcoming events even better. 

Graph 2: Feedback from attendees for Spring webinars.

This Fall, More of a Good Thing 

AAG is pleased to announce the continuation (and expansion) of the Early Career and Department Leadership webinar series through 2022 and beyond. We are excited to find new ways to serve our members. Based largely on audience feedback, here are some ideas we are using to create webinar events that we hope will address the needs and interests of AAG members, from students to department chairs and everyone in between:  

  • More sessions on early career topics: The AAG will continue to provide webinars on careers in geography, including on academic career paths for geography PhDs; strategies for funding, grant writing and publishing; and active pedagogy. 
  • More sessions on department leadership: The AAG will continue next year on topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion; leadership styles and strengths; and supporting non-tenure track faculty. 
  • More career mentoring opportunities: The AAG recognizes the strong need for attendees to receive timely and high-quality mentoring from panelists. Our early career webinars this fall will feature extended time for open discussion and career-oriented mentoring. 
  • More networking space for each session: The AAG will update the webinar format to make it easier for attendees to network with one another virtually. 

An exciting collaboration opportunity this fall will be the AAG Regions Connect meeting in October, a first-ever convening of several AAG Regional Divisions’ fall meetings over a span of a few days, with a climate-forward model for sharing virtual content along with in-person gatherings. The AAG is working with the regional meeting organizers to provide career and professional development sessions during AAG Regions Connect. Registration and details for AAG Regions Connect will follow soon.

To attend a free session, visit the AAG Early Career Webinar series here, and the AAG Department Leadership webinar series here.

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0097


Have a great idea for an Early Career or Department Leadership webinar? We’d like to hear from you. Send your suggestions to Mark Revell, Manager of Career Programs and Disciplinary Research. 

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Participate in AAG’s New Career and Research Mentors Program

Within AAG’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Task Force, members proposed the creation of a mentoring program in a time when students and colleagues may have limited access to previous peer and professional contacts and mentors, while also facing new challenges. In response, the AAG has created a new program with the goal of facilitating more connections in our community and keeping students and early career geographers energized and engaged with their geography education, research, and careers. While this program is in response to the pandemic and the related disruption of activities, the availability of volunteer mentors helps to serve those who at any time have limited access to geography mentors and professional support.

How does it work?  AAG members may volunteer to be a mentor by signing up online and providing information about their areas of expertise and interest. Students and early career geographers seeking a mentor can view the current list of volunteers and reach out through the provided contact information to start a dialogue. An active AAG membership is required for volunteer mentors only, not those seeking a mentor.

While the program only recently launched, over 40 AAG members have already signed up as mentors. Their specialty areas range the breadth of geography, and their interests and experiences can speak to diverse circumstances and challenges of students and early career geographers. Current volunteers note personal and professional experience with underrepresented groups, non-traditional students, switching careers, work/life balance, English as a second language, non-academic career paths, and more. Among all mentors is the shared desire to support our discipline and help others benefit from positive mentoring experiences like those that have helped them:

  • “It’s important to build community and capacity within our discipline. Mentoring helps to pay it back for all those who paid it forward.”
  • “I got where I am today because of the guidance and help of others.  I would love to give that back to our discipline.”
  • “It’s so important to have support networks, and I have also found that passing it forward helps me to sustain my own well being.”

For more information, to sign up as a mentor, or to view the list of volunteer mentors, visit aag.org/mentorship. For questions, contact us at mentoring [at] aag [dot] org.

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Powerful Geography: Place & Social Justice

Social Justice and Place-Based Geographic Research

Dr. Naya Jones describes being a health geographer applying scholarship on place and social justice to improve marginalized communities. She is managing director at Get Rooted Consulting. This video is part of NCRGE’s Powerful Geography series.

Directed by: Thomas Larsen, Michael Solem, and Sean Taylor

Filmed by: Thomas Larsen

Sponsors: American Association of Geographers (AAG), National Center for Research in Geography Education (NCRGE)

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Powerful Geography: Mapping and Community Engagement

Social Justice and Place-Based Geographic Research

Dr. Naya Jones describes being a health geographer applying scholarship on place and social justice to improve marginalized communities. She is managing director at Get Rooted Consulting. This video is part of NCRGE’s Powerful Geography series.

Directed by: Thomas Larsen, Michael Solem, and Sean Taylor

Filmed by: Thomas Larsen

Sponsors: American Association of Geographers (AAG), National Center for Research in Geography Education (NCRGE)

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