Newsletter – October 2015


AAG at the Forefront of Geography Education Change


By Sarah Witham Bednarz

I will keep this column relatively brief because I want you to read a companion piece by Michael Solem, Director of Educational Research and Programs for AAG. In my August column I identified eight actions that I see as key to healthy geography departments: teach, promote, build, innovate, nurture, manage, reflect, and envision. In my September column I wrote about the essential need for us to teach effectively. Since then, an article published in the New York Times Sunday Review summarized research on the positive effects of active learning (defined as “…increased structure, feedback, and interaction prompting students to become participants in constructing their own knowledge rather than passive recipients.”). This article, engagingly entitled “Are College Lectures Unfair?” generated a fair amount of buzz and comment from the public and from my geography friends on Facebook and other social media. People care about good teaching. In a time when higher education is under close scrutiny, this is important to remember. It is good to reflect on one’s teaching practices, in both undergraduate and graduate courses, and try new strategies. It is also important to communicate clearly with our constituencies that we do care about our teaching as much as our research. It is part of promoting ourselves.

Promotion is the theme of this column—and many more to come. I want to begin a conversation about ways to promote our discipline. It is not likely that we will see an editorial like this that appeared in The Guardian on August 13, 2015 in the United States. It calls geography, “a subject for our times” and presents a rich and nuanced description of the range of things geographers do, noting particularly, our employability. So we need to start the buzz on our own. Linking employability with cool spatial technologies may catch the attention of the public. Continue Reading.

Recent columns from the President

AAG Organizes Committee to Develop AP GIS&T Course Proposal

AP_GIST-225x300-1The AAG recently hosted a meeting at its Washington, D.C. offices to prepare a proposal for an Advanced Placement course in the field of Geographic Information Science and Technology.

A writing committee has been formed to lead the development of this proposal, which will consist of a course description, a recommended assessment, a plan for teacher professional development, outreach strategies and an initial list of participating universities and high schools.

According to The College Board’s guidelines, the AP GIS&T course description should represent “the standard, commonly offered college course upon which the proposed AP course will be modeled.” This statement must also include a description of the subsequent course typically offered in the field. The AP GIS&T writing committee’s methodology will include analyzing a sample of syllabi for introductory courses anchoring 2-year and 4-year undergraduate GIS majors and certificate programs. This analysis will build on The GeoTech Center’s model “Introduction to Geospatial Technology” course, which itself is a synthesis of content presently taught in undergraduate geospatial technology course offerings. Learn More.


Featured Themes at AAG 2016

The conference will feature more than 6,000 presentations, posters, and workshops by leading scholars, researchers, and educators. Each year, the AAG identifies a few themes for its Annual Meeting to help focus discussion and provide a fresh and engaging structure to the conference program.

Current themes include:

Please see the links above for more information about how to get involved with these themes.

Attendees are also invited to develop themes relevant to the meeting’s location or influenced by political and intellectual trends within the discipline. As always, any topic relevant to geography is welcome at the AAG annual meeting. For more information, contact Oscar Larson, AAG conference director, at meeting [at] aag [dot] org.

One of several controversial panels at Coit Tower. A library scene painted by Bernard Zakheim, in which patron (fellow muralist John Langley Howard) pulls a copy of Das Kapital from the shelf. Photo: Shaina Potts for the Living New Deal. Mural: Bernard Zakheim

A Taste of New Deal Alphabet Soup in San Francisco

By Alex Tarr

Coming to San Francisco for the annual meeting next spring will mean inevitably traversing a landscape transformed by the New Deal. For those landing at the San Francisco or Oakland Airports, The Works Progress Administration (WPA), Public Works Administration (PWA), and State Emergency Relief Administration (SERA) all had a hand in their growth into major airports. Crossing over the majestic western span of the Bay Bridge is to rely on the New Deal as well. In 1936 when it was completed at the hands of the WPA, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the country. From the bridge, many visitors quickly pick out one of the city’s most visible landmarks, Coit Tower, where the entire interior is covered in New Deal frescos. With funds from the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), the New Deal’s first public arts program, twenty-six artists spent six months in 1934 creating murals of depression era life and the state’s history. The murals were carefully restored last year and are once again on view to the public as a monument not just to California but a historical moment when the federal government invested directly in the arts, infrastructure and its poorest citizens.

Pieces of San Francisco’s history, like that of Coit Tower, are relatively well known. But the extent of the structural and aesthetic improvements made to the city are just now being recovered by a team of researchers and volunteers at the Living New Deal project. Founded and directed by Berkeley Geographers Richard Walker and Gray Brechin (a longer history of the project is available on our website), the Living New Deal works to rediscover, catalog and map the sites of New Deal art and infrastructure.  Read More.

[Focus on San Francisco is an on-going series curated by the Local Arrangements Committee to provide insight on and understanding of the geographies of San Francisco and the Bay Area]



AAG Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Long-Range Plan

This is the third draft of the AAG’s new long-range plan. It makes twenty recommendations in five categories intended to:

  1. Advance geographic research and professional practice
  2. Strengthen education, training and professional development
  3. Provide service and support to members
  4. Promote outreach and engagement; and E) Sustain organizational strength and sustainability. The final section of the plan provides guidance on implementation and assessment.

The plan has been developed over two years with input from many sources. If you wish to comment or suggest changes to the current draft, please contact Ken Foote (ken [dot] foote [at] uconn [dot] edu) by October 25th. Learn More.

Upcoming AAG Award Applications and Nominations Due in October

Deadlines are fast approaching for a number of AAG awards. To nominate someone or apply on your own behalf, please follow the links highlighted in each award listed for instructions or additional information.

The Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Award Recognizes excellence in academic performance by undergraduate students from the United States and Canada who are putting forth a strong effort to bridge geographic science and computer science as well as to encourage other students to embark upon similar program Deadline for nominations is October 15, 2015.

The Harold M. Rose Award for Anti-Racism Research and Practice Honors geographers who have a demonstrated record of advancing the discipline through their research, and who have also had on impact on anti-racist practice. Deadline for nominations is October 15, 2015.

The J. Warren Nystrom Award supports an annual prize for a paper based upon a recent dissertation in geography. Deadline for applications has been extended to October 15, 2015.

The William L. Garrison Award for Best Dissertation in Computational Geography supports innovative research into the computational aspects of geographic science. Deadline for nominations is October 15, 2015.



2016-2017 Pruitt National Dissertation and Minority Fellowships: Call for Applications

Under a generous bequest from Evelyn L. Pruitt, the Society of Woman Geographers (SWG) offers two fellowship programs annually to support women graduate students in the US and Canada in geography and related disciplines. The doctoral awards fund dissertation research. The master’s fellowships support minority women students accepted to or currently enrolled in masters programs in the US or Canada who are citizens of those countries. Details are provided on the Society’s website (see Deadline for applications for the 2016-2017 doctoral awards is February 1, 2016 and for the Minority Award March 15, 2016Learn More.


Alexander Diener Named Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center

Alexander C. Diener, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Kansas, has been named a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies for the 2015-16 school year. This year’s fellows will participate in a seminar on the theme “Mobility, Boundaries and the Production of Power in Eurasia.” Learn More.

Martin Pasqualetti to Receive Melamid Medal

Martin J. Pasqualetti, Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University and Senior Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, has been selected to receive the American Geographical Society’s Alexander and Ilse Melamid Memorial Medal. The medal will be presented on November 20 during the Society’s Fall Symposium. Learn More.


Abstracts for the AAG Geographic Information Science and Systems Specialty Group Student Paper Competition due October 15

The Geographic Information Science and System Specialty Group (GISS-SG) is pleased to announce the 2016 Honors Competition for student papers on Geographic Information Science (GIS) topics, to be presented at the AAG Annual Meeting. The purpose of this competition is to promote scholarship and written and oral presentation by students in the field of GIS. Papers are invited from current graduate and undergraduate students on any topic in geographical information systems and geographic information science. Important Dates: October 15, 2015– Abstract Due; February 1, 2016 – Full Paper DueLearn More.


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