Sunday, April 13, 2014

GEOG 368 Field Seminars in 2014-2015: Oregon & Turkey

The department is happy to report that, in recognition of their high impact on student learning and the central role that field experiences play in a geographic education, the Geography Field Seminar will receive Blugold Commitment Differential Tuition support in 2014-2015.  This support significantly offsets student participation costs and makes them much more accessible to students. It should be noted, however, that international experiences typically cost more than domestic ones.

Wheat fields and Mount Hood, Oregon.
Photo by E. Zeitler.
In the fall semester 2014, the GEOG 368 Field Seminar will be a regional examination of Oregon and its various environments, and will combine the the physical, human-environmental, and human aspects of geography.  Dr. Ezra Zeitler will lead the course and program.  The field component to Oregon is tentatively scheduled to run from 26 September to 5 October.  Thus, students will have the opportunity to prepare for 3-4 weeks before the field experience; upon their return, they will draw on the experience and their findings as they develop and finalize their research projects.  

In Oregon, students will spend time in Portland, Bend, Eugene, Tillamook, Salem, and Astoria traveling between the coast and the interior, visiting the Hood & Columbia Rivers, Crater Lake, Mt. Saint Helens.  They will examine and learn about a wide array of cultural and environmental landscapes -- from indigenous to urban,  agricultural to electrical,  touristic to gentrified, and sandy to igneous.  The comparison to the upper Midwest will be rich.

To learn more, or if you are interested in participating in the Fall 2014 Field Seminar to Oregon, please see Dr. Ezra Zeitler.

The Sultan Ahmet Mosque and the Hagia Sophia, where the
Bosphorus Strait meets the Marmara Sea.

Photo by P. Kaldjian.
The Spring 2015 GEOG 368 Field Seminar will be an international field experience to Istanbul and its surrounding areas. I will draw on my years of research in the region, relationships with its people and places, and experiences leading UWEC immersion trips to Turkey in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  This will be a slightly different GEOG 368 experience.  We will study and prepare the entire spring semester (2015) for the trip and then travel for 3-4 weeks in May/June, right when the semester is over.  The preparatory semester will include studying rudiments of the Turkish language, learning about Thracian and Anatolian geography, place, culture, history, and daily life, and preparing our research projects.

The field component will be a largely urban experience, and we will spend time examining various elements of the region's physical geography, Istanbul's food systems, rural-to-urban migration, Turkey's various ethnic subgroups, the city and region's long history, intersections with globalization, political-economic change, and ongoing and dynamic human-environment interactions.  We will also travel into Turkey's interior, up to the Black Sea, and into the former Ottoman region of northern Greece.

To learn more, or if you are interested in participating in the Spring/Summer 2015 Field Seminar to Turkey, please see me (Dr. Paul Kaldjian).  Course fees for this program should be estimated by the end of the summer.

4 UWEC students at national geography conference in Florida

This past week, the Association of American Geographers (AAG) held its Annual Meeting, this time in Tampa. The AAG has been hosting annual meetings every year since 1904.  I am not sure what the attendance was in Tampa, but last year in Los Angeles there were over 7,000 attendees.  That's a lot of geographers.

Arik Arnevik & Jackson Becker in front of
their poster at AAG 2014, Tampa, FL

UW-Eau Claire has a long history of student and faculty participation at the AAG Annual Meetings, and we are suspect that we bring as many undergraduate participants as nearly any other school in the country.  This year, in addition to seven UW-Eau Claire faculty participants, we were proud to have four students successfully present their research.  

Nate Wick explains details of his research to
Ross Guida ('09), now in the PhD program
at Southern Illinois University.
Nathaniel Wick presented a poster of the research he conducted with recent UWEC geography graduate Sam Krueger and their research mentor Doug Faulkner.  Their poster, A Detailed Long Profile of the Lower Chippewa River: Evidence of Ongoing Episodic Incision was one of nearly 30 posters in a session entitled Geomorphology, Hazards, and Vulnerability.  Jackson Becker and Arik Arnevik presented their research poster, Active Channel Loss on the Lower Chippewa River Due to Reed Canary Grass, on work that they, too, did with Dr. Faulkner.  And Joey Quintana was one of 8 presenters in the Economic, Cultural, and Regional Geography  illustrated poster session for the work that he did with Ezra Zeitler.  The title of their research poster is Impacts of Corporate Water Parks on Residents' Sense of Place and Place Promotion in Wisconsin Dells and Lake Delton, Wisconsin.

Click on names of the posters for the research abstracts and to get a feel for the kind of work our students are doing; to see the range of work presented in the poster sessions, and to see the kind of research that that others with similar interests are conducting, click on the poster session name. 

In addition to presenting their research, meeting scholars, and learning of research from around the world, our students had the opportunity to meet numerous other UW-Eau Claire graduates who have gone on to graduate schools in such places as the University of Tennessee, Southern Illinois, Penn State and Kansas.  It becomes apparent that participating among a community of scholars and researchers at such conferences can be a powerful and inspirational  professionalization opportunity for our students. We are very thankful for the opportunity that UW-Eau Claire --  through the Blugold Commitment, the work of ORSP, and the Simpson Fund -- creates to enable this kind of participation.  Such financial support of undergraduate research and travel to professional presentations is truly distinctive among geography programs world-wide.  

Next year at the AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago, we hope to increase student participation by working with our students and encouraging them to think about the possibility early in the school year.

Though it was at a different national conference, I suspect that Drew Briski had a similar experience at the annual conference of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) in Louisville, KY (23-28 March) where he presented a poster and gave a lightening talk on his research with Dr. Cyril Wilson in the Land Use/Land Cover and Change Detection session. The title of their presentation was Spectral and Socioeconomic Assessment of Land Use/Land Cover Changes in the Chippewa Valley Metropolitan Area, WI.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our geographer in Amman, Jordan

Hillary on GEOG 319 field trip
at Friday prayers  at mosque
in Twin Cities
, MN spring 2012.
Just a week or so ago, we received just that kind of note that faculty and departments love to get from their graduates -- an update that all is well and that aspirations are being fulfilled. 

We are very happy to learn that Hillary Johnson has accepted a GIS Intern position with the French NGO ACTED (Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development) and will soon be working in Amman, Jordan. Hillary graduated with her geography degree in Spring 2012, and has been working at Garmin International in the Kansas City area since fall 2012.  As a human geographer with interests in humanitarian aid and sustainable development, and with a kit of geospatial skills, she had been thinking of continuing her studies in graduate school.   Those will now wait.  

Hillary on GEOG 319 field trip to Kurdish
restaurant in Twin Cities
, MN spring 2012.
In April, Hillary goes to Paris for three days of training, then on to Amman for half a year.  While she does not yet know what she will be doing, she explains that the majority of ACTED's work in Jordan is emergency relief for thousands of refugees -- she expects to spend half of her time in the field and the other half in an office.  If all goes well, she hopes to transition into a GIS Officer role, if not in Jordan, then perhaps in a place like Kenya or Mozambique. It's a huge change but she is, in her own words, "Super excited! Good thing I took the Middle East [GEOG 319 - Geography of Middle East and North Africa] class so I can take that knowledge into real life!"

The funny thing is, the very week we heard from Hillary, one of the students in my intro Human Geography course asked me if geography was a good discipline in preparation for working with refugees!!  Well, it seems it can be.

May all go well, Hillary, and we look forward to updates and pictures.  

PS. I hope you bring your piccolo or flute.  Everybody likes music. 
(Hillary played piccolo in UWEC's marching band.)

Other Geography programming changes for 2014-15

This past fall, the Department of Geography & Anthropology made numerous catalog changes to the geography curriculum, some of which will have implications for the geography major. These are part of an ongoing attempt to improve our program, our offerings and how we prepare our students -- not only geography majors, but those from other disciplines who take our courses. The implications for continuing majors will scarcely be noticeable, but there will be new requirements for students arriving at UWEC under the 2014-2015 calendar.

Perhaps the biggest change will be that, in the future, geography majors will be required to take GEOG 368, the geography field seminar -- this was already discussed in the blog post of 1 February.  But there is more.  

Comprehensive Environmental Geography majors will now be required to take at least  one upper level physcial geography course and one upper lever human-environmental geography course.  Until now, this was not a requirement, and comprehensive environmental geography majors could, curiously, slip through without maximizing their geographic benefits.  In the same way, comprehensive International Geography majors will now be required to take an upper level, non-us regional geography or anthropology course.  We think too highly of our faculty and programming to not encourage our students to intentionally plan for these courses.

We have also changed a couple of course names to properly capture refinements and shifting emphases in our curriculum and programming.  GEOG 200 (currently Geography Techniques) is to be renamed as Foundations of Geography and GEOG 280 (currently Introduction to Cartography) shall be Cartographic Design

Such change is more than superficial. GEOG 200 will now be explicitly targeted for geography majors and will be used to prepare our students with core geographic principles that we had been assuming they were picking up. No longer do we need to assume -- we will now be able to know!  Dr. Ezra Zeitler has been leading the effort to revamp the curriculum for the Foundations of Geography.

Those non-geography majors who were taking GEOG 200 less for fundamental geographic principles and ideas, and more for cartographic techniques and skills for application in their own majors, will be directed to the new GEOG 280.  We now expect to reach even more students across campus through Dr. Sean Hartnett's cartographic skills (click on the link to find examples of Sean's work).  And, with its emphasis on the broadly applicable, creative, and artistic, we shall propose that the new Cartographic Design be recognized as a General Education/Liberal Education core course.

We are excited about these changes and other upcoming changes for what they portend for student success, opportunity and possibility.  They arelittle things, but may have big consequences. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

All Majors Geography & Anthropology Summit

Members of SAGGA introducing the All Majors Summit

A summit suggests mountain-top experiences, high-level gathering, meetings of the minds. Well, the Student Advisory Group for Geography and Anthropology (SAGGA) with support from the Geography and Anthropology Club recently hosted the first of what we hope are annual summits to bring geography and anthropology majors and minors together with department faculty and staff to highlight our disciplinary community and tradition.  

About 60 geography and anthropology students, staff and faculty gathered on Thursday, February 27th, in the Davies Center's Dakota and Alumni rooms from 5-7:30 pm to share and encourage.  SAGGA's program was designed for faculty, staff and students to meet, to get to know one another, and to learn from each others' experiences.  Over refreshments, students shared their stories in small groups and, more formally, the department presented programmatic developments and academic opportunities.  Students were given the opportunity to provide feedback and comments, which SAGGA will use to compile suggestions for the department.

Geography majors after the Summit
Indeed, our department is just large enough that students can move through our program oblivious to faculty outside of specific interest areas, and oblivious to the range of opportunities available to them.  The Summit was an attempt to begin to redress that and encourage students to introduce themselves and get to know more of the faculty, their peers, and the possibilities offered by the department.  By many accounts, the Summit was a success.  I, for one, met numerous students for the first time and heard their individual stories, stories that may otherwise have passed me right by.

May this first summit be a reminder and encouragement that we are the better for building relationships and working together.