Autumn 2019

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends,

Hello from the Department of Geography! I am delighted to share so many recent highlights with you, our alumni and friends.

This year is off to an exciting start! We welcomed four outstanding new graduate students and two new assistant professors. Dr. Carrie Freshour studies race, place and labor politics in the rural American South, and is developing new collaborative research on "labor ecologies" that will examine struggles by Native nations, workers’ coalitions, and environmental organizations for sovereignty, economic, and environmental justice in the coastal Pacific Northwest. Dr. Bo Zhao develops digital spatial methodologies for analyzing sociospatial perceptions and experiences of vulnerable groups and his newest research integrates GIScience, cognitive science, and environmental psychology to develop techniques for transforming the spatial logics of location-based services (LBS) toward human perceptions and emotions such as fear, calm, excitement, and so on.

In late November, faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the department gathered for what we hope will become a popular annual event, Geographers in Practice. This panel discussion featured alumni speakers discussing the ways in which their understanding of geography has affected their professional activities, public service and activism. Special guests included twenty students in our brand-new course exploring career opportunities for geographers, and the alumni mentors who supported them this quarter: Haneen Al-Hassani, Julie Blakeslee, Elise Kelly and Helen Olsen. Thank you to all who helped launch this event, and we look forward to seeing you at Geographers in Practice next year!

In faculty news, Professors Suzanne Withers and Michael Brown launched an exciting new undergraduate course called "Genealogical Geographies,” which brings together historical geography and spatial genealogy to involve students in geohistorical analysis of their own families and building multimedia story maps of their families’ lived geographies and histories. Professor Withers writes, “It was a privilege to lead the students through the process of discovering their genealogical identity. The journey was deeply personal, and deeply reflective. It is a raw journey - one to be traveled together, gently."

As always, we are proud of our students’ accomplishments! Geography student Racquel West’s work with the Burke Museum was recently featured in Perspectives, the College of Arts & Sciences’ quarterly magazine. Our student organization, Plenum, continues to organize vitally important community building activities for our ever-growing group of geography majors (300 and counting!) and catalyze co-curricular activities that deepen their learning such as regular coffee hours with faculty. Graduate student Emma Gause, currently completing an M.A. in Geography and an M.S. in Epidemiology, had the opportunity to meet U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams when he visited UW recently, sharing ideas from her research on firearm suicide and opioid deaths in the United States. Supported by generous gifts to the department, we are delighted to award research fellowships to four Ph.D. students who are completing their dissertations in the coming year: Caitlin Alcorn, Rob Anderson, Austin Crane and Ross Doll. These fellowships allow a doctoral student to focus exclusively on their research and writing for a full quarter, with tremendous positive impacts. One previous fellow remarked that their award offered "a remarkable opportunity to reconnect to the basic curiosity and passion for knowledge and learning that brought me to graduate school in the first place.” Another fellow stated "In those final months of writing, I was extremely grateful not only for the extra time that the financial support allowed me to spend on my research rather than teaching, but also for the boost of confidence that I felt knowing that my research was significant enough to be given a fellowship.”

In alumni news, this past summer Emeritus Professors Bill Beyers and Richard Morrill, along with Larry Goss, Mary Kelley and Susan Williams organized a reunion for graduates of our M.A. and Ph.D. programs from the 1950s and early 1970s. They visited campus for a lunch and tour of the department, and all were happy to reconnect with longtime friends, department staff and faculty. Those of us who are newer arrivals to Smith Hall learned a great deal of departmental history!

As friends and alumni, you play a crucial role in supporting the future of the department. We are grateful for your gifts, your continued involvement in department events and programs, and especially your efforts to champion geography in your professional and personal communities. Please keep in touch as we are always happy to hear from you!

Warm wishes,

Sarah Elwood-Faustino, Professor and Chair