Autumn 2020

Dear Friends,

Hello from the Department of Geography! As the school year is now in full swing, I write to share recent news and highlights, and to wish you well in this difficult time. To keep everyone in the department as safe and healthy as possible, we’ve continued virtual teaching and remote operations. This poses challenges, and some unexpected advantages, but the life of the department is as vibrant as ever!

This fall, we grew to 406 undergraduate students (and counting!) in our majors, launched 9 outstanding new graduate students from around the world, and welcomed Dr. Kessie Alexandre in the role of Assistant Professor. Dr. Alexandre studies the political, public health risk and ethics of infrastructure; environmental racism, climate justice and the social implications of climate change adaptation; and Black geographies and diaspora. This quarter marks another noteworthy transition: The December retirement of department administrator Sharon Frucci, after over 25 years at the UW, including twelve and a half years with the Department of Geography. We are so grateful for everything Sharon has brought to us, including many of you; we are also delighted to welcome new administrator, Lindsay Cael. Our faculty members continue to play significant leadership roles across the university, including Dr. Vicky Lawson with the University Honors Program, Dr. Mark Ellis with the Northwest Federal Statistical Research Data Center, and Dr. Kim England with the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies

Geography faculty, students, and staff are building significant co-curricular research and public scholarship in collaboration with students and communities near and far. This summer, the People’s Geography of Seattle Research Team (including Assistant Professor Dr. Carrie Freshour, Ph.D. student Soohyung Hur, geography student Anthony Tran, Adjunct Professor Dr. Christian Anderson, MUP student Dejai Mitchell & alum Elena Lecoq) launched collaborative research with King County Equity Now, in support of KCEN’s coalitional efforts to secure unused public parcels of land in Seattle for equity- and community-focused land uses. Learn more about the People’s Geography of Seattle team and their work to “put the public back in public university” in this video.  In November, Dr. Bo Zhao and students in his Humanistic GIS Lab organized our first-ever virtual GIS Day activities, including an event gathering people to add COVID-19 relevant public health facilities to OpenStreetMap (OSM), a free, editable community-based map service.

Converting departmental events to all-virtual format has offered some wonderful opportunities to engage many of you who live and work far from Smith Hall! The Colloquium Committee launched our 2020-2021 series with a live Zoom lecture by Dr. Melanie Malone that turned out a record-breaking 75 faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends. You are warmly invited to join us for Winter 2021 virtual colloquium talks. In November, our second annual Geographers in Practice event and its companion course, Career Exploration & Mentorship for Geographers, brought together current students, faculty, staff, and alumni to share their experiences and reflections on launching professional and community activities that act on urgent societal issues through a geographical lens. We are especially grateful to Geographers in Practice speakers and Anisa Jackson (class of 2015), Mamie Jallow (2008) and Matt Manolides (2004), as well as to alumni mentors Moncerrat Cisneros (2010), Gizelle Gando (2018), Elise Kelly (2011), Sylvie Shiosaki (2016), and Racquel West (2020). Check out the virtual program and get involved in the department’s College to Careers programming here.

As friends and alumni, you play a crucial role in supporting these accomplishments – and sustaining the life of this community during an especially difficult period. Gifts to Friends of Geography have allowed us to “flip” computers in our Sherman Lab for secure remote access by students whose home technology poses a barrier to completing their coursework remotely. Gifts in support of graduate education have allowed us to continue an expanded program of single-quarter Ph.D. fellowships, including an Autumn 2020 Gerlach Fellowship to Phil Neel and an Autumn 2020 Morrill Fellowship to Xiaxia Yang.

We are so grateful for your support, your involvement in department events and programs, and 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