Spring 2020

Letter from the Chair

Dear Friends,

Hello from the Department of Geography! I write to share recent news and highlights from the department, and to wish you well in this difficult time.

Many of you have wondered how students, staff and faculty are doing in these last months, as we have navigated the COVID-19 crisis, the university’s rapid pivot to remote operations, and searing protests of racism, anti-blackness, and police violence in Seattle and nationwide. All of this is extremely challenging, and I am deeply proud of how all members of the department are responding.  

As alumni and friends, you know well that a commitment to social justice and public scholarship lies at the heart of our department’s history and identity. Right now, this means systematically exposing racialized inequities, stating unequivocally that Black lives matter, and working to end systems of racism that perpetuate social and spatial injustices. Our faculty, teaching assistants, and advisors created crucial spaces of connection, learning, and thriving for our students as they worked through the spring quarter amidst tremendous upheaval. Faculty and students continue to bring their creative skills to bear in this effort – organizing, listening, teaching, and learning together, on campus and beyond.

As the pandemic prompted UW to move to remote instruction in March, faculty and graduate instructors collaborated with staff to build robust online courses at great speed. Our undergraduates successfully completed their courses from around the world, while juggling school, work, and family circumstances and learning to learn in completely new ways. Geography graduate students continue adapting their research plans to adjust to physical distancing requirements. Generous gifts to the department allowed us to offer a modest emergency grant to all our graduate students to assist them with the financial burdens of Washington State’s stay-at-home order. We are deeply grateful for this support. 

Last week we celebrated our largest ever graduating class – nearly 150 B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees granted this academic year! Two geography undergraduates, Anush Mughetsyan and Racquel West, were named to the Husky 100, an annual recognition of students for their commitment to inclusivity and capacity for leadership. Graduate students continue to win recognition and funding for their research. Rob Anderson won an Alvord Fellowship in the Humanities for his dissertation work on the politics of science in wolf conservation and management, and Elizabeth Shoffner a prestigious 2020-21 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship for her research on conversation practice and decoloniality along the Rio Uruguay.

In alumni news, we are saddened by the passing of Geography alumnus and UW campus leader Dr. Gabriel Gallardo. Most recently an associate vice president in the Office Minority Affairs and Diversity, Dr. Gallardo enacted a deep commitment to students, colleagues, and programs supporting underrepresented students, and leaves a tremendous legacy.

As friends and alumni, you play a crucial role in supporting these accomplishments. We are so grateful for your gifts, 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