Geneseo’s Department of Geography has been named one of the best in the nation, winning the 2018 Award for Bachelors Program Excellence from the American Association of Geographers. Although the award will not be formally presented to the department until next week’s conference in New Orleans, the geography department is already very excited.
“I will say that we were running up and down the hallways that day,” Director of the Urban Studies minor, Chair of Department of Geography and associate professor of geography Jennifer Rogalsky said. “We’ve worked very hard to get to this point.”
One of the reasons cited for this award is the amount of individual and small group research that happens at Geneseo in the geography department. For example, associate professor and sponsored professor for the Letchworth Partnership James Kernan leads directed studies at Letchworth State Park.
“I do a lot of work just with students, supervising their individual work and internships,” Kernan said.
“The high-impact practices—the individual research, fieldwork, the internships or directed studies, funded projects in the summer … it’s probably one of the biggest things that we do, the one-on-one interactions and the sense of community in the department,” Rogalsky said.
One student who has done research with Kernan is geography and biology double major senior Sam Heraghty. Heraghty has had the opportunity to present his research and cites his experience as a testament to the strength of the geography department.
“In the fall, there was a regional conference here. You could definitely tell that the Geneseo students were far better than the other students, and the faculty was at a higher level as well,” Heraghty said. “Everyone was just really good across the board.”
“To get this award, it shows that the geography department can support its students, be able to get them research opportunities, prepare them professionally for the real world and because of the faculty and staff that we have, we can,” Academic Affairs Committee representative and treasurer for Geography Club junior Amanda Beechinor said.
One such research program is a study abroad program in Argentina, run by associate professor of geography David Aagesen. This program is interdisciplinary, and Aagesen claims that he’s had someone from every major come at some point during the 10 years he’s been heading the program. While there, students complete an individual research project, but it is so much more, according to Aagesen.
“The reason I keep doing this program is that I love to see students go through this transformation,” Aagesen said. “Students often come back and change majors. I’ve had students go back to Argentina and volunteer for this nongovernmental organization. The Argentina program is the real deal. It’s not study tourism.”
Another development in the geography department is the continued growth of using the Geographic Information System software.
“It’s a means of collecting geographic data, storing geographic data, analyzing geographic data and visualizing geographic data,” assistant professor Stephen Tulowiecki said. “It’s meant to be a database for geographic data, but it’s also a means of analyzing geographic data as well.”
Tulowiecki directs several research programs that students at Geneseo are completing with the Geographic Information System software, and many of them go to conferences to present their research.
One student who has done research with the Geographic Information System is geography and history double major sophomore Shannon Curley, who is presenting her research at Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement and Talent Day.
“Most of our classes have research as part of the class, so for GIS we’ve done two different research projects,” Curley said.
The number of opportunities the geography department has available for its students shows, and it has paid off in a big way.