Friday, May 2, 2014

EarthView Returns to State House

Because it attracts cameras and crowds, EarthView is the department's most visible example of public outreach. Much more important, however, are the many connections our faculty, students and alumni make throughout the region on a regular basis in schools, planning agencies, private companies, service organizations and more.

EarthView helped to make the Great Hall of Flags an even more dramatic setting than usual for the annual State Universities Advocacy Day at the Massachusetts State House. Every year, student leaders gather to let their legislators know some of the great things that are happening in the nine state universities across the Commonwealth.

This year, BSU geography students Dennis Corvi and Kevin Bean were part of the delegation, while Professors Vernon Domingo and James Hayes Bohanan joined with alumna Ashley Costa to share EarthView with students from across Massachusetts, as well as State House visitors from across the state and around the world.

In addition to advocating for ongoing support of public higher education, the event became an opportunity to promote geography education through legislation that was introduced by Sen. Brewer of Barre and Rep. Smola (a geographer) of Palmer. More about that legislative effort is on the blog of the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance.

It has been quite a busy week for EarthView, with three very public appearances reaching about 700 people, beginning with Earth Day at the State House, continuing with a school vacation week appearance at the Hanover Mall, and concluding with this return to the State House.

More photographs -- mostly by Ashley Costa, who is not only a geographer but also a professional photographer -- are on the EarthView at State House Flickr set.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Larry Brown

The field of geography has lost another of its great thinkers this week, with the passing of Dr. Lawrence Brown of The Ohio State University. Born the same year as Dr. Harm de Blij, who died just a week ago, Dr. Brown was equally influential in his own way. The two men could not have been more different in personal style, but they shared the same level of passion for geographic thinking and productivity as geography scholars.

Both will be sorely missed.

Dr. Daniel Sui of the OSU Department of Geography recently sent the following obituary notice to colleagues throughout the world:

I am deeply saddened to share with you the news that Dr. Lawrence Alan Brown passed away peacefully around 10:43am this morning, surrounded by his family and close friends, at Zusman Hospice, 1151 College Avenue, Bexley, Ohio.

Larry was born in 1935 and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania to immigrant parents. His life and work reflects in many ways the classic American immigrant story of success. His father and other relatives fled the pogroms in Ukraine; and the family name was changed from Browarnick to Brown when they immigrated to the U.S. via Ellis Island. His parents instilled in him deep values about the importance of education and achievement.

A self-described “dead-end kid,” Larry initially aspired to be an auto mechanic which may explain his affinity for late-model BMWs. Instead of technical school, Larry went to college after high school because it meant something to his immigrant parents. He received his undergraduate degree in 1958 from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, with a B.S. degree in Economics/Business . He first worked as an accountant in New Orleans and then tried law school before discovering his true passion for geography, enrolling in the graduate program at Northwestern University in Chicago in the early 1960s.

The roots of Larry’s interest in geography were set much earlier, however, when he and his brother Ed travelled through Latin America, driving down the Pan American Highway in the late-1950s.  There he encountered an international development worker who shared Preston James’ book - Latin America (1950) with him—an event that Larry often recounted in stories of his early discovery of geography. His formal training began at Northwestern where he earned an MA in geography in 1963 and PhD in 1966. The renowned Swedish geographer, Torsten H├Ągerstrand, supervised his dissertation fieldwork on innovation and diffusion processes.

Larry’s seminal book, Innovation Diffusion: A New Perspective (1981, Methuen), provided the definitive account of the ongoing adoption and spread of new products and techniques. Earlier research had emphasized the adopters themselves, but Larry refocused attention to the social and geographic processes that supported transformative technologies, products, and behaviors.  Later, his research on mobility and migration offered new insights into why and where people move. His pioneering theory of intra-urban migration (with Eric Moore) in 1970 separated residential mobility process into two stages: dissatisfaction with the current home and the search for a new one. This influential work inspired several generations of demographers and  urban geographers who went on to clarify the mobility behavior of young adults just leaving the family home, the role of residential change in the upward mobility of new immigrants, and the way local housing markets affect homeownership—all compelling and socially significant issues today. More recently, up to and following the publication of another important book, Place, Migration and Development in the Third World (1990, Routledge), Larry’s research sought to show how context shapes the relations among urbanization, economic growth, and population change in Latin America, Third World development, and  in US metropolitan areas.

In addition to these groundbreaking intellectual achievements, Larry’s legacy to OSU and the field of geography lies in his generous, strategic, and unstinting mentorship of graduate students. As a faculty member at OSU, he advised thirty PhD students in all, many of whom are intellectual leaders themselves today. He made a lifetime commitment to those who chose to work with him: following their careers, offering advice when asked, writing hundreds of timely, and pointed letters of recommendation; taking an interest in their personal lives, and being the go-to person in times of need. He had a special relationship with a large cluster of doctoral graduates from Korea, and the story goes that his sociable participation in karaoke sessions won him lasting admiration and gratitude. His hallmark departmental "pointer" was a very simple yet effective item to have people remember their visits, and of course, also came in handy in the classroom.
In a lifetime of professional effort he deservedly earned high honors himself. He was President of the Association of American Geographers, Department Chair (at the same time!), a Guggenheim Fellow, President of the Regional Science Association, and a Distinguished University Professor at Ohio State. In recognition of his extraordinary vision and leadership in the field of geography, the AAG presented its Lifetime Achievement Honors Award to Larry in 2008. Larry also worked assiduously to advance the many causes he championed. As department chair, he nominated countless colleagues for teaching, service, and research honors, as well as honorary doctorates. He nominated former students for similar positions at their home universities.

There were also sides to him of which few were aware. Larry had been a consummate golfer in earlier years. He was a very good tennis player and an excellent swimmer. He had an extensive collection of blues and American roots music. He was widely read outside the social sciences.. He felt things deeply and cared for people. And yet, those of you who know Larry will not be surprised that he spent the final days at his place of work: a corner office in Derby Hall with a window facing Bricker Hall where his light often burned late into the night. The hallways and hearts of OSU geography faculty, staff, and students are filled with reminders of Larry’s devotion to the discipline, to his friends, colleagues, and students.  His style and dedication to service has shaped the way we are today, and this lives on in the Lawrence A. Brown Faculty Fellowship.

“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” The first floor of Derby Hall will be different without Larry.  He will be forever missed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

de Blij in Bridgewater

Thanks to our colleagues in the public affairs office at BSU for digging into the archive and posting a remembrance of Dr. Harm de Blij's 2009 visit to Bridgewater.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Harm's Hero

Harm de Blij was a hero to many geographers, but he had a hero of his own. The day after his death, I received the 16th edition of his famous textbook Realms, Regions, and Concepts -- co-authored with Peter O. Muller and Jan Nijman. It includes this dedication page:

To Malala Yousafzai

Shot in the head by the Taliban near her school in Pakistan, she survived unimaginable challenges and displayed boundless courage by ascending the global stage and exhorting her classmates and girls everywhere never to stop learning and always to seek the knowledge that gives women power.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Harm de Blij

Geographers throughout North America were saddened to receive this notice earlier today. The writers are the executive director of the AAG and a frequent co-author of Dr. de Blij. In addition to the many accomplishments listed in this official obituary, he was a resident of Cape Cod and a friend of this department.

Dear Colleagues,

We are sorry to convey the sad news of the death of prominent geographer and of long-time AAG member Harm J. de Blij.

Harm de Blij was the John A. Hannah Professor of Geography at Michigan State University. He received his undergraduate education from the University of the Witwatersrand and his graduate degrees from Northwestern (Ph.D. 1959). Among his honorary degrees are those awarded by Michigan State (1999) and North Carolina State (2001). He was a long-time faculty member at both Michigan State and the University of Miami, and also taught at Georgetown, Colorado, Hawai’i, the Colorado School of Mines, George Washington University, and Marshall University. His prolific publications included more than 30 books and well over 100 articles.

He has been one of American geography’s most visible leaders for the past half-century. His specialties included political geography, African regional studies, and geographic education—as well as the spatial dimensions of viticulture, a thriving subdiscipline he helped to pioneer during the 1980s and 1990s. His numerous awards included those from AAG, NCGE, and NGS. He received AAG Honors in 1991, the AAG Presidential Achievement Award in 2004, and the AAG Media Achievement Award in 2008.

Over the past 40 years, de Blij was also one of the few academic geographers of his generation to make a major and lasting impact in the public arena. He was much in demand on the lecture circuit and his extraordinary communication skills were widely recognized (a generous legacy is available on YouTube). In this sphere, he probably will best be remembered for his seven-year stint as Geography Editor on ABC’s Good Morning America (1989-1996), whose contributions achieved a partial Emmy Award as well as a full-page profile in TV Guide. His many other accomplishments in this arena include his role as writer and commentator in the original PBS Series,The Power of Place. His successful trade-market book, Why Geography Matters . . . More Than Ever, has just been published in its second edition by Oxford University Press.

Harm de Blij’s record of service to the profession is monumental. At AAG, he held several positions and appointments during his 53-year membership. At NCGE, he edited the Journal of Geography. At NGS, he was the founding editor of the scientific journal, National Geographic Research, and a long-time member of the Committee on Research and Exploration.

Harm de Blij was also highly skilled in areas beyond the profession. His parents were both distinguished musicians and he remained a first-rate violinist and chamber-music participant through the end of his life. He was also an entirely-self-taught wine expert and collector as well as a masterful carpenter—with cellars and home workshops to prove it.

A memorial event in honor of Harm de Blij will be held during the AAG Annual Meeting in Chicago in early 2015.

Doug Richardson and Peter Muller

Dr. de Blij (left-rear, in red tie) was among the first to visit EarthView in 2009.
Dr. de Blij was well known as a public intellectual. His comments below were made -- ironically -- in the past. But his message about geography for the future is still a vital one. He has helped to inspire our own efforts to improve geography education in Massachusetts, one of his homes.

A very important message from Professor de Blij has to do with the importance of geographic literacy as a critical aspect of national security. In two brief minutes, he explains the strategic value of both human and physical geography at both global and regional scales.

One of the very last things published by Dr. de Blij is his homage to Malala.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Museum Careers

An ideal opportunity for geographers





Eastern Massachusetts is blessed with an extraordinary number of world-class museums and historic sites.  Meet with museum representatives to learn about:
  •           Internships
  •           Career opportunities
  •           Resources

APRIL 3, 2014 -- 3:30 – 5:30 pm 



Organized By:


Museum of Fine Arts
Herbert Jones

Lowell National historic site
Amy Glowacki

Plimoth Plantation
Kate LaPrad

New Bedford whaling
Robert Rocha and Christina Connett

Longfellow House -Washington NHS
Rick Jenkins

Friday, February 28, 2014

Global Film Series

Last week BSU's Global Film Series kicked off with Wetback: An Undocumented Documentary, a remarkable film about the journey from Chinandega, Nicaragua (which is a regular part of our department's annual Geography of Coffee study tour) through Mexico to the United States. The viewing was followed by a discussion led by Dr. Aragon of the English and Foreign Languages departments.

Most geographers missed that event, but are encouraged to check out the film. Meanwhile, it is not too early to catch the rest of the series. The organizers have listed the kinds of courses and interests for which each might be most appealing. Absolutely every one of them, though, should be of interest to geographers!

The List, screening and Q&A with documentary film director Beth Murphy
Wednesday, March 5, 3:30pm - Conant Auditorium 120
Political Science, social justice, military history, Middle Eastern and Asian Studies, and American Studies.

Searching for Sugarman on
Thursday, March 20, 4pm - Moakley Auditorium 100
This is a fascinating story of the most popular musician in South Africa for an entire generation -- who never knew he was famous.
Music and ethnomusicology, US Ethnic Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, American Studies, History, and African Studies.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Wednesday, March 26, 4pm - Moakley Auditorium 100
Asian cinema or culture, Anthropology, Philosophy, or magical realism.

Even the Rain
Thursday, April 17, 4pm – Maxwell Library Heritage Room
This is required viewing in the summer version of Geography of Latin America (which is sort of a Dr. Hayes-Boh film festival). It is a work of fiction about the making of a fictional documentary about a very real and serious issue related to water and human rights. Read about some of the geographic implications of this film on Environmental Geography.
Latin America, the History of colonialism, Political Science, social justice, films about filmmaking, and sustainability (water rights)--relevant for Earth Day.

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
Wednesday, April 23, 5pm - Maxwell Library Lecture Hall 013
Disability, Communication Studies and communication disorders, French cinema and culture, gender studies, English (film adaptation of literature), and autobiography/memoir.

The Global Film Series is co-sponsored by Asian Studies, Communication Studies, Film Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Special Education and Communication Disorders, and U.S. Ethnic and Indigenous Studies.