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Two Personal Geographies of Education and One Awesome Painting

March 15, 2011

Corazon by Jo Lowrey--a very literal personal geography

Alright then…spring break. What am I supposed to say here? Woo? In any case, it just means more free time to devote to H-5 and catch up on Geography and Education with some awesome material to share with you–starting with this very personal, well written story from a Mr. Daniel P. Huffman who runs the blog SomethingAboutMaps, teaches cartography, and makes maps at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His posts are always interesting, but a recent one about his own personal history with geography and his struggles with grad school felt particularly relevant to this month’s theme on education and a good way to segue (that is indeed how you spell the word that you would be tempted to spell segway, although if you did you would be laughed at because people would think you were talking about those ridiculous, free-balancing, space age, transportation devices. Seriously, does anybody not laugh when they see those things? It could just be me, though, because I automatically associate them with Gob from Arrested Development. Ok longest parenthesis ever.) into my first longer post of March.

Seems like you can get a degree in anything these days, from Sequential Art (that’s comic books to you or me) from Savannah College of Art and Design to Ethnomusicology at University of Washington. I think this is pretty incredible and and if I had the time and money I would love to do both programs, but that doesn’t mean that the diversity doesn’t come without a drawback or two. It’s tough out there for us students, especially those who have broad interests, to pick among the thousands of colleges in the US and the tens of thousands of of degrees offered between all those schools. It can be a daunting task, finding your passion. I know I both Chey and I struggle with this a lot and, as we have both shared with you, it is part of the reason why geography is appealing to us. In a world with so many choices it’s easy to get lost in a sea of interests, not knowing which are hobbies and which are careers. In my life, at various times, I have wanted to be a climatologist, a designer, a woodworker, a geomorphologist, a librarian, a writer, a hydrologist, an engineer, a photographer, a farmer, and yes, even professional soccer player (I think every eight year old boy dreams of being a pro athlete at some point). And now I want to be a geographer and cartographer…for now at least. I’ve learned to not be afraid of where my current interests leads me, to let it instead be my guide and pursue where it takes me in a hearty manner.

That, however, has not always been the case, and, more times than I’d like to remember, I have had that crushing feeling that I was investing my time and energy into a pursuit that was not right for me or even if was, I realized the realities of working in that field professionally would never fit who I am as an individual. As Mr. Huffman puts it, “I learned that just because you like to read about/hear talks on something doesn’t mean you’ll like actually doing research in it.” That’s a harsh reality for students and the sooner that understanding comes, the better. I think this is an area for improvement in introductory and low-level college courses–to better share with students what other professors in the department are researching, studying, working on right now. Every professor is excited to talk about their own research, naturally, but I’ve only had a handful who were excited to share what their colleagues were doing as well. It not only helps promote the program but simultaneously gives prospective majors an idea of what they would be studying at higher levels and/or researching if they continue in academia. Maybe it doesn’t give students an idea of what doing actual research is like, but it’s a start and better than ignoring the problem altogether as many professors do.

So…maybe, like Mr. Huffman, it’s maps for me. Maybe geography, in one form or another is what I devote the rest of my life to. Or maybe not. Either way it’s going to be interesting finding out.

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