A New Academic Year

August 2013 begins a new academic year in the department of geography and geology – there are lots of good things happening, so visit the department’s website at http://www.wku.edu/geoweb

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Season’s Greetings

With the Fall 2010 semester over, we send congratulations to those students who recently graduated. We hope that you realize your career goals quickly and look forward to hearing about your success. The Department completed its six-year program review (2004-2010), with results posted on the departmental website. I’m sure that everyone (including the WKU administration) will be impressed by the high level of student engagement and faculty productivity achieved by the department over the past six years. With new and expanded programs (Meteorology, GIS, Geology, Geography) providing great educational opportunities for students, the department is playing a key role in WKU’s vision of becoming a “leading American university with international reach.” However, vision without resources is simply hallucination, as we constantly say around the college – so there are many challenges ahead for both the State and WKU to address some critical resource issues.
We look forward to welcoming students back in January for the Winter term, and in late January for the Spring semester. As always, we love hearing from alumni.
Happy Holidays!

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Summer Study Abroad

Two departmental study abroad programs completed this summer. Students enrolled in a Semester at Sea summer program titled “Waters of the Caribbean” completed their adventure in early June. Read thenews announcement online with details about the program. Eleven students from the Kentucky Institute for International Studies (KIIS) accompanied geography faculty David Keeling and Will Blackburn on a circumnavigation of norther Argentina between May 28 and June 26th. Read the news announcement online with details about the program. For more information about great study abroad opportunities, contact the Department (270-745-4555) or talk to the Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning, KIIS, or other informed people.

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Department Honors Night

Please join the Department on Thursday May 6th at 5 pm to celebrate the successes of our graduating seniors and Geoscience graduate students – EST 260.

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all our students, faculty, and alumni – departmental news is updated regularly on our website. Recent faculty and student publications are listed by year and by faculty.

Two WKU faculty members — Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Gripshover, assistant professor of Cultural Geography, and Dr. Tom Bell, adjunct professor of Cultural Geography — have been appointed as the new editors of the journal FOCUS on Geography.
Published by the American Geographical Society through Wiley-Blackwell, FOCUS is a 40-page, full-color quarterly journal with articles written by well-known academic and professional geographers, in-depth theme sections, maps and photos, and special country issues. Written and edited by geographers, FOCUS has provided geographical analysis and perspective since 1950 in a relaxed and readable style for a wide audience that includes P-12 teachers, the business community, professional geographers, and the general public. The editorial team will produce four issues of the journal each year for the next three years.
Dr. David Keeling, head of WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology and a member of the AGS Board of Councilors, noted that “Peggy and Tom were the unanimous choice of the editorial search committee, as they have significant academic publishing experience and are well known in cultural geography circles. The department is delighted to support them in this important endeavor and looks forward to a successful editorial experience.”

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New OpEds on geographic awareness

Two new commentaries that Dr. Keeling has written on geographic awareness have been published in newspapers around the country. The first, Good decisions require geographic awareness, appeared in the Washington Times on October 28th, as well as in regional newspapers and blogs around the country. The second, titled Islam’s Troubled Geography, appeared in the Honolulu Hawaii Reporter on November 18, 2009, as well as in regional newspapers and blogs around the country. Dr. Keeling is a founding member of the American Geographical Society’s Writers Circle, which produces Commentary and Op Ed pieces about issues of importance to global society from a geographic perspective. More information is available at the AGS’s media page.

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GIS Program Receives State Award

This past week at the annual Kentucky GIS conference hosted by KAMP (Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals) in Frankfort, Kevin Cary accepted a GIS award on behalf of the Department.  The award is an Exemplary System Award for Geographic Information Science at Western Kentucky University.  This award recognizes our GIS program as being *the* excellent GIS program in Kentucky.  It was also mentioned that WKU has provided the most successful GIS Analyst/Specialists to the Commonwealth and in the greatest number (143 GIS Certificates awarded to date).  For more information about the GIS program at WKU, please email Kevin Cary.

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Fall 2009 Semester begins

Welcome back students and faculty to the Department of Geography and Geology for the Fall 2009 semester.  We welcome new faculty Drs Gripshover, Fan, and Polk and 18 new Geoscience graduate students.   Don’t forget to come to the Friday afternoon departmental faculty/student seminars in EST 260 at 3 pm.  This Friday September 4th, you’ll here introductions and a research overview from each of our faculty and graduate students.  Have a great semester!

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Summer Update

During the 2009 summer, several faculty are working with Gatton Academy students on research projects.  The new state-of-the-art Meteorology lab is under construction and should be ready for Fall classes, and a projector is being installed in EST 314 geology classroom to improve communication in the classroom.  Three new faculty will join us this Fall:  Dr. Margaret “Peggy” Gripshover teaches cultural geography; Dr. Jason Polk teaches geostatistics, geomorphology, and physical geography; and Dr. Xingang Fan teaches meteorology and climatology courses.  With 24 full-time faculty, the Department is looking forward to a busy and productive 2009-2010.

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Jim Bingham passes

With great sadness, the Department of Geography and Geology announces the passing of James Morris Bingham, Assistant Professor of Geography, at the age of 67. Jim was born in Saltillo, Tennessee, in 1941 and is survived by several nieces, nephews, and cousins. He earned his B.S. in Geography, History, and Political Science from Memphis State University in 1963, remaining at MSU to complete a Master’s in Geography in 1965. His thesis titled “Northwest Hardin County: A Study in Industrial Development” presaged Jim’s lifelong interest in planning and economic development. He arrived at WKU in the summer of 1965 as a geography instructor and taught a number of general education and planning-related courses over the following five years.
In 1970, Jim received a teaching assistantship from Indiana State University to pursue a Ph.D. in economic geography. Although Jim only spent two years in the program at ISU, the experience and coursework broadened his academic skills and he arrived back at WKU in 1972 to take up an appointment as Assistant Professor in Geography, receiving tenure in 1977.
Over the years, Jim teamed with former Department Head Wayne Hoffman on dozens of research projects related to city and regional planning, not only through the Center for Local Government, but through partnerships with local and regional government agencies. He published as author or co-author several articles and planning reports, presented his research findings regularly at regional and national meetings, and received funding support from numerous local, state, and federal agencies, especially in the 1980s. Jim contributed to his department, college, and community in myriad ways over the past 40 years, serving on innumerable committees, advising WKU’s Gamma Theta Epsilon chapter, and working with area P-12 schools to promote geographic awareness and science education.
Jim loved teaching and was widely appreciated as a tough but fair professor who always went out of his way to help a student if the student showed a willingness to improve. A few student comments illustrate his no-nonsense approach to teaching:
“He’s the kindest man…he does expect the truth from students and is a ‘straight shooter.’ If you lie to him, you had better be prepared for the consequences. He’s as smart as a tack and loves what he does.”
“Overall, he is a fun instructor with numerous stories and anecdotes, but his tests are the bane of human existence.”
“I love this man. I’m going to take every class he teaches!”
“You were and may well still be the most colorful teacher in the Department. Geographers could save the world if anyone would just listen!”
“I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your many classes I took at WKU. I still tell some of the stories you once told me. You are a credit to WKU as you make learning fun. That was a pretty tough time in my life and I really believe you helped keep me in college.”
In recent years, Jim suffered several health challenges and he opted for transitional retirement in June 2007. Jim was an engaging teacher, a feisty character, and a lifelong geographer. He believed in challenging students to rise above their own expectations and he pushed them to change the world. He will be sadly missed by friends and colleagues.

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