Several members of UNL’s geography program attended “Re-envisioning Geography: Building a Sustainability and Action Plan,” which took place Nov. 11 at the Pioneers Park Nature Center.
SNR director John Carroll delivered opening remarks and was followed by presentations from the research, curriculum, online education and outreach groups. After each presentation, the floor was opened up for discussion.
“I hope by the end of November we will have a strategic plan ready for submission to Dr. Carroll for his review and input,” said Tala Awada, SNR associate director and interim coordinator of the geography program.
Those in attendance at the retreat included geography faculty, staff, graduate students and members from SNR student services.
“The retreat was a refreshing endeavor in that it rekindled geographers’ topophilia and their professional dedication to it,” said Becky Buller, geography lecturer. “Physically retreating the faculty to a neutral space seemed incredibly effective in fostering innovative ideas on strengthening geography’s visibility and reach. The ingenuity of brainstorming of what will be was contagious.”
Juan Paulo Ramirez, geography lecturer, said that he was impressed with the retreat’s overall organization and the eagerness of attendees to engage with one another.
“We had an agenda in advance and everyone knew the contents of the meeting, so there were no surprises,” Ramirez said. “Participants were eager to listen and clearly communicate their ideas with depth and rationality. Everyone who made presentations was very well prepared and the dialogue was very constructive.”
Geography joined SNR in August 2008 and moved into the facilities at Hardin Hall. After many years, a majority of UNL’s geography faculty, staff and students were housed in one building under the single administration of the school.
Since that momentous shift, geography at UNL remains a cross-campus, interdisciplinary field whose faculty members are appointed in both the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR).
“I am impressed at the depth of knowledge and skill among the faculty,” said Art Zygielbaum, research associate professor. “Their breadth of interests allows me access to information I need to enrich my teaching and support my research.”
The retreat proved to be instrumental in fostering creativity and excitement among those invested in the ongoing success of the university’s geography program.
“This brief moment in UNL geography’s history is extraordinarily exciting,” Buller said. “We have the rare opportunity to give a respectful nod to our program’s solid academic tradition and innovatively break ground in constructing a powerhouse.”