How did you first get involved in geography and geographic education? Was there a particular moment that spurred your interest for the field?
My first job after college was in London working for a British bank. It seemed that everyone in the bank knew where every place in the world was, and I didn’t know where any of those places were! I bought myself an atlas. A number of years later I thought that geography might be interesting to study and I took a couple of courses at Montgomery College and decided that, indeed, it was.
In looking for an area of concentration, of all the specialties in geography, the GeoEd strand was one of the smallest. And besides, I might help others be spared the embarrassment I felt at being teased by those British bankers.
As a steering committee member, you’ve contributed a lot to the Maryland Geographic Alliance. Are you a part of any other geography education organizations? If so, which ones and what are your roles in each?
I have enjoyed membership in a number of organizations and look forward to seeing “geo-friends” at annual conferences. At several annual meetings of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) I arranged a field trip to look for birds. In D.C., we went to Rock Creek Park; in NYC we went to Central Park. Participants came from across the country as well as abroad, so whatever birds we saw were sure to be rarities to somebody in the group.
Being an avid geographer, I’m sure you also attend a lot of conferences and meetings. Which ones have you attended recently and what did you learn? Are you looking forward to any upcoming ones?
I am looking forward to the July annual conference of the National Council for Geographic Education. It is to be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this year, and I expect some intriguing field trips. One of the highlights of the annual meeting of the Middle Atlantic Division of the AAG is the geography bowl competition among students of the various universities in our region.
You’ve authored a book and a number of articles for academic geography journals – most recently, a book review of Choptank Odyssey by Tom Horton and Dave Harp. Do you have any ideas or plans for future publications?
I’ve always got what I think is a good idea for an article – just need to make it happen! Meanwhile, I am having a good time working with the Maryland Geographic Alliance. The Giant Map of Maryland is scheduled to come to the Eastern Shore to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum on April 8th and to the Talbot County Free Library – Easton Branch, on June 22nd. (For further information see the State Giant Traveling Map information on this website, www.mdgeography.org.)
Your works, while grounded in geographic education, span across a broad range of subject matter – including a textbook on Ukraine to an article, co-authored, on the construction of Latin America as a region. Do you specialize or prefer a specific area within geography (whether it be a region or subfield)? Which one(s)?
After writing the Ukraine book for a country series for high school students, I have maintained an interest in that country, and I follow political developments there with particular interest. Much as I have enjoyed my distant travels, my current home region is delightful and provides endless examples of themes of geography. I have written about Captain John Smith’s explorations of the Chesapeake Bay and the coastal bays region near Assateague Island.
Why should geography be more prevalent in K-12 curricula?
Geographic issues and challenges, at the appropriate level, can engage students at every grade as they add content knowledge and build problem solving skills at increasing levels of complexity.
Geography can be a gateway into any number of careers, such as natural resource management, assessing vulnerability to natural disasters or the disruptions of utility services, analysis of spatial data for security planning, predicting disease transmission, understanding and predicting weather and climate patterns, linking economic hubs via existing or new transportation channels, evaluating and selecting sites for retail outlets or industrial facilities, understanding cultural attributes in order to resolve political boundary disputes. This could be a long list.
Geography is not only the foundation for a wide range of careers. A citizen can apply a spatial perspective to considering civic issues from local zoning to international affairs.
Biography: Cathy spent most of her career in commercial banking. She then picked up an interest in academic geography and earned a MA at George Washington University and then a Ph.D. in Geography at Texas State University-San Marcos with a concentration in Geographic Education. She is particularly enthusiastic about online GIS and encourages its use as a tool in its own right and as a gateway to entice students into the content of geography.