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Geographers gather at KU for annual conference

By Kaylee Lindenmuth
News Editor

For the first time in a little over a decade, a regional geography conference came to KU on Oct. 18-19.

The Middle States Division of the American Association of Geographers (MSDAAG) held their annual conference in both the Boehm Science Building and McFarland Student Union over those two days, featuring a pair of field trips, a host of paper sessions and a Geography Bowl.

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Photo courtesy of Kaylee Lindenmuth

“I think it’ll have a huge impact by having [the KU campus] recognize the importance of geography and how we are an essential part of the future of America and the world,” said Dr. Michael Davis—KU professor, organizer and president of the division—regarding the impact of the event on the university.

The event, he said, highlights geography’s importance and gathers academics from the mid-Atlantic region.

As president, Davis hosted and organized the event. Regarding what goes into the strategizing of the conference, he stressed planning the different parts of the event.

“For paper talks and poster talks, they are about a whole different variety of physical, human, social, economic, political, mapping and other types of papers,” said Davis. “It brings us all together to share that knowledge we may or may not have exchanged otherwise.”

One of the first portions of the event on Oct. 17 was a field trip to the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center. When “The Keystone” stopped by for photos, the tour was in the home at the site, though only one person was on the tour. Center Director Patrick Donmoyer said the tour had originally been canceled, but the one attendee wasn’t aware, so the tour continued anyway.

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The papers presented at the conference ranged from a variety of topics. KU geography professor Steven Schnell presented a paper entitled “Wakanda Forever: Black Panther’s Imagined Africa,” which explored the fictional universe of the blockbuster Marvel film and comic book series. 
Taylor Wieczerak, from Montclair State University in New Jersey explored combined sewer overflows in that half of the state through an analysis paper, and Jonah Walters, from Rutgers University, analyzed Nicaragua’s economy. 

Tianna Andrews, a senior environmental science/geography major at KU, presented a paper analyzing thunderstorms and severe weather in the mid-Atlantic region from 2003 to 2012.

“I enjoyed the conference a lot. I’ve been to other regional meetings in the past and presented either a paper or poster at them, but I was really excited for this one since it would be happening at Kutztown,” Andrews said. “I started my research in Fall 2016 with Dr. Davis and it evolved into a much larger project that I really fleshed out in my Research Methods and Senior Seminar classes.”

In addition to presenting her paper, she also volunteered her time to help the conference run smoothly.

“Something I’ve always loved about attending and presenting at the MSDAAG conferences is that the atmosphere is very calm and welcoming; undergraduate research is heavily encouraged, and you can find a lot of support from the region’s geographers there,” Andrews said. “After my talk, I was able to talk to and network not only with other undergraduates but with professors who have been doing research for years. I have always felt a strong sense of belonging with the MSDAAG community, and it was reinforced when I presented on Saturday [Oct. 19].”

She added that she intends to publish her paper in MSDAAG’s journal, “The Middle States Geographer.”

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