Geography and Geology

140 Strong Hall

Eastern Michigan University

Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197


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News Archive

This page is a digital repository for departmental news that has rotated off of our current news page. 

  • Dr. James McDonald—Obituary (2020)

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    James R McDonald, Professor in the Geography Department of Eastern Michigan University from 1965 to 2000, passed away on April 20, 2020.

    Jim was born in San Francisco on the 28th of January 1934 and graduated from Katonah High School, New York in 1951. Jim graduated from Antioch College in 1955 with a Bachelor's Degree in Geography and received a Master's Degree in Geography from the University of Illinois the following year. He then enlisted in the Army for three years and was assigned to the Counter-Intelligence Corps where he learned French in the Army Language School in Monterey before being assigned to La Rochelle, France, where he spent almost two years. Upon his return to civilian life, he returned to Illinois and completed his doctoral research on the French region of Brittany in 1964. Prior to accepting the position at EMU, Jim was an Assistant Professor at UCLA for two years.

    Jim was the recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral, an NSF Fellowship and other awards and grants including National Geographic Society Research Grants; Michigan Department of Natural Resources Grants; and Social Science Research Council Grants. Jim was a proud member of the AAG for over 50 years.

    Jim specialized in the cultural, political, and economic geography of Western Europe, especially France; the geography of rural-to-urban and labor migrations; geographical aspects of environmental assessment and preservation; geography of travel and tourism; and the history of geographic ideas. Jim authored two books, numerous professional papers and book reviews.

  • 2019-2020 Virtual Honors Ceremony

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    The Department of Geography & Geology wishes to recognize the academic achievements of our Summer & Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 graduates! For slides of the "virtual honors ceremony," please visit our image gallery.

  • 2019 Mark Jefferson Symposium announced

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    The Departments of Geography & Geology and History & Philosophy are happy to announce the Mark Jefferson Symposium: October 17–18, 2019. For more information, see the Symposium website.

  • New fully online geography minor

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    To more flexibly fit students' busy schedules, the Department of Geography & Geology is now offering a 20-credit hour Geography minor that can be taken entirely online. Download the flyer [PDF].

  • Prof. Steve LoDuca travels to Estonia, collaborates with University of Tartu

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    Dr. Steve LoDuca was invited to the Department of Geology, University of Tartu, Estonia, during the 2019 EMU Winter Break. The purpose of the trip, which was completely funded by the University of Tartu, was to give a seminar, to serve as the “opponent” for the Ph.D. defense of Viirika Mastik (now Dr. Mastik) under the supervision of Dr. Oive Tinn, and to collaborate with Dr. Tinn on study of spectacular examples of fossil algae from a quarry in central Estonia.

    View the photolog of his trip [PDF].

  • Geography and Geology Faculty, Students Awarded EMU URSP Fellowships for Winter 2019

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    A faculty-student team in the Geography and Geology Department was awarded Undergrad Research Stimulus Program fellowships for Summer 2019. The URSP program is intended to facilitate research partnerships between undergraduate students and Eastern Michigan University faculty. Successful student applicants will receive a $2,000 fellowship in support of their research efforts. Congratulations to Kelly Brown and Dr. Chris Gellasch.

  • EMU Alumna to give special lecture, Feb. 19, 2019

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    On Tuesday, February 19, the Department of Geography and Geology and GeoClub at EMU hosted a presentation by Brittany Cymes, a doctoral candidate at Miami University and a 2014 graduate of EMU. She will present work from her doctoral research, entitled Synthesis and Characterization of Novel Rare-Earth Manganese Oxide Minerals for Catalytic Degradation of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). 

    View the presentation flyer [PDF].

  • Dr. Tom Kovacs to chair President's Sustainability Commission

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    EMU President James Smith announced the creation of the Sustainability Commission on September 21, 2018. In his address, President Smith named Geography and Geology faculty member Dr. Tom Kovacs as chair of the commission. The excerpt from President Smith's address is below:

    Along the line of communication, I want to announce a special new initiative, which is the President's Sustainability Commission, to be chaired by Thomas Kovacs, a distinguished professor of meteorology and an authority on our Eastern campus environment. The Commission will be charged with working with various units to assess Eastern's sustainability efforts and make recommendations on how to become more sustainable. What do I mean by sustainable? “Sustainability entails both principles and practices that promote and maintain the responsible use of natural resources by current generations to ensure the availability and well-being of those resources for our future generations.” We’re already doing a good deal in this area, including the introduction of our co-generation electricity and heating system, the installation of energy-saving glass in residence halls and other buildings, and energy efficient lighting throughout campus. But how can we do more? The commission will be a great opportunity for the campus to show how cross-sectional groups can work together to produce terrific results. I’m excited about this effort and what it can mean for the future of our campus and community.

  • Dr. Eric Portenga awarded Faculty Research Activity for '18–19

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    Congratulations to Professor Eric Portenga for receiving a Faculty Research/Creative Activity Fellowship for the FY2018/19 academic year, where he will receive $2,924 in support funds. The award will support Dr. Portenga ’s research on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.
  • Dr. Chris Gellasch named 2018 UG Symposium Speaker

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    Congrats to Dr. Chris Gellasch upon news that he will be the 2018 EMU Undergraduate Symposium keynote speaker.
  • Geography and Geology Faculty, Students Awarded EMU URSP Fellowships for Winter, Summer 2018

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    Two faculty-student teams in the Geography and Geology Department were awarded Undergrad Research Stimulus Program fellowships for Winter 2018. A third team was awarded an URSP fellowship for Summer 2018. The URSP program is intended to facilitate research partnerships between undergraduate students and Eastern Michigan University faculty. Successful student applicants will receive a $2,000 fellowship in support of their research efforts. Congratulations to the teams of Dr. Bill Welsh and Harel Tanjong, and Dr. Chris Gellasch and Jacob Kowalczyk for their Winter 2018 URSPs, and Dr. Matt Cook and Sean Ryan for Summer 2018.
  • GIS Master's Program Ranked

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    The Geography and Geology Department is proud to announce the recent ranking of our GIS Master's Program as among the top GIS/Geo-informatics programs in the world by Vinithra Rajendran at Geoawesomeness. Check out the article highlighting these top programs for master's degrees in GIS, geo-informatics and related programs.
  • HP Program alumna to head Packard Plant renovation

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    Kari Smith (MS, 2011) is featured in the Monroe News about her groundbreaking work on the rehabilitation of the famous Packard Plant in Detroit. It is a fascinating story about the power of historic preservation and adaptive reuse.
  • Geography and Geology Hosts East Lakes Regional AAG Meeting

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    The Geography and Geology Department hosted the 2017 Annual Meeting of The East Lakes Divisions of the American Association of Geographers October 12–13, 2017.
  • Congratulations to HP Master's Student Rachel Ellenson

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    Rachel Ellenson, a second year historic preservation graduate student and graduate assistant, received an award and recognition on Friday, March 24, 2017, at the Graduate Research Conference for her research presentation entitled "Cultural Landscapes and Re-Photography: Changing Cultures and Our Influence on the Landscape Around Us." Over the last two years, Rachel has cataloged over 5,000 stereo images from the Mark Jefferson collection in the EMU archives. Congratulations, Rachel!
  • Geography and Geology Department launches new brownbag series

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    After the many productive discussions that came out of the Fall 2016 NAGT "Building Strong Geosciences Departments" workshop, several Geography and Geology faculty and lecturers decided to establish a series of brownbag talks and informal meetings in Winter 2017. Coordinators for this semester are Drs. Ryker and Cook. The series is open to all members of the department including faculty, lecturers, grad students and interested geography and geology majors.

    Please see below for the schedule, and please join us in Strong 201 from noon–1:30 p.m., unless otherwise indicated! 

    • January 20: Introductory discussion
    • January 23: "Counter narratives and African American historical geographies" presentation - Matt Cook, Pray-Harrold 426 
    • February 3: Teaching Difficult Topics: From Evolution to Revolution
    • February 6: Presentation by Geology job candidate - 1:45 p.m., Rm. 215 Mark J. Science Complex
    • February 8: Presentation by Geology job candidate - Noon, Rm. 215 Mark J. Science Complex
    • February 9: Presentation by Geology job candidate - 2 p.m. (location TBA)
    • February 10: Presentation by Geology job candidate - Noon (location TBA)
    • February 15: ​"Becoming Highly Productive through Collaboration" brownbag - Katherine Ryker, Halle 104
    • February 15: Presentation by Geology job candidate - Noon, Rm. 215 Mark J. Science Complex
    • February 16: Presentation by Geology job candidate - 12:30 p.m. (location TBA) 
    • March 3: High Impact Practices and Liberal Education: America's Promise
    • March 17: Undergraduate Research Symposium practice talks
    • April 7: Research presentation by Dr. Steve LoDoca
  • Professors Cook, Ryker and Yang win EMU Summer Research Awards

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    Geography and Geology faculty members Dr. Matthew Cook, Dr. Katherine Ryker and Dr. Xining Yang were notified in mid-January that each of them were awarded an EMU Summer Research/Creative Activity Award for Summer 2017. The internal award is intended to encourage and support the research, creative, artistic and scholarly endeavors of full-time tenured or tenure-track EMU faculty during the summer months (May–August) by providing stipends of $12,000 for outstanding proposals in lieu of summer teaching assignments.
  • Congrats to Professor Nancy Bryk for Women in Philanthropy grant

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    Professor Nancy Bryk was awarded a grant from EMU's Women in Philanthropy for the project "Creating a World-Class Exhibit." Professor Bryk will use the funds as part of her Winter 2017 GHPR 633 course Museum Experience Development. The course, which meets on Saturdays from 10 a.m, to 12:40 p.m., requires students to develop, research and install a museum exhibit in McKenny Hall. Interested students are encouraged to contact Professor Bryk for more details and register for the course soon!
  • Geography and Geology Hosts Successful NAGT Workshop

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    The department welcomed outside facilitators from the National Association of Geosciences Teachers (NAGT) on December 2–3, 2016. Faculty and lecturers within the department met in Strong Hall with Dr. Dave Mogk (Montana State University) and Dr. Jim Ebert (SUNY Oneonta) for a workshop called "Building Strong Geosciences Departments." The workshop brought together our diverse faculty to analyze departmental strengths and weaknesses and prioritized goals for the coming year. One outcome from our time together is beginning a regular brown bag session this Winter to share teaching and research idea, as well as to improve communication within the department. We will also use these sessions as time to bring in external speakers. We look forward to seeing many of you at these events!
  • Save the Date—Geography and Geology To Host East Lakes Regional AAG Meeting

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    2017 Annual Meeting of The East Lakes Divisions of American Association of Geographers October 12–13, 2017

    Hosted by EMU's Department of Geography and Geology.

    More information will be available over the next year as we plan to host geoscientists and geographers from Michigan, Ohio and the surrounding region.

    Questions? Email Department Head Richard Sambrook at [email protected].

  • New Geospatial Technology Major

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    The Department of Geography and Geology is pleased to announce our new Bachelor of Science (BS) major in geospatial information science and technology (GIST). Graduates of this new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) BS major are in high demand in both the government and private sectors of the economy. GIST skills are both highly marketable and transferrable to major metropolitan areas in the United States and abroad, as well as in communities of all sizes. Please consider Geography and Geology's new STEM major that prepares you for careers in the dynamic spatial information technology (SIT) sector by taking a look at the EMU course catalog under the geography degree programs.
  • Dr. Chris Mayda—Obituary (2016)

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    It is with great sadness the Department of Geography and Geology announces the passing of faculty member Dr. Chris Mayda – as a result of a long-term illness. Chris Mayda entered academia as a career change choice in her mid-forties, in order to become who she was – a geographer. After six years of graduate studies, Dr. Chris Mayda received her Ph.D. in geography from the University of Southern California in 1998, and fairly soon thereafter joined the geography and geology faculty in the fall of 1999 as an assistant professor. Professor Mayda was hired to teach in the department’s Historic Preservation and Geography programs, including her signature approach to the American cultural landscapes course – as well as a course in settlement geography. Within a few semesters, Chris also began teaching the regional geography of the U.S. and Canada course – which ultimately became the most popular upper division regional course in the recent history of the geography program, especially among College of Education students and geography majors. Moreover, this teaching assignment initiated a ten-year investment of her time developing and writing A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada: Toward a Sustainable Future, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2012, which involved visiting all 50 U.S. states and the provinces of Canada – and included a six-week 600 mile trek along the U.S./Canadian border. Her work remains the only regional geography text with a focus on sustainable human-environment interaction. Dr. Mayda’s personal and research interests in sustainability led to the development of a general education course titled Thinking Sustainably, and she spearheaded the development of a sustainability minor for the environment and society component of the Interdisciplinary Environmental Science and Society (IESS) degree program. Chris Mayda also collaborated on related special topics courses including “sustainable cities” and “unthinking consumerism.” During a recent two-semester sabbatical leave, Dr. Mayda wrote a new book with “sustainability” themes: Think: The Renaissance of the Ecological Age, which is under review for publication.

    Outside of the classroom, Dr. Chris Mayda was known for her efforts to promote bike riding and the more efficient use of energy resources on campus. For example, she organized an Energy Awareness Week in 2007. She also organized a workshop and forum on systems thinking in 2011. A prolific scholar in terms of her numerous publications, professional and public presentations, Dr. Chris Mayda will be both long remembered and missed for her abundant energy and passion for teaching and mentoring her students. It was once claimed Dr. Chris Mayda accomplished the work of three faculty members in her fifteen years at EMU. In the words of a recent graduate of the Historic Preservation program: "She definitely changed my life. She was unique and I especially appreciated that she embraced change, reinventing herself along the way."

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