Geography and Geology Departmental News

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  • Two G&G Profs win 2021 Summer Research Awards

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    The Department of Geography & Geology is proud to announce that Dr. Bill Welsh and Dr. Eric Portenga have both received Summer Research Awards from Eastern Michigan University. The Summer Research/Creative Activity Award (SRA) 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. 

    Dr. Eric Portenga's Summer Research Award is for his research project "Michigan's Glacial History: A Bid for EMU's First NSF Career Award."

    Dr. Bill Welsh's Summer Research Award is for his research project "Mapping Community Infrastructure Resilience and Sensitivity in Southeast Michigan." 

    Congratulations to Dr. Portenga and Dr. Welsh!

  • Geography and Geology Department mourns the loss of Dr. Andrew Nazzaro

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    Dr. Andrew Nazzaro – 1941-2020

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    Andrew (Drew) Nazzaro was born in 1941 in Paterson, New Jersey. His grandparents were Italian immigrants who had been attracted to the area due to the availability of jobs in the silk textile industry. For a brief period, his father Andrea and his uncles worked in the silk factories. After the start of WWII (December 7, 1941), Drew’s father joined the Navy. Consequently, during his childhood he lived in a number of places, including the Georgia coast, Virginia (Norfolk), Florida (Jacksonville), and two years in Morocco, on the African continent. Drew’s interest in travel, maps, and geography developed as a result of his father’s career in the Navy and their mutual interest in collecting and studying maps. Drew was particularly interested in human settlement patterns. He pursued his interests at Jacksonville University, where he earned a B.A. in 1964 in History. Although there was no Geography department at JU, Drew took courses from geographer Herbert Padgett, who was affiliated with the History Department. He subsequently earned a Master’s degree in Geography from Florida State University in 1965. His regional focus on Africa led to a doctoral program in Geography at Michigan State University, where he studied under the preeminent Africanist and John A. Hannah Professor of Geography, Harm J. de Blij. A successful grant proposal to the Midwestern University Consortium for International Activities provided financial support for one year of field research in the Taita Hills region of southeastern Kenya, within view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Dr. Andrew Nazzaro finished his Ph.D. degree program at MSU in 1974.

    Several years prior to wrapping up his dissertation research at MSU, Harm J. de Blij told Drew the Geography & Geology department at Eastern Michigan University was looking for a new faculty member with regional expertise in Africa. Drew interviewed in July 1969 and started teaching classes at the start of the fall semester. Dr. Nazzaro taught classes in the Geography program continuously for 46 years, until his retirement in August of 2015. He taught his Regional Geography of Africa course throughout his entire teaching career. Due to his interest in international travel he contributed to the development of the Travel and Tourism major. Moreover, he was the Geography program’s headliner in General Education, specifically teaching the GEOG 110 World Regions course that he developed. For more than two decades, the GEOG 110 World Regions course has generated more student enrollment than any other course in the geography curriculum and is among the General Education program’s most enrolled courses overall.

    Working at EMU during the late 1960s and 1970s were exciting times of geo-political and social change, as was experienced in most parts of the country. For example, as a result of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, grants became available to establish academic programs in Historic Preservation, among other initiatives. Building upon existing strengths in cultural geography and landscape studies, Nazzaro teamed up with colleague Marshall McLennan and took advantage of grant opportunities, applied, and they were ultimately successful in establishing the Historic Preservation graduate program in 1979. G&G’s Historic Preservation program was the first to be established within a Geography department, and is still unique in this context. Drew’s advocacy for historic preservation is perhaps best remembered on EMU’s campus by the successful “Don’t squelch Welch” button campaign he started in order to promote support to save the Welch building from being torn down. In addition, due to his international experience, Dr. Nazzaro was asked by EMU higher administration to serve as the Chief of Party to the Basic Education Development Program in Yemen from 1979 to 1981. Drew would later be called to serve as Director of the short-lived World College and he served for more than six years as Department Head in G&G. As the longest serving (46 years) faculty member in the history of the Geography program, he will be long remembered by his G&G colleagues for his camaraderie and gregarious laugh, as well as by more than four decades of students who enjoyed his sense of humor, succeeded in his classes, and genuinely appreciated his depth of geographic knowledge. Faculty and staff members of the Department of Geography & Geology extend their sincerest condolences to wife Nereida and son Andrew Nazzaro, as well as family members in Florida, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico.

  • Two G&G Faculty receive grants in Fall 2020

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    Congratulations to Dr. Matt Cook upon official news of the award of the NSF grant titled "The Role of Museums in the Landscape of Minority Representation," in the amount of $508,380. Dr. Cook is a co-Pi on this multi-year grant, sponsored by the NSF 20-547 Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program.

    Congratulations also to Dr. Eric Portanga upon official news that his proposal for the Dean’s Faculty Professional Development Award has been approved for funding in support of his project, “Completing an Ice Age History of Isle Royale.”

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