Dr. Chris Mayda - Obituary (2016)

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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