Geography and Sustainability
Geography and Sustainability
Message from the Department Head
Last year started as another rough year, with a COVID surge and quarantined teachers and students that sent some classes online. Despite that start, the year will instead be defined as one of the strongest years of growth and change ever in the department. First of all, we have a new name! Welcome to the Department of Geography & Sustainability.
To understand the name change, we go back to fall 2017 when we acquired the small interdisciplinary program in sustainability, which was a concentration in the college’s major in interdisciplinary studies without a home. Geography agreed to take on the small program and named Senior Lecturer Melissa Hinten as the director. Hinten and the department immediately got to work making a better home for sustainability. We applied to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to make sustainability a BA full degree. We added a capstone course to the major to help students prepare for the job market. The undergraduate Geography Club embraced the students and renamed itself the UT Alliance of Geographers and Sustainers. Sustainability flourished.
I don’t think any of us realized in 2017 how important sustainability would become to our department. What started out as 50 students is now almost 120 students. Half of our undergraduate students are working toward a sustainability major or minor, and sustainability students became departmental leaders alongside geography students. By spring 2022, it seemed fair and right to ask the university for a name change. So here we are, with our first newsletter of the Department of Geography and Sustainability.
The department continues to grow in other ways too. Last year started our new BS degree in geographic information science and technology. Don’t worry – there’s no plan to change names to the Department of Geography, Sustainability, and Geographic Information Science & Technology! We have also started a new minor in broadcast meteorology; an innovative joint program with the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. As the number of students grow, our faculty continues to grow too. Last year we were joined by Sola Festus and Mayra Román-Rivera as lecturers in GIS and physical geography, and this fall we are excited to welcome Dimitris Herrera as an assistant professor with expertise in climatology and meteorology.
As you read this newsletter, you’ll see that despite the difficulties of the last few years, our department continued on doing what we do best. Our faculty, staff, and alumni remain dedicated to helping students to become world-changers, and you’ll see features that highlight a new mentoring system initiated by Mike Camponovo. Finally, and most importantly, our geography and sustainability students continue to use their knowledge in service of their passion to understand and change the world, and you’ll see features of undergraduate and graduate students working alongside faculty and community organizations in areas from racial justice to climate change.
Professor and Head