Published: May 4, 2017 By

Emily Yeh in foreground with Tibetan landscape and prayer flags on the ground behind her.

Emily at Chaktsalgang, the first of four major prostration sites along the circumambulation route of Mount Kailash, Tibet, July 2016

In these unsettling times, geographical inquiry is more important than ever. Yet, in the United States, we are witnessing a broad attack on the value of research and the production of knowledge, whether on global climate change, international development, transnational migration, demography, public health, or economic and social inequality. International cooperation, key to scientific advances, peace building, and cross-cultural understanding, is being curtailed and federal scientists are facing severe limitations on their ability to contribute to the public good. One recently proposed piece of legislation regarding the Department of Housing and Urban Development would stipulate that “no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.” As the American Association of Geographers has stated, many geographers conduct research or provide services – including some based on federal funding – that use geospatial information related to racial, economic, and other disparities. If passed, this bill could have a damaging effect on the lives and livelihoods of many Americans.

In this context, we reinvigorate our commitment to evidence-based inquiry, social and environmental justice, academic freedom, and mutual respect. The CU Boulder Department of Geography is a leader in international engagement. We are proud this year to have not one, but two winners of the Fulbright scholarship. Professor Mara Goldman and MA graduate Sierra Gladfelter will both spend the next year in India supported by Fulbright. Mara will work with a local organization to teach and research on community-based conservation, and Sierra will collaborate with two universities in India to investigate and improve collaborative community adaptation to climate change-induced disaster. Shifting to another continent, Professor Tom Veblen was recently recognized with the CU Boulder Distinguished Research Lectureship not only for his decades-long pioneering research on temperate forests in Chile and southern Argentina, but also because he has virtually single-handedly created a thriving community of scholars across the region, through his mentorship and training of many students from South America who have become prominent scholars in their own right.  Our faculty and students continue to engage with pressing issues ranging from Professor Fernando Riosmena’s studies of US-Mexico migration to Professor Jennifer Fluri’s recently published book about the everyday geopolitics of American aid in Afghanistan. For a more comprehensive view of some of the many places around the world where we work, take a look at this new map.

Congratulations to all of the graduating BA, MA, and PhD students this year, and in particular to new members of Phi Beta Kappa. Congratulations as well to our Geography majors receiving Latin Honors, including Emily Eley, Brooke Long, and Gabi Murillo. We hope to encourage and support more future majors to undertake independent research, as one of many ways to navigate and enrich our sense of responsibility and accountability to society as geographers.