For many of you, the Presidential Year for the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) may seem to run August to July, or conference to conference. In reality, the Board of Directors and fiscal year parallel the calendar year. As such, I will try to provide a year in review to-date as a President’s Report. I shared the following with our members at the general business meeting on Friday, July 29, 2016, at the Marriott Waterside in Tampa, Florida.
Communication with Members: I write a monthly blog post for the NCGE newsletter, starting with the January Member Spotlight. Additionally, the President writes a column for The Geography Teacher. The Editor, Rebecca Theobald, asked that I write on the organizational changes voted on at the 2015 centennial conference. We included a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) crafted by Eric Fournier, the 2012 President. For the second issue, Rebecca asked long-time NCGE member, recipient of the Distinguished Mentor and George J. Miller Awards, and 2015-16 President of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Sarah Bednarz, to write a piece on the practices of geography. I offered my space in the issue to Dr. Bednarz. This fall, for the third issue, Dr. Theobald solicited articles for a special issue on political geography. She tasked me with highlighting the importance of a geographic perspective to civil, civic/political discourse in the classroom, a view from Mississippi. My work for the fourth issue will focus on pre-service teacher education, and will cover topics that arose from the panel with Bednarz, Hinde, et. al. session at the annual meeting.
Presidential Travel: In December, CEO Zach Dulli, President Susan Hume, and I met in Memphis for two days to work on a leadership transition plan. (We hope to continue this type of meeting in the fall as President-Elect Gary Gress plans for 2017.) The Board of Directors (BOD) and staff met in Washington, DC in February to begin the strategic planning process. Bob Dulli led the conversation and development of a draft mission and values statement. The process continued after our face-to-face meetings via Google Documents.
March and April were full with activities for the Mississippi Geographic Alliance (MGA) with MGA Hill Day, the State GeoBee, and Natchez Trace Parkway and University of Mississippi BioBlitz. The Department of Geography honored Dr. Fenda Akiumni of the University of South Florida and me as Distinguished Alumni at the Texas State Geography Alumni Reunion held at Freeman Ranch in Hays County, Texas.
June was just as busy with travel to Cincinnati for the Advanced Placement Human Geography (APHG) Reading from May 31, 2016, through June 8, 2016. I served as a Table Leader for Question 1 at the Reading in Cincinnati, Ohio. We raffled off five first-time NCGE memberships and a full conference registration. As noted in my blog post, a quorum of the BOD attended the reading. Seth was named Chief Reader Designate for the 2017 Reading and created a wonderful set of newsletters. In addition, Dan Snyder and Amy Stalker generated a flyer to distribute to the entire Readership regarding the conference and the APHG workshops. The AP Reading is now larger than our own conference and is an important source of professional development for APHG teachers.
Immediately following the AP Reading, Zach, Gary, and I attended the Geography Education National Implementation Project (GENIP) annual meeting in Washington, DC. For those who don’t know GENIP is made up of NCGE, the National Geographic Society, the American Association of Geographers (AAG), and American Geographical Society. NCGE serves as GENIP’s fiscal agent with Zach Dulli as our voting member. Our agenda for the two day meeting covered a variety of topics including the progress of the proposed AP geographic information science course, the revision and addition of data to the GENIP website, a visit with US Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary, Monique Chism, regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act, the TIMMS international geographic education assessment, and developing a call for a new chair for GENIP (2017-2019).
In July, I reconnected with several NCGE members at ESRI’s Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G) Institute in Redlands, CA. As part of a four-member team from Mississippi, I learned more about how to help teachers incorporate ArcGIS Online into the classroom.
Just before the conference began in Tampa, the BOD met to continue work on our strategic plan by honing in on the core values and priorities for NCGE to continue to move forward in the next five to ten years.
Future planned travel includes October travel to the Mississippi Council for the Social Studies in Hattiesburg, MS, and the Applied Geography Conference in Louisville, KY. And, as “my” year as president winds down, I will attend the NCSS annual meeting in Washington, DC, and work on transition planning with Zach and Gary.
As an Organization: NCGE Membership has remained steady in a five year trend. We are very diverse, and continue to serve equal parts K12 and higher education, and very nearly split evenly along gender lines. Would we like to be bigger? You bet! But, we have some of the best members who make an impact on geography education in their communities.
Our NCGE Webinar Program continues to be well received. Attendance numbers reflect a low of 15, a high of 90, but average attendance is about 40 participants. The webinars are still one of the best named benefits of membership in NCGE. Special thanks to our former Webinar Manager, Barbaree Duke, and current Webinar Manager, Allison Hunt, for their work in building the program and its archives.
While this year’s conference was a bit smaller than previous years, ask anyone who attends one of our conferences about the experience, and they will tell you, “It’s the best professional development I’ve ever attended.” In an era of continuing budget crunches, we know what it takes to make a professional and personal commitment to attend a conference. We think our conference is a great value with workshops and meals included in the price. Our staff thoughtfully plans each event to make the experience well worth your professional development dollar. For much of my time in the profession – 21 years this fall – I’ve foot my own bill to attend professional development. Many attendees have to cover their own costs to attend the conference, as well, but they choose to do so because they know that they will gain so much from the great workshops, sessions, and networking opportunities that are offered. Our full-time staff of three, along with the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC) and volunteers, work hard to provide field trips that blend the unique geography of the host site and the themes of the conference that are not your average city tour, and are offered at a good value.
As part of the annual BOD meeting, Taylor & Francis updates us on the progress of our journals. To date, the relationship continues to flourish with an impact factor for the Journal of Geography above 1.2, thanks to the hard work of Editor Jerry Mitchell and his Editorial Board. The calendar year brought a new editor to the helm at The Geography Teacher. Jody Smothers-Marcello and Rebecca Theobald worked to insure a seamless transition. I hope you will continue to see our journals as the benefit to your own teaching, research, and practice, as well as recommend the works found in them to your friends, students, and colleagues as appropriate. By sending researchers into our journals, we hope to entice them into membership and participation in our webinars and conferences.
Dr. Ellen J. Foster
Board President 2016, National Council for Geographic Education