Geography Awareness Week aims to educate

By Michael McVey

If you cannot locate Somalia on a map, the NIU Geography Department thinks its time you learn how.

Geography Professor C. Daniel Dillman said geography is a changing field which is becoming quite complex. In important areas such as economics, politics and national defense, geography is very important. He said many students entering college know very little geography.

“Too many students come to college without adequate knowledge of basic geography,” Dillman said.

The National Geographical Society started Geography Awareness Week in the mid-1980s in response to widespread geographic illiteracy among students and the general public.

“Geography Awareness week is meant to inform people about the variety of fields within geography,” Dillman said. “Geography is more than reading maps. There’s a great deal more depth than people are aware of.”

Unlike other sciences which deal with a particular phenomenon, Dillman said, geography covers many phenomena from the standpoint of “what, where, why there and so what?” Geography studies the spatial interrelationships involved in an event, not solely the mechanics of the event itself.

Geography Professor Donald Maxfield said the main event of the week will be a speech by Illinois State Climatologist Wayne Wendland on “The Many Faces of El Nino” at 7 p.m. Thursday in Davis Hall 121.

Although water is the main focus this year, Maxfield said a wide variety of topics will be involved in the events and speeches this week.

At 4:45 p.m. tomorrow in Davis 121 the African Student Association will host a panel discussion. Maxfield said there will be several African students from different countries and each one will discuss major concerns of their country.

Dillman said students will have a chance to win atlases at the Geography Jeopardy competition at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday in the main lounge of Stevenson North. “These are good quality atlases, not ordinary road atlases,” he added.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday the cartography lab will host an open house to demonstrate the mapping capabilities of the cartography lab’s computers. At 2 p.m. Thursday other geography professors will host computer demonstrations in their respective fields.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday in Davis 121 Richard Greene will lecture on two books about suburban sprawl, “Edge Cities” and “The Geography of Nowhere.” According to Greene, edge cities are urban centers that develop along the periphery of large cities, such as the O’Hare to Schaumburg corridor.

Dillman said the two books represent a positive and a negative view, respectively, of urban expansion, and Greene will present both views.

Friday is “Career Day” and the afternoon will be devoted to helping students in their career searches. Maxfield said NIU alumni who are professionally active in geography will offr advice for students seeking a geography career. Students can learn about the jobs they’re going into from people who are already there, he said.

Dillman said Career Day gives students a chance to “plug into the network.” He said knowing the right people is more important in a job search than a resume.

For further information on Geography Awareness Week events, call Dillman at 753-6848 or the Geography Department at 753-0631.