The Geography Program was founded within the Department of Geology in the late 1960's with the hiring of Dr. Otis Templer (1968), Dr. William Conroy (1969) and Dr. Claude Davidson (1969). Soon after, Dr. Gary Elbow joined the geography faculty in 1970. In 1971 the geography faculty separated from the Department of Geology to form the new Department of Geography, which moved to the new addition to Holden Hall in 1972. Dr. Otis Templer served as the department chair. With four faculty members, the undergraduate program offered a course of study leading to a Bachelor of Arts in Geography.
With the retirement of Dr. Conroy (who was replaced by Dr. Rick Giradino, who was replaced by Dr. Ron Dorn, who was replaced by Dr. Jeff Lee), in 1988 the department had four faculty members (Templer, Elbow, Davidson and Lee). Shortly thereafter, in 1990, Linda Jones was hired as an instructor in the geography program.
In the early 1990's, as part of a College policy to reduce the number of small departments, the Department of Geography was merged with the Department of Economics to form the Department of Economics and Geography. This merger was a marriage of administrative convenience with both programs located on the second floor of Holden Hall. As part of the arrangement, Dr. Joseph King (History) served as the department chair for both programs.
With the retirement of Dr. Davidson in 1998, Dr. Kevin Mulligan was hired as a visiting professor which later became tenure track. In 1999 the Geography Program in the Department of Economics and Geography had four faculty members (Templer, Elbow, Lee and Mulligan) and one instructor (Jones).
With the addition of Dr. Mulligan in 1999, the breadth of the Geography Program was expanded to include new GIS courses and Lucia Barbato was hired as an instructor in 2000 to support increased enrollment. At about the same time, Dr. Templer went on modified service and Dr. Elbow took on the job of the university SACs coordinator. These changes allowed the department to hire Dr. Perry Carter and Dr. Deborah Salazar in 2001, and subsequently Dr. Cynthia Sorrenson in 2004.
In 2004, Dr. Mulligan and Ms. Barbato established the Center for Geospatial Technology as a new independent research facility housed in the Experimental Sciences Building. Dr. Mulligan served as the director of the Center and Ms. Barbato served as the associate director.
With the departure of Dr. Salazar in 2004, the department hired Dr. Amy Wong (2004) who was subsequently replaced by Dr. Tina Delahunty in 2005. In 2009, the Geography Program in the Department of Economics and Geography had four regular faculty members (Lee, Mulligan, Carter and Delahunty), two half-time faculty members (Templer and Elbow) and two instructors (Jones and Barbato).
Following a critical review of the graduate program in economics in 2009, the College decided it would be best if the Geography Program was separated from Economics and merged back into the Department of Geosciences. In 2010, the merger was complete. As part of this move, a graduate program was developed in geography leading to an M.S. in Geography and a Ph.D. in Geosciences (geography emphasis). In addition, the department developed a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST). To support the growth of GIS, the Dean of the College, Dr. Schovanec, gave the department a new position and Dr. Guofeng Cao was hired in 2013. Subsequently, in 2016, Dr. Zhe Zhu was hired to replace Dr. Delahunty, Dr. Patricia Solis was hired as a Research Associate Professor and Cameron Griffith was hired as an instructor.
Today (2017), the Geography Program in the Department of Geosciences has five regular faculty members (Lee, Mulligan, Carter, Cao and Zhu), one research associate professor (Solis) and three instructors (Jones, Barbato and Griffith).
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