April 26, 2006

Geography department to host first alumni reunion

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will hold its first alumni reunion next month.

The reunion is a series of events set for 1-6 p.m. Friday, May 5. The event is one of several efforts aimed at building links to future, current and past students, said Leslie A. Duram, associate professor and chair of the department.

Although some might think geography is simply the study of places on a map, Duram said the science has moved well beyond that point. Geographers use maps, data analysis, landscape description and space-based Geographic Information Systems to learn more about the physical state of the world. They deal with high-tech imaging of the Earth and the effects of the interaction between humans and environment.

"We're really interested in the idea of where things are and why," Duram said. "We certainly use maps, they tell us a lot. But it's much more than that. We're a very applied department. So we're out there gathering real data, analyzing it and making suggestions about how to improve things."

Two years ago, the department, part of the College of Liberal Arts, changed its name from the Department of Geography to the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources to better reflect that growing aspect of study. The environmental portions of the science include investigating loss of biodiversity, water pollution, flooding and global warming, Duram said.

Students can earn bachelor's and master of science degrees and an interdisciplinary doctorate in Environmental Resources and Policy through the department. Careers include recycling coordinator, emergency manager, weather forecaster and water quality manager, among many others.

Duram said the reunion will help current students build bridges into the professional world when they graduate.

"It will make us all more like a whole community," she said.

The department plans a facility tour, sessions with students, reception and dinner for the alumni who return.

The department also is sending a new brochure, posters and pencils to high school environmental clubs and geography teachers around the state. It also plans to send posters to university geography departments throughout the United States and Canada, Duram said.

Conducting more aggressive and effective outreach to SIUC alumni is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.