Birth of a GeoDesign Curriculum at NAU

Celebration with appropriate food.

On March 1, 2011 the University Curriculum Committee approved our new undergraduate degree program, called Geographic Science and Community Planning (or GSP for short). This was an ambitious effort to combine three former degree programs into one (see The NAU Approach). After a year and a half of countless meetings, emails, and documents, this final UCC meeting seemed a bit anticlimactic. After a brief presentation, a few questions and some successive votes, it was a done deal. During the UCC meeting, one question got to the heart of the matter:

“So, why didn’t you call your new degree GeoDesign?”

After shoving my jaw back in place, I quickly realized that this UCC member had carefully read our new catalog “blurb” that explains a bit about the degree for students. This is the first place where we are embedding the concept of Geodesign into our promotional materials. As approved, the catalog introduction reads:

  • This major integrates geographic knowledge and GIS mapping technologies with the problem-solving fields of community planning and urban design. Known as Geodesign, this educational framework will prepare you to create more livable and sustainable communities while contributing to a better world. We focus on small class size, high student-teacher interaction, on-site field experiences, and diverse learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom.

My colleagues and I had only learned about the concept of Geodesign in November, 2010 when Mark Manone announced that the second annual GeoDesign Summit was going to take place in January, hosted by ESRI. My schedule allowed me to attend, so I volunteered to represent the department at the Summit and, of course, to return with a full report (which I REDUCED to six pages). By February, our full faculty was aware of the concept to varying degrees, and discussions continued about the new name of our degree program.

Ah, the name… Why not “GeoDesign”? Perhaps an indication of how young this concept is on the national scene, our faculty agreed unanimously (with some more adamantly than others) that it was too early to identify an entire undergraduate major around the concept of GeoDesign itself. Still, we had played with names such as “GeoDesign and Community Planning,” and “Environment, Community, and Geodesign” (I liked variations of the latter). Our employers and students still recognize the titles of “community planning” and “geographic science,” for instance. So, despite the lengthy name for the new major, we kept it.

The UCC member who asked the question seemed to understand our rationale, and followed up with, “Perhaps you’ll be back in a couple of years to change the name,” smiling. I replied with a simple, “Perhaps”. For now, we are enthusiastic about finding ways to teach and promote concepts and applications of GeoDesign within our curriculum which, we believe, lends itself very well to the notion of integrating the design professions with the geographic sciences and technologies.

Chair Pam Foti announces the cause for celebration after the final UCC meeting.

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One response to “Birth of a GeoDesign Curriculum at NAU

  1. Pingback: Geodesign: A Bibliography | GIS and Science

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