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WKU department head completes three-week, global educational tour

Dr. David Keeling

Dr. David Keeling, Distinguished University Professor of Geography and head of WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology, recently completed a three-week around-the-world tour of the South Pacific, Asia and Europe, covering about 30,000 miles, representing the American Geographical Society as part of its geographic educational outreach program.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, Australia

The educational tour began in Kona, Hawaii, with discussions about global volcanic hotspots and the social-economic challenges faced by communities affected by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

In Bora Bora, French Polynesia, Dr. Keeling lectured about global climate change and talked about the implications of sea-level rise for small low-island communities around the Pacific Ocean and beyond. In Sydney, Australia, Dr. Keeling presented a lecture on World Cities and how the Olympic Games helped to change the urban landscapes of Sydney and helped to focus greater attention on environmental remediation strategies for industrial areas.

In Bali, Indonesia, and in Chiang Mai, Thailand, his lectures focused on the themes of nationalism and identity in a global context, with case studies from recent events in Pakistan, India and Thailand, as well as ongoing conflicts around the world involving territorial claims and ethnic tensions. In Agra and Mumbai, India, the group visited the Taj Mahal and a number of urban sites in the country’s business capital and learned about the challenges of sustainable growth, population and economic dynamism.

The Parliament building on the Danube, Budapest, Hungary

On the way to Budapest, Hungary, on the expedition’s final leg, Dr. Keeling talked about how geographers see the world in the 21st century and provided examples of the kinds of spatial analysis that might prove useful for business executives, investors and others. The expedition ended in London, England.

The primary mission of the American Geographical Society’s educational travel programs is to focus attention on some of the planet’s most pressing problems, such as the social implications of climate change for small island communities, ongoing ethnic tensions in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the challenges for Islam in engaging with an increasingly Westernized global economy. A secondary mission is to demonstrate how geographers address these issues and to promote a broader geographic perspective on sustainable development issues.

The Taj Mahal, India

“Learning about population challenges first-hand by examining, for example, India’s demographics and experiencing Mumbai within a local and global population context really helps people to understand the issues of sustainability and global change and puts the challenges we face as a global society into sharper focus,” Dr. Keeling said.

One of the benefits for WKU, Dr. Keeling said, is that the university’s growing international reputation is further enhanced through his participation in these educational tours. Students also benefit from the knowledge gained from these experiences and subsequently shared in the classroom and through research projects and study abroad programs.

Past educational expeditions have led to successful departmental study abroad programs to Argentina, Tanzania, Turkey and Australia, among other destinations, with upcoming programs to Maya, Mexico (Winter 2013) and Chile (Summer 2013) already planned.

Contact: David Keeling, (270) 745-4555.

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