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  • President’s Plenary Session:Geography in a Diverse World
  • Jenny Zorn

A significant challenge for our discipline is enhancing and embracing diversity. We need to consider a variety of strategies to increase diversity in geography. This year's plenary discussed the goals of a research project that engages Latino/a students in the research, internationalization issues, recruiting and retaining faculty, and diversifying our student populations.

In recent years the AAG has focused efforts on diversity through its Diversity Task Force. One of the efforts of the AAG is The Race, Ethnicity, and Place Conference that focuses on research agendas and engaging a diverse research community. Last year's focus was on African Americans, and this year the focus is on Latino/as at the upcoming conference in San Marcos, Texas, in the fall of 2006. The conference is an avenue to present research, engage in discussions, and encourage researchers from a variety of backgrounds.

International education has faced significant challenges in the post-September 11, 2001, era. This past year, international admissions increased from the declines since 2001. The flow of students from India increased 28% last year, and the inflow from China was up 20%. American universities say the quality of these international students is at a higher level. The greatest increases have been in engineering, up 26%; business is up 12% and the physical sciences are up 5%. Opportunities in distributed or distance learning are increasing, particularly in Korea. Dual-degree programs across international boundaries are on the rise. China has developed 1-2-1 programs with a dozen universities in the United States and over 35 Chinese universities. The 1-2-1 programs are dual-degree programs with Chinese students studying the first year in China, the middle 2 years in the U.S., and the final year in China, earning degrees from both the Chinese university and the American university. [End Page 154]

Recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty is a significant challenge for universities today. With a limited number of nonwhites in the recruiting pool, it is necessary to examine strategies to recruit and retain a diverse faculty. More than 33% of AAG members are women, so hiring women is a challenge, but not nearly as difficult as recruiting nonwhites. Only 1.5% of members of the AAG identify themselves as African American, and less than 1.5% identify as Latino/a. The immediate future is not very bright, with the number of minority doctorate recipients last year in geography at meager levels: one American Indian, four Asians, one African American, two Hispanics, and six Other/Unknown races. The pipeline feeding the universities geographers then becomes vital.

The Presidential Plenary focused on these four areas of discussion, engaging Latino/as in research, international education opportunities, recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty, and diversifying the pipeline of geographers. Past president of the APCG, Dan Arreola, spoke about his engagement of Latino/as in research and the challenges of working on interdisciplinary projects and programs that has resulted in an NSF project in Latino Communities in Transition. Because the Web site for his project speaks to the issues he raised, he did not provide a written contribution for this particular article, but directs you to the Web site at The current president of the AAG, Kavita Pandit, addressed one of her initiatives: international education. Christine Rodrigue spoke about a project her campus initiated to try to attract diversity in their student population. APCG Past President Nancy Wilkinson spoke about recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty.

Jenny Zorn
California State University, San Bernardino


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