Professor Dan Montello, affectionately known as “Monty” by many of his graduate students, became Geography’s Department Chair in July of 2014. He took the reins during a major shakeup of Geography faculty that included the retirement of several of the old guard in previous years, as well as the hiring of several new “young Turks.” Dan also inherited the Department’s most pressing need – that of more funding from MLPS in order to sustain and further the Department’s stellar ranking in the U.S. and worldwide.
Despite assurances that the financial crisis which decimated University of California funding was over, thanks to public support, the lag time between severe financial hardship and current needs did not change noticeably in 2015, and the Department of Geography was not much better off than it was before the reign of Montello. Indeed, ongoing financial cuts had to be made to everything from staff employment to hardware upgrades.
Professor Montello dedicated himself to the process of re-defining and revitalizing the Department by tackling one of its major problems, i.e., the public perception of what Geography is all about. In particular, he put a stress on the human aspect of Geography. To that end, he initiated major changes to the UCSB Geography website, made outreach to undergraduates a number one priority, and attempted to broaden both the scope and the definition of “geography.” Montello is a skilled wordsmith, a professional psychologist, and a renowned Geography scholar – and he may well transform both the discipline and the public perception of UCSB Geography to everyone’s benefit. Time and “Monty” will tell.