Greetings From Our New Chair, Dan Montello


As of July 1, 2014, Professor Dan Montello took over as Chairperson of the Department of Geography at UCSB. He succeeds Professor Dar Roberts. Dan joins the rest of the department in thanking Dar for the able leadership and generous service he provided for 4+ years. Dan is the 11th Chair since David Simonett led the effort to create the modern Department of Geography in the mid-1970s. A few thoughts from the new Chair:

“Salutations to the friends and family of UCSB Geography in this, my first missive as Chair. I am honored and excited and a bit apprehensive. Just what I think one should feel before embarking on something one really wants to go well. It’s how I often feel before I lecture or give a talk at a conference or some other setting. Those feelings don’t guarantee my success, but I have found over 30 years that their absence pretty much ensures a flat and uninspired performance. So as far as my emotions go, I think my start as Chair is auspicious.

One of the first questions someone asked me after I was elected to serve as Chair, about 5 and a half months before starting in the role, was ‘What’s your goal as Chair?” The question surprised me a little. It’s an obvious question, but I had not thought about it before then. Quickly, however, a first answer came to me. DO NO HARM. The healthcare worker’s oath became my own. Maintain the department’s reputation for academic excellence and make sure that reputation continues to be deserved. Keep our resources at least stable and spend them wisely and fairly. Keep our department innovative and focused on interesting and important research issues. Maintain collegiality among faculty, staff, and students (even including me!).

But as these thoughts ran through my mind, I realized that maintaining the status quo—even when it is one of quality and accomplishment—would not be ambitious enough. Hence, I began to develop ‘kicked-up goals’ (Bam!), a process of development that is ongoing. I hope to enhance our department’s academic excellence and more strongly communicate its relevance to the university and to society. I wish to promote academic fairness and balance. I want to promote faculty hires and faculty affiliations in other departments that will keep strong areas strong and strengthen areas that are not so strong but deserve to be. I aim to encourage more intellectually diverse and profound course offerings, and protect the wonder and humanity of the classroom experience at its best. I intend to foster interaction among our faculty (including our Affiliates), staff, and students, and to nurture stronger relationships with our Alumni. I especially mean to foster more interaction with our undergraduate students, bolstering their feeling of belonging to the department. Of course, I plan to increase our appeal to undergraduates at UCSB who haven’t yet discovered what a great major Geography is. All three of our majors (BA, BA with GIS, BS in Physical Geography) are intellectually stimulating and employable, and both existing and potentially new students need to know this. I want to advance an even more positive morale in the department. Geography can be fun!

To these ends, I ask you to let me know your thoughts. Ask questions, provide opinions, make observations, even kvetch—as long as your kvetch includes something constructive.”

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Dan plays the pirate with the two previous Chairs, Dar Roberts and Oliver Chadwick. He suspects he may be the one drinking from the bottle before his service is over!

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Dan usually grills tri-tip and other delectables at the department BBQs in Fall and Spring. He has gotten much use out of his swanky custom-made apron.

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Why not? To commemorate 50 years of life on Earth as he had known it, Dan and his assistant, M. V. Gray, explored the natural and human landscapes of the Valley from October 23 to 25, 2009. Death Valley is most known for its elevation, or lack thereof. At its lowest spot (Badwater Basin), it drops down to –282 feet (–86.0 meters) below sea level.