My spies tell me that a large group of UCSB students, faculty, and alumni were gathered in a diner in Chicago at the recent meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Chicago. The staff of the initially empty diner (all of two) were overwhelmed at the arrival of over 20 UCSB geographers, but they did their best with victuals and drink for all. With our program a mere 31 years young, our body of alums is now beginning to swell, and an impressive one it is indeed! UCSB Geography grads can be found all over the map: in academia, business, government, and elsewhere. Santa Barbara beach sands are spreading out around the world, and making waves. In our mission statement, we state that “we will build an extraordinary community for creating new knowledge about planet earth and its inhabitants.” This community is getting bigger and bigger, and better and better. Next year, let’s do better than a diner!
This is my last newsletter column as Chair. Starting July 1st, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be passing the department leadership over to Oliver Chadwick, ending my five-and-a-half year run as Chair. Much has happened in that time—we’ve had losses and sadness, but also some gains and fun along the way. I’ve hired five new faculty (hopefully to be six by June), worked on innumerable space plans for the department, and overseen merit and promotions for virtually all. Students have been admitted and graduated and not known any other chair! It’s time to move on.
My greatest accomplishment as Chair, however, has been to work with our extraordinary staff to support the excellent geography going on here. There have been turnovers and new hires, but, all told, the department owes an enormous debt of gratitude to those who support the academic role, allow us to compete for grants, ensure reliable and cutting edge computing, balance our books, and write the reports. Next time you are in the office, take the time to thank a UCSB Geography staff member. And my own special thanks to Mo Lovegreen, who has given us extraordinary leadership and energy as MSO. I know that Oliver will do well as chair, since he inherits a group of the best.
For now, I hope to disappear into the sunset for a while. I have been awarded both a UK Leverhulme award and a Fulbright, and will spend the next academic year based at the City University of London and the University of Trieste in Italy, writing and lecturing. After 16 years, I’ve decided that it is time for a sabbatical. There is still much to do between now, the transition of leadership (July 1st), and when I leave for London, so I’ll be busy until then. Still to complete is the Department’s program review documentation and the final round of plans for the Phelps renovation and move. Busy times!
Lastly, a final note of thanks to those who have donated money to the Department this year. As state budgets tighten, and we are expected to do more with less, the fact that we have unencumbered funds for the myriads of extra items we need makes all the difference. We have added a button to the Department web site for those who wish to donate money to our many named funds. Prior to April 15th is a good time to click that button, but any time works for us.