Editor’s Note: On Nov. 5, the campus community received an email from Provost Christopher Duncan, Ph.D., announcing that due to” efforts to achieve financial sustainability a number of areas in the academic program at Wittenberg are being explored for resizing and reshaping. Still others are being considered by the Educational Policies Committee (EPC) for possible discontinuance.” Open forums were to be held to “solicit comments from members of the campus community.”
This story is part of a series of online-exclusive coverage of each open forum as they occur.
Faculty and students of the Geography Department took turns sharing their experiences in the field on Thursday during the second of six open forums for departments considered for discontinuation.
They appealed to the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the interdisciplinary nature of the field as a reason the department is necessary to Wittenberg’s mission. Many stated that the fact that Geography is a “major of discovery,” or a major that students learn about once they are at Wittenberg, is a selling point for the university.
“Our advantage is that you don’t have to declare until you get here,” said Jimmy Humphries, a professor in the Theatre and Dance Department who is involved in recruiting students. He said majors of discovery allow students to gravitate toward something once they arrive on campus.
“I’m proud it is a major of discovery, that’s what life is about,” said Olga Medvedkov, a professor in the Geography Department.
Retired professor of political science Gerry Hudson said that the GIS system that the department uses is “a strong methodological contribution” to many social sciences.
Junior Mike Hofer added that the maps used during election coverage were all created by GIS software.
Medvedkov said that the city of Springfield has been awarded $6.1 million in grants for neighborhood stabilization using data gathered by geography students. She continued by saying experiential learning such as field work in Russia and Georgia empowers students.
“We may be small, but we’re busy doing our work,” she said.
“There’s nothing I can’t connect geography to” said Sophomore Don Hutchinson. He said that studying geography opened up the world for him.
David Nibert, a professor of sociology, asked why the Geography Department was being punished when the problem originates from elsewhere in the university.
Shih-Ming Li Chang of the Theatre and Dance Department asked why the administration couldn’t turn the negative into a positive by creating a faculty and alumni fundraising campaign.
“That way, we find out how the alumni really love us,” she said.
Senior Wes Schmidt-Broome, a student member on the EPC, said he was impressed with the civility of the forum and glad it was based on reason. However, he added that every department is going to have to change in some facet.
“We’ve come to the point where mission and budget are in conflict and a valid argument doesn’t change the financial reality,” he said.
Dr. Peter Hanson, Chair of the Educational Policies Committee, began and ended the forum by stating that the EPC has yet to make any preliminary assessments and that they were there to hear the views of people involved.
Those wishing to contribute their comments and input are welcome to via the following link: http://www5.wittenberg.edu/administration/provost/epcfeedback. Comments will be accepted until December 17.