NCGE Moves into New Central Office
JACKSONVILLE -- September 24, 2002 -- Take a trip up to the second floor of Jacksonville State University's Martin Hall and you can find a spot that can put the world at your fingertips and give you a whole new way of seeing the world.
The National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) recently moved into their new central office at JSU, relocating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Executive Director Michal LeVasseur plans to settle in for a long time. The contract between JSU and the NCGE is for five years, but LeVasseur hopes to keep it here longer. The NCGE's mission is to enhance the status and quality of geography teaching and learning at all levels. There is no question that the new director is passionate about the subject.
"Geography is most characterized by a perspective," said Dr. LeVasseur. "We don't necessarily have subject matter that is exclusive to geography; its how we look at things."
Geographers look at things in terms of a spatial perspective and an ecological perspective. They are concerned about answering the question of where things are located. "That's real basic -- find the capital, find the state. And most people stop right there, as soon as we've located something on a map, we've done geography. But a geographer would say, well that's like learning the alphabet. We teach children to learn the alphabet, and be able to put it together into words, and words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs so that we can communicate."
LeVasseur compares the "where," the location, to the alphabet. It provides the basic knowledge, but geographers investigate the "whys" behind the location and what affect it has on the area and surrounding areas. Geographers look at the connection of where things are located to their neighbors and what impact it makes.
"For example, does it make any difference that the southern hemisphere does not have any sizeable deposits of coal that can be used for industrial development? We can locate coal deposits on a map. We can look at why they are where they are. But what's really important is, what's the implication of that? Does it make any difference? Well if you look at industrial development it sure made a difference to countries in the southern hemisphere because they didn't have the basic resource that it took to develop an industrial revolution," she said.
The geography discipline, according to LeVasseur, can also be considered the first conservation group. Geographers look at the relationship between human beings and their activities and their environment.
"One of the things geography helps people do is to see how things are connected and the implications of if I do one thing in this location I can think about what that's going to do to other locations. Geography seems to foster that kind of thinking."
LeVasseur started out as an undergraduate in anthropology, but believes she was a "closet geographer."
"As I studied things, I was always kind of asking, not knowing, geographic questions. Why were they here?" remembered LeVasseur. "At the time we were looking at sites in Georgia. Why were they settling in these places? What other places should we be looking to find sites? Well, those were geographic questions."
She went on to earn her Master of Science in Geography at the University of South Florida in Tampa. She also completed her doctorate there.
The NCGE is a national professional organization composed primarily of teachers. As executive director, LeVassuer oversees the 3500 members nationally and in Canada. She oversees membership, publication of a professional journal as well as fund-raising. Her goal is to increase the organization's visibility on a nationwide level.
"I think a geographic way of thinking is very crucial today to help understand what's going on economically, politically, environmentally. Everything happens in a place."
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