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In its 120-year history, the American Association of Geographers (AAG) has never been led by an expert from a (non-R1) liberal arts college. The long wait is over, however, with DeWitt Wallace Professor of Geography Bill Moseley’s recent election to lead the organization. 

“It’s important to have people at the highest levels in the association coming out of different institutional contexts,” said Dr. Moseley. “Historically, all the past presidents have come out of R1 institutions, but there are geographers at liberal arts colleges, community colleges, tribal colleges, HBCUs, and other places, as well, and it helps to have a seat at the table.” 

The AAG is the largest national geographical association in the world with more than 10,000 members. Professor Moseley will serve the first year of his three-year term as vice president, the second year as president, and the third as past president.

Bill Moseley headshot
Professor Bill Moseley

“This is a huge professional honor and an even bigger deal for the college,” said fellow Macalester geography professor Dr. Dan Trudeau. 

Moseley echoed his colleague’s sentiment. 

“It speaks volumes about the strength of our department, and how it’s viewed more broadly within American geography,” he said. “We have an exceedingly strong reputation, and a great collection of geographers here. Such a talented and collegial department is not just a mark of distinction for Macalester , but it serves as a foundation which allows many of us to go on and serve in national-level leadership roles.

Among his priorities as a new officer will be to encourage more public scholarship. As a past recipient of the AAG’s media award, Dr. Moseley is well-positioned to lead this effort at a crucial time. 

“Public conversations about the issues of the day are enriched by geographical perspectives. I think we’re entering a potentially challenging period in U.S. history where democracy is under attack and authoritarian tendencies are on the rise,” said Moseley. “We need people in the academy, including geographers, to stick their necks out.” 

Moseley also wants to encourage more geographers to serve on important international committees like the UN Committee for World Food Security, on which he served for four years. 

Lastly, he plans to lead the organization to think more about the pipeline of future geographers. 

“We are a relatively small discipline in the United States, and historically, people who go through K-12 education don’t have a lot of exposure to geography. So we need to support our K-12 teachers, and also think about the ‘farm team’ at the undergraduate level,” he said.  

If not for historical biases within the AAG, Professor Moseley likely would not have been the  first geographer from Macalester to lead the organization. In the 1960s, Professor Hildegard Binder Johnson, who founded Macalester’s geography department in 1947, came close. But according to Moseley, she was pushed out because she was not from a large research institution and because she was a woman. 

When Professor Emeritus David Lanegran, who had the opportunity to work with Professor Johnson, spoke with Moseley about his recent election, Dr. Lanegran said:  “Somewhere, Hildegard is smiling.”

February 14 2024

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