I write to bring public attention to the proposed closing of the Geography Department at the University of Wyoming, to which I object strenuously.
One of Wyoming’s biggest problems is the outmigration of its college graduates, who have a difficult time landing remunerative, decent-paying jobs in fields other than mineral and natural resource extraction. This has not been the case for UW’s geography alumni.
I and five of my fellow UW geography students work at a Wyoming-based environmental impact studies firm. Four of us live and work right here in Laramie and Cheyenne. Our geography educations focused on everything from map production and analysis to historical geography to natural resource management. All of us have rewarding jobs in a great Wyoming company, and we are all prospering right here in this state. I wonder how many other UW Arts & Sciences majors have that track record.
UW geography graduates have skills that are relevant in Wyoming. Why does the University willfully seek to pull the plug on a department that provides qualified candidates for jobs that will continue to move Wyoming’s economy forward?
I suspect that shutting down geography has been a behind-the-scenes UW administrative goal for some years now. Replacements have not been hired for professors who have retired, classes have been cut. This needs to be reversed immediately. Eliminating the department and offering a new geographic information science major is not acceptable. People who create maps need to be more than digital cartography worker bees—they must have the skills to interpret the data those maps reveal. Studying geography gives students the tools to become more than mapmakers: many of us are Wyoming’s climatologists, forestry managers, historians, journalists, executives, archivists and city planners.
UW needs to keep the geography department going, and put the resources into it to make it the great department it was a decade ago. Geographers are informed citizens, and many of us stay in Wyoming. Want to work on building up a new Wyoming economy? Let’s start by not stripping future UW students of the opportunity to study geography at the state’s only university.