When I came to IUP in the fall of 1998, I had an interest in geography but no real knowledge of how I could use it in my career path. I was a poor mapmaker and misinformation led me to believe that I could not be a geography major without that skill. I went into social science secondary education with a concentration in history. Through that track, I was required to take a course in the geography of the United States and Canada. I was hooked and shocked to see all that the field of geography included! By the next semester, I had a double concentration in history and geography.
Being in the geography department at IUP was a wonderful experience. It was small enough for everyone to know everyone else, but large enough to have the proper resources for successful training. I feel that the department prepared me for my future in graduate school in many ways. Through closer interaction with the professors, I developed the skills and made the connections necessary for success in the discipline. A wide variety of courses shaped a broad knowledge of geography and its sub-disciplines. As I look around me at my graduate institution, I feel that other students were not as lucky as I was to have such a well-rounded undergraduate experience.
Through programs like the Visiting Geographic Scientist Program and Gamma Theta Upsilon, an honor society for geographers, students at IUP get the opportunity to meet well-known geographers and attend national meetings. The department makes occasions for exposure to those in the field and in geography academia accessible, as well as providing chances for presenting research on a variety of levels.
I feel that because I was given the chance to serve on the executive committee of Gamma Theta Upsilon, as well as be an officer for the local chapter, to present at and attend conferences such as the Association of American Geographers' Annual Meeting and the National Council for Geographic Education's Annual Meeting, and to write an undergraduate thesis, I had a leg up on other students who applied to graduate programs. I feel honored that through the support of my professors, I was awarded the 2002 O. Orland Maxfield Undergraduate Scholarship by Gamma Theta Upsilon. Without these many opportunities, I may not have received a fellowship from an institution like the University of Delaware, or been given the option to research climate change and its impacts on milk production and disease in dairy cattle.
All of these opportunities, as well as the chance to work with world-class professors who truly take an interest in their students, has better prepared me for my future in the discipline of geography. I feel that the faculty members at IUP are unique in their ability to connect with their students and provide a stimulating environment for learning. Without the foundation that the Department of Geography and Regional Planning at IUP provided me, I would not be where I am today.
Dawn M. Drake
B.A. (2002): Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Current: M.S. program (Geography) University of Delaware