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Geography’s first SAIL program is a success!

In the last week of July, Geography hosted its first Summer Academy to Inspire Learning (SAIL) program. The SAIL program serves middle and high school students from the southern Willamette Valley who come from under-represented backgrounds such as lower-income and/or first generation students. The program encourages students to enroll and succeed in college by exposing them to fun and innovative programming through different units on campus.

Our Undergraduate Coordinator, Leslie McLees, organized a week-long series of interactive activities for students entering their junior and senior years of high school. Students reflected how we tell stories about places and how that in turn impacts how we treat the people who live there. The made maps in Carto with Joanna Merson and participated in a humanitarian mapathon, digitizing infrastructure in Sri Lanka for a project about adaptation to climate change, with the MapxNorthwest president, Greg Fitzgerald. They used the GPS apps on their phones to do some orienteering and explore human-environment dynamics on our campus. They spent time near Austen footbridge with lecturer Johnny Webb to measure on stream flow and understand the water cycle. The week ended with a discussion with Leslie McLees on the purpose of college, how to understand the purpose of college, and ways to think about how to make it successful for individuals. Several students helped throughout the week, including Bernard Cowen, Zane Eddy, Annabelle Lind, Kate Shields, and Chris Tello. Thanks to all of them for making the week possible!

Despite temperatures above 90 degrees the entire week, it was an amazing success. Students were highly engaged and active throughout all of the activities, and appreciate that they got to see and experience some of the variety of what geography can do. And of course, all were surprised at the breadth of the discipline. Several students remarked that they were so happy they had discovered geography, and hoped to study it in college. We look forward to having some of them in a our classes in a couple of years!