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Posts By: Camille V Elliott

Events Water Justice in Mexico City

Dr. Katie Meehan Discusses Water Justice in Mexico City at the Department of Geography and Urban Studies annual Benjamin H. Kohl Social Justice Lecture

On November 3rd, the Department of Geography and Urban Studies welcomed Dr. Katie Meehan from the University of Oregon to present this year’s Benjamin H/ Kohl Social Justice Lecture, titled “Water Justice in Mexico City: Grassroots Innovation and Paradoxical Promise.” The event, which celebrates the life and academic commitments of beloved GUS faculty member Ben Kohl, attracted a large and engaged crowd. Many in the audience knew and worked with Dr. Kohl, others were familiar with his scholarship, and all were part of continuing his legacy by participating in an event that united social justice concerns with academic inquiry.

Prior to the lecture itself, GUS graduate students had the chance to get to know Dr. Meehan during a working lunch organized by the department. This turned out to be a great experience for the group, since many GUS graduate students are doing research that relates directly to Dr. Meehan’s, particularly in their commitments to transdisciplinary approaches to human geography and social justice.

While Dr. Meehan is currently involved in multiple research projects in a few different research sites, her lecture focused on the issue of water insecurity in Mexico City and potential solutions being proposed by a community-based organization called Isla Urbana. Dr. Meehan immediately captured the audience’s attention by narrating the story of a Mexico City resident’s daily water procurement practices, revealing both the technical details of rainwater capturing and the lived experience of a woman utilizing this method. This bit of storytelling, as well as a broader historical framing that went back to Aztec water mythology, provided a compelling introduction to an excellent talk and discussion.

In Dr. Meehan’s presentation, she demonstrated that in Mexico City, as in other cities throughout the world, significant portions of the population are not provided with safe and sufficient water to drink, cook, bathe, etc. She explained that despite water being designated by the Mexico City government as a human right, 31% of the population does not have safe, all-day water access and therefore must fill in the gaps through a number of practices, one of which is capturing rainwater. Dr. Meehan concluded by affirming that the work of Isla Urbana, a community-based organization that builds and installs water catchment systems, has the potential to bring water justice to Mexico City by “re-plumbing the republic.”

A question and answer session followed the lecture, allowing attendees and Dr. Meehan to partake in a dialogue that discussed topics such as how the work of Isla Urbana relates to broader social movements in Mexico City, the tensions between the work of NGOs and social justice goals, and the issue of water privatization in other areas of Latin America, such as Bolivia, where Dr. Kohl lived for many years as both an activist and researcher. Conversation continued over food and drinks during a reception outside the GUS Department’s newly opened.

By PhD Student Rebecca Croog


Our Undergrads Take on Middle States

On October 20 and 21, five students representing the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University attended the Middle States Division of the Association of American Geographers annual meeting at SUNY Geneseo.

They presented five-minute talks on a range of topics:GUS 2

  • Jillian Eller: “Liquor Store Locations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Their Relation to Violent Crime Based on Seasonality”
  • Joseph Gallagher: “Cod-motity Fetish: British Fishers, Place and Brexit
  • Maric Kusinitz: “Geographies of Sacred Space: A Meditative Exercise”
  • Ritapa Neogi: “Colonialism and the Ecological Crisis of the Suez Canal
  • Chelsea Williams: “Neoliberal Food Deserts”

In addition to the professional development of presenting at a conference, this was a chance for our students to network with fellow Geography undergraduates and meet faculty from the region, including the Chair of the American Association of Geographers Derek Alderman.

This was a student-driven effort, with support from faculty and staff in the department.

GIS River City

Environmental GIS takes on Urban Heat at the River City Festival

By Hamil Pearsall, PhD, Marlee Cooper, Dempsey DiMedio, Kenneth Govan, Jason Loux, Daron Mulligan, Charlie Orr, Julia Pedrick, Sam Schwarzwalder, and Chris Tauskey

On Saturday, October 14th, the students from Environmental GIS taught by Professor Hamil Pearsall developed an exhibit on urban heat islands in Philadelphia as part of the Climate City section at the Fishtown River City Festival at Penn Treaty Park.

Our goal was to teach attendees about urban heat islands and in a way that was easy to understand, memorable and relatable to individuals living in the Philadelphia area. We followed a climate communication approach developed by the Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) that focused on making an issue like climate change local, relevant, and solution-oriented and developed three different hands-on components for our exhibit:

  1. A station for measuring the temperature of common construction materials (e.g. bricks, roofing materials, wood);
  2. A matching game that challenged residents to match a neighborhood-scale photo to its corresponding location on a map of temperatures across the city; and
  3. A game, inspired by The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, to help Fishtown residents come up with ways of cooling their neighborhood.
Students in Professor Pearsall’s Environmental GIS course show River City Festival attendees ways to combat urban heat.

Students in Professor Pearsall’s Environmental GIS course show River City Festival attendees ways to combat urban heat.

Our maps and activities were engaging, fun, and educational. They help get people interested in the timely issue of urban heat, it helped people realize that urban heat islands affect them as
individuals. It also equipped them with recommendations of what they can do to keep their neighborhoods cooler. Easy recommendations included green spaces, planting trees, or being aware of the type of shingles on your roof.

The students from the class enjoyed interacting with the local community to discuss environmental issues relevant to Philadelphia. The exhibit successfully accomplished its goal of making people aware of extreme heat in cities and helping them to find ways that they could make a difference through a few simple actions.

Extreme Weather

Our Faculty Advocate for Climate Change Policy Reform in Wake of Recent Natural Disasters

On Sept. 26, six of our faculty openly addressed recent natural disasters in a panel titled “Extreme Weather or Extreme Politics: Climate Change, Urban Planning and the 2017 Hurricane Season.” Moderated by Hamil Pearsall, an expert on hazards and vulnerability, panelists included Christina Rosan, David Organ, Victor Gutierrez-Velez, Robert Mason, and Charles Kaylor.

Read more about the panel, as told by Environmental Studies major Jillian Eller, on the College of Liberal Arts Newsroom.


GIS Studio Grand Opening

On Friday October 6th, we celebrated the grand opening of our new Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Studio.

The GIS Studio is located on the first floor of Gladfelter Hall. Formerly not in use as an academic space, the mezzanine level now includes the studio, the faculty office for the Assistant Director of GIS 2the Professional Science Master’s in GIS, and a small conference room with videoconferencing technology. This space is for graduate students in the Professional Science Master’s in GIS, giving them a dedicated space to work on their coursework, collaborate with fellow students and employers, and learn in a hands-on setting.

At the opening, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Richard Deeg and Chair of the Department of Geography and Urban Studies Dr. Melissa R. Gilbert spoke briefly. Dean Deeg has been supportive of the Professional Science Master’s in GIS since its creation in 2015. Dr. Gilbert spoke on behalf of the department thanking the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Office, Facilities and many others for their assistance to create the beautiful space for our students.

In our Professional Science Master’s in GIS, we teach students how to learn. We aim to prepare students with a variety of tools to solve problems and prepare them for future shifts in technology. We teach a range of languages and skills including database management, cartography, programming, visualization and business ethics that can then be applied across many industries. Our goal is not to teach a specific set of skills but to give students the skills they need to move them forward.

Because applications of GIS are so pervasive, GIS and geospatial analysis is one of the highest growth industries in the United States, growing at an estimated 30 percent annually (U.S. Department of Labor).  Additionally, GIS analysts are equipped to integrate four of the top ten most hirable skills of 2017 according to LinkedIn. We are excited to devote this space to students learning in this cutting-edge program.

To learn more about our programs, join us for an open house on Tuesday October 17th, 5:30 pm in our new GIS Studio. RSVP here to attend.

Assistant/Associate Professor in International Development, Economic Globalization, and Global Change

Job Description

Temple University’s Department of Geography and Urban Studies (GUS) invites applications for a full-time tenure track Assistant Professor or Associate Professor position in International Development, Economic Globalization and Global Change beginning in academic year 2018-19. A Ph.D. in Geography or related field is required by the start of employment. We are looking for individuals who will excel at conducting research and providing graduate and undergraduate instruction in an interdisciplinary department. GUS offers two interdisciplinary undergraduate majors in Geography and Urban Studies and Environmental Studies. GUS also offers three graduate programs – an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Geography and Urban Studies and a Professional Science Masters in Geographic Information Systems.


Competitive candidates should demonstrate expertise in the use of geographic methods to address pressing global challenges for sustainable development, such as those stemming from economic globalization and climatic or other global environmental changes. Candidates should also demonstrate success in active interdisciplinary collaboration with scholars coming from the social, physical and environmental sciences. Additional research themes and domains of expertise for this position may include: social and environmental justice, conservation and development, the impacts of global flows of goods and services on regional or local environments and livelihoods, institutional and community responses to change, resource extraction, social and environmental conflict, governance at multiple scales, or the energy-water-food nexus.

The successful applicant will demonstrate a strong potential for funded research and the ability to collaborate with colleagues across campus in a broad array of disciplines as well as with the SAL@T, Spatial Analysis Laboratory at Temple, which is a university-wide core-facility situated in and managed by the Department of Geography and Urban Studies.

Application Instructions

Applications should include:

  • A letter that addresses research and teaching interests and a copy of your most recent curriculum vitae.
  • Three letters of recommendation should be sent under separate cover.
  • Submit all materials via Interfolio. Review of applications will begin November 1 and will continue until the position is filled.

Temple University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer and the University especially  encourages applications from women, minorities, veterans and persons with disabilities.


Building Information Technology Skills, Summer 2017

Each summer, youth from all parts of Philadelphia come to Temple University to participate in the Building Information Technology Skills (bITS) program at Temple University.  The program offers unique opportunities for urban youth to acquire new digital literacy and professional skills for the 21st century. The program seeks to build new capacities for community development and economic change through the languages of digital technology.

Youth in the bITS program participate in service learning projects or a faculty-led internship experience. This summer, a group of youth worked on a project led by Geography and Urban Studies PhD student Alisa Shockley with Environmental Studies major Jillian Eller as a fellow mentor. They examined parks in North Philadelphia and Center City, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of different parks. They then proposed a new park that could be put in place at 8th and Berks, just east of Temple’s Campus. Given the size of the plot of land and the best and worst practices they saw across the city, they designed a park that sought to integrate the needs of the community with aesthetic design. Their final proposal pulled from family-friendly parks found in North Philadelphia, with kids playing and teenagers present, and the design focused around a fountain seen at Logan Circle, to suggest a park with a rec center to generate money, space for kids, dogs and parents, and a community garden space. In keeping with Philadelphia’s love of mural but putting their own spin on it, they suggested painting the walkways instead of a building wall.

Check out their story map, detailing their fieldwork, reflections and suggestions, here: Engaging with Spaces: 8th and Diamond Playground Fieldwork.

In addition to the student mentors, other members of the GUS community were involved with the bITS program including PhD student Sarah Heck, who worked as a coordinator GUS bITS 2for the program. Guest visitors included Assistant Professor Dr. David Organ and 2016 PhD graduate Alec Foster.

The bITS program invites several guest speakers to attend and work with the youth. For the past several years, Cey Adams, a graffiti artist and co-founder of the Drawing Board, Def Jam Recordings visual design firm. Just one day after participating in the bITS showcase, Cey Adams was featured in August 11th’s Google Doodle, recognizing the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip hop.

G3The bITS program is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Philadelphia Youth Network. It began as a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Dr. Michele Masucci, Vice President for Research at Temple University and a Geography and Urban Studies Professor. More information about the bITS summer program and its affiliation with the Apps and Maps Studios at Temple is available here.



Pictured above: Jillian Eller and Alisa Shockley, bITS mentors from GUS, and their group of youth at the final presentation day.
Pictured right: Dr. Michele Masucci, Vice President for Research, presents Cey Adams with a thank you gift.
Pictured left: Philadelphia Youth Network’s Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend addresses the youth, recognizing their hard work in the program.


Congratulations to Dr. Melissa R. Gilbert, New Director of Center for Sustainable Communities

College of Liberal Arts Dean Richard Deeg announced this month that Geography and Urban Studies Chair Dr. Melissa R. Gilbert has been selected as the new director for Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities.  Dr. Gilbert is an expert in urban geography, feminist and critical race studies, and social action research. Her goal is to expand the Center’s impact by connecting research on human-environment interactions to society and policy through participatory approaches to research.

Learn more information about the Center and the Dr. Gilbert’s role as director here.


Vice President for Research Michele Masucci elected to University City Science Center Board of Directors

Congratulations to Michele Masucci, PhD, Vice President for Research, on her recent election to the University City Science Center’s Board of Directors. Dr. Masucci was elected to the board by shareholders on June 9th. A full list of members of the University City Science Center’s Board of Directors is available here. Dr. Masucci is a faculty member in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies.

Aaron Weckstein

Environmental Studies Major Aaron Weckstein receives Udall Scholarship

Environmental Studies major Aaron Weckstein was selected out of nearly 500 applicants as a 2017 Udall Scholar. With an interest in sustainable urban design and green stormwater infrastructure, Aaron has served as the Director of Grounds and Sustainability for the Temple Student Government for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Udall Scholars are selected on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, Native health care, or Tribal public policy; leadership potential; record of public service; and academic achievement. Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the Scholar’s junior or senior year. Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,574 scholarships totaling $8,090,000.

The 2017 Udall Scholars will assemble August 8-13, 2017, in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care, and governance.

Learn more about the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship and meet the 2017 Scholars.