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The American Association of Geographers (AAG) has named two recipients of the 2021 Award for Bachelors’ Program Excellence in Geography: The Geographic Science Program at James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia, and the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. 

The annual award and cash prize for Bachelors’ Program Excellence is one of three subcategories in AAG’s Program Excellence Awards, honoring Geography departments and Geography programs within blended departments that have significantly enhanced the prominence and reputation of Geography as a discipline and demonstrated the characteristics of a strong and engaged academic unit. The Bachelors’ Program award honors non-PhD-granting Geography programs at the baccalaureate level. Such programs play an important role in educating future geographers and promoting the discipline to a wider world, but tend not to be included in national rankings within the Academy.

JMU’s Geographic Science Program has shown remarkable growth over the last nine years, increasing from 156 to 240 majors, and employing 9.5 full-time tenure-track faculty. The program has invested in high-impact teaching practices that engage undergraduate students in field experiences in water resources, advanced cultural geography, and biogeography, often in the context of community engagement and service learning, both locally and abroad, and project-based instruction with partners such as Shenandoah National Park. The program is also known for its collegiality and maintenance of connections with its alumni.

Kennesaw State University’s Department of Geography and Anthropology has shown extraordinary energy and success in its promotion of geography on and off campus, since its founding in 1997. Offering six degree tracks — a Geospatial Sciences B.S., a Geography B.A., a Geography Minor, an Environmental Studies Minor, a Certificate in Geographic Information Sciences, and a Certificate in Land Surveying–the program serves about 7,000 students per year with 15 full-time faculty, 4 limited term full-time faculty, and 9 part-time faculty. Emphasizing experiential learning, professional experiences, high-impact practices, community engagement, internships and co-ops, teaching assistantships, and study abroad opportunities, the department tailors its coursework for students based on their educational interests and career goals. 

“Undergraduate programs in Geography are the lifeblood of the discipline,” said Gary Langham, Executive Director of AAG. “These programs open so many doors to students, preparing them for careers in every sector and virtually every imaginable field, from environmental science to public health to business logistics, and so much more. We commend James Madison University and Kennesaw State University for their innovation in attracting and engaging students and their communities.”