The IUP Geography Department impressed me immediately with the diversity of programs that they offered. From philosophy and exploration to cartography, land use issues, and GIS, the department offers an amazing opportunity for free thought, and an excellent education. My classes in geography at IUP have helped me achieve my goals.
I am interested in environmental issues. When I began my graduate studies, local land-use issues important to me were taking place in the town of Indiana. I was continuing my path in biology when I took Environmental Concerns with Dr. John Benhart. (This is a very good class that took a hard look at environmental issues nationally and locally--the problems and realistic solutions.) I began looking into the program, and I was signed up in the department the following semester. And, thanks to my education in geography at IUP, I was able to play a major role in successfully resolving the local land use issue.
As I began checking out the Geography Department, I knew it was for me. I was blown away with what they had to offer. I learned that geography is considered an open paradigm. To me, this meant that I could blend my interest in wildlife biology and the environment with land use planning and the tools of geography. I felt that I could take a holistic approach to my education, and the instructors fostered creative thought.
Upon graduating with a Master of Science in Geography, I joined the Peace Corps and went to Niger West African. While there, I organized long-term plans for reforestation that outplanted ten thousand trees during my service, helped teach locals to read, created health programs, and assisted a teacher in attaining a Fulbright Scholarship that allowed him to study toward a doctorate in TESOL at IUP. Then, during my second year, I became the regional coordinator. This involved fostering working relationships between the local government official, villagers, and the Peace Corps volunteers on our team. My service was one of the most influential experiences of my life. I feel that my education in geography at IUP helped to prepare me for the challenges I faced in Niger.
Since the Peace Corps, I have worked with both the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Park Service in Montana and Washington as a backcountry and interpretive ranger. Since returning to Pennsylvania to help out with some family health problems, I have helped to create the Evergreen Conservancy of Indiana County. This organization's mission overall is to encourage projects and land conservation programs that maintain clean air and water, to maintain healthy jobs and a strong economy. My education at IUP gave me the knowledge and courage to reach for my goals.
I cannot say enough about the Geography Department at IUP. The professors are all happy to be there, and they are educators first. They are also doing great projects and research, and the faculty members are very involved locally. And to tell you the truth, I just enjoyed all of my classes. I learned a lot and had fun doing it!
Sean V. Howard
M.S. (1996): Indiana University of Pennsylvania