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Geographers’ association recognizes John Western for teaching excellence
Geographers’ association recognizes John Western for teaching excellenceDecember 06, 2002Cynthia J. Moritzcjmoritz@syr.edu
The premier professional organization for academic geographers will bestow Distinguished Teaching Honors upon John Western, Maxwell Professor of Teaching Excellence and chair of Syracuse University’s geography department. The Association of American Geographers (AAG) will present the award at its March 2003 annual meeting.
Western has taught at SU since 1984, and one of his signature courses, World Geography, has set enrollment records for the geography department. He also directed the Division of International Programs Abroad’s Strasbourg, France center from 1997-2000.
Robert McClure, senior associate dean in the Maxwell School and professor of political science and public affairs, lauds Western’s flexibility. “Most teachers prefer practicing their craft in one particular classroom setting,” he says. “Western excels in three: large lecture halls, small seminars roaming the landscape of upstate New York and traveling classes in the historic sites of Europe.” In 1991, the National Council for Geographic Education recognized Western’s expertise with its Distinguished Teaching Achievement Award.
Ronald Cavanagh, SU’s vice president for undergraduate studies, says of Western’s term in Strasbourg, “John single-handedly improved the quality of a traveling seminar that was already regarded as setting the bar for such courses. The erudition and polish of his lectures drew raves from students and visiting faculty alike, which allowed him to demand, and to get, more from his students than most of us can ever hope to receive.”
Jean-Maurice Marxer, assistant director of the Strasbourg Center, lauds Western’s joie de vivre. “Here is a man who loves life, and conveys that love to others,” he says.
Tammie Warmus, one of 12 Syracuse University Scholars in 2001, saw an example of that enthusiasm when she was a participant in Western’s Strasbourg program. She says, “Still a bit jet-lagged and uncertain in my new surroundings, I made my way to Dr. Western’s office. As I waited, he suddenly leapt into the room, bounding with energy. Joy and care for his students set the tone in the center.”
Western’s research interests range broadly across social, cultural, political and urban geography. Recently, professional travels have taken him throughout Europe and to South Africa, where he went to update his 1981 book on apartheid, “Outcast Cape Town.” The second edition, with an account of the end of white minority rule, was published in 1997 by the University of California Press. Western is currently planning to write a book on the complex historical and cultural geography of Strasbourg after his term as chair of geography ends next year.
Western received his bachelor’s degree from Oxford University in 1968, his master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1972 and his doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1978.