Illinois State University’s Geography Program housed in the Department of Geography-Geology earned an honorable mention in the inaugural Award for Program Excellence by the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

The award honors non-Ph.D.-granting geography programs that have significantly enhanced the prominence and reputation of geography as a discipline, and demonstrated the characteristics of a strong and engaged academic unit.

“This is a tremendous honor for our program and testifies to the dedication of our faculty and staff to our students and our discipline. This recognition would not have been possible without the support from our students, alumni, peers and professional organizations, community partners, and other friends. We are thrilled for our program, the Department, and Illinois State for being nationally recognized for excellence, ” said Department Chair Dagmar Budikova.

DePaul University earned the main honor by the AAG, with Illinois State being the only other university recognized.

“The geography program [at Illinois State] embraces shared governance built upon consensus-building, participative leadership, accountability, open communication, and a commitment to diversity,” stated a release from the AAG, which also noted Illinois State had the first stand-alone geography department in Illinois, dating back to 1902, and was among the very first in the country.

Praising the faculty members who balance scholarship, teaching, and outreach activities, AAG also called attention to the department’s innovations in field-based education, internationalization of learning, and individualized undergraduate research. “Every major student is required to engage in off-campus experiential learning and career preparation and the program’s geospatial initiative, called GEOMAP, is a frequent source of collaborations for faculty and students.”

The AAG Award for Program Excellence will be presented in alternate years to bachelor’s programs and master’s programs with the inaugural 2016 award going to a department that offers no higher than an undergraduate degree.