Grace Roman
A Geography Memoir
Class of 2017

Why geography and why Valpo?

When thinking about my journey to becoming a geographer the questions of “Why geography?” and “Why Valpo?” go hand in hand. Throughout high school I had every intention of going to college to become a nurse. As I visited different colleges and universities I started to get a sense of what my college experience and future career as a nurse would be like. I soon realized that this was not the profession for me. I knew I still wanted a career involving science and that I loved the outdoors, so when it came time for my Valpo visit day I chose to attend a session on geography and environmental science. At this session I listened to Dr. Bharath Ganesh Babu speak on the benefits and importance of pursuing a future in geography. I was sold. I left Valpo that day excited and wanting to know more about the field of geography. What was most attractive about geography was how inclusive the field was and knowing that my curiosities would not be limited. After researching and visiting a few other schools with my newly discovered interest, I found that Valpo and its welcoming community could not be matched. I was thrilled to begin my college career where I first discovered my passion for geography.

How was the experience in geography?

My experience in geography at Valpo was so much more rewarding than I had ever imagined. What immediately stands out are all of the fieldtrip opportunities I was able to experience through the Geography and Meteorology Department. At the end of my freshman year I was able to go to Wisconsin for a few days to learn about complex geomorphic features as well as the prominent Driftless Area. I also had the opportunity over spring break of my junior year to travel to Tucson, Arizona. In Tucson my peers and I were given the chance to study the incredible biodiversity of the Sonoran Desert, hike in the Santa Catalina and Chiricahua Mountain ranges, and explore Saguaro National Park. Throughout my four years there were also frequent trips to the Indiana Dunes and surrounding Valparaiso area in order to understand the geology and geographic elements of the local community. I was also fortunate enough to have the wonderful opportunity of being a lab aide for a couple of geography classes. Having this experience allowed me to have a more complete understanding of subject matter by taking the time to explain difficult geographic ideas and concepts to others. This was also complimented by the accessibility and approachability of professors throughout the Geography and Meteorology Department. It was also because of the encouragement of these professors that I had the confidence to attend two national academic conferences to present independent research. Overall, I could not have asked for a more supporting and adventurous community to help me succeed academically.

How did all the other experiences at Valpo add or detract from you experience?

At the beginning of my sophomore year I decided to take on the challenge of adding a second major in biology. While this choice did affect my work load it was rewarding to see the many intersection points between geography and biology. Working closely with two different departments on Valpo’s campus gave me a unique college experience that helped me become a better-rounded student. Throughout my college career I was also involved with the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, the national honor society for first-year students Alpha Lambda Delta, the geographical honors society Gamma Theta Upsilon, and Mortar Board the national college senior honor society. My involvement with all of these organizations gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from a diverse group of people, volunteer and serve my community, and practice important networking skills. The Valpo experience is truly a culmination of supporting individuals working together to better society, and what better way to appreciate this than through the eyes of a geographer.

How did you change or not change?

My time with the Geography and Meteorology Department at Valpo left me feeling so fulfilled. This program and staff not only gave me the tools and the mindset to be successful, but helped me be my own best resource. As I walk through life I still ask myself how things came to be or why processes work the way they do. I’ve found that after thinking about it for a moment that I am able to answer my own question or at least provide a logical solution. I have also found that my confidence in my academic pursuits has increased and that I thrive best when tasked with a challenge. I hope to be a lifelong learner and geography has given me an outlet to do just that.

Where are you now?

Starting in the fall of 2017 I will be attending Missouri State University to pursue a Master’s of Science in Geospatial Sciences in Geography, Geology, and Planning. While attending graduate school I will be supported by a graduate assistantship working for the Ozark Environmental and Water Resource Institute. My graduate research will be housed under physical geography with a specialization in fluvial geomorphology. After completing my Master’s degree, I hope to move back to the Great Lakes region and start a promising career working with water and natural resources. The Valpo Geography and Meteorology Department has created for me a strong foundation in the physical sciences and I hope to implement the lessons I’ve learned into multiple facets of my life and future career.

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