Elevating Public Engagement in Geography through External Partnerships

Authors: James Kernan*, SUNY Geneseo
Topics: Environment, Geography Education, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: external partnerships, public engagement, education, service, high-impact, public-facing, media
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The State University of New York at Geneseo and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation have a formal partnership focused on a new nature center in Letchworth State Park. The initiative is unique, in that it combined private fundraising with public funds. Parks was committed to building the facility, but lacked resources for increased staffing and programming. College faculty, staff, and students can meet growing program needs, while benefitting from access to the park for internships, field studies, and research. More importantly, the partnership allows the college and the park to advance their commitments to public education and community service.
Despite the presence of many academic departments at the first meeting with Parks, only geography recognized the value, and has spear-headed the partnership ever since. During the grand opening in summer 2016, Governor Cuomo lauded the private-public fundraising, and Commissioner of Parks Rose Harvey referred to the college-park partnership as “magical”. The partnership has become an institutional priority for the college, holding prominent positions in a five year plan, and a community engagement plan. Resources have been allocated for a sponsored professorship, internships, research assistants, and research and field equipment. More than 100 students have participated in high-impact experiences related to research, education, and service. Many activities have been public-facing, and have received institutional and regional media coverage. This paper will elucidate the structure of the partnership, and discuss its merits in elevating public engagement in geography across Western New York


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