Chair’s Blog

The faculty and staff of Geography send out congratulations to our Spring 2017 graduating class. Well done!


Shoumik Rahman

Olivia Williams

Brittany Wood


Masters Geography

Joshua Merced

Karissa Moffett


Masters GIScience

Alexander Bluteau

Kerri Brinegar

Garrett Evans

Jared Raff

A Month of Mays

April 13, 2017

May is my favorite. A lifetime on the rhythm of school gives May a special place in my psyche. No more grading and classes to prep. A time to reflect on the past and dream about the future. What should I study next? Seemingly endless time to write a paper, finish a grant proposal, start a book. The potential is unbounded, like the weather across the Great Plains ready to explode. So there is where you’ll find me in May reflecting, writing, coding, and watching for the sky to erupt and the year to begin anew.

Welcoming Spring

March 1, 2017

In Bulgaria March 1st is Baba Marta (Grandma March) Day. To welcome the arrival of spring, martenitsi are worn until the wearer first sees a stork or blossoming tree. The red (life and passion) and white (purity) woven threads symbolize the wish for good health. The woven colors also symbolize the need for balance in life. According to Wikipedia there is a similar tradition in Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Romania, and Moldova related to the ancient pagan history of the Balkans and to all agricultural cults of nature.

College Bayesians

February 20, 2017

Assign a chance that what you assert is true rather than a chance that your data could be more extreme. The department is hosting a workshop on Bayesian regression models in R this week (Friday). It is a chance to start a conversation with folks in the college interested in Bayesian methods. The workshop will focus on introductory material to get started with the new Stan engine for modeling.


January 29, 2017

The Department of Geography is enriched by the diversity of cultures represented by its students and faculty so I’m deeply concerned about the well-being of those who may be impacted by the policies that have been put in place because of the so-called “Muslim Ban”. The ban is antithetical to all that is America and an affront to all we cherish as a university community. We must resist.

Stormy Start

January 21, 2017

It’s been a busy & hectic start to the spring semester: faculty recruitment, overflowing classrooms, and summer budget cuts. And preparation continues on hosting the first Workshop on Bayesian Models in R. We are capacity with 20 registered participants. The workshop will take place Friday, February 24th. Emeritus professor Mort Winsberg has been in and out of the hospital since December. He is resting comfortably at home with care but the prospects of his early return to the department are dim at this time. Please keep him in your thoughts. Finally, keep your eyes on the skies this weekend as severe weather in and around Tallahassee is likely from a powerful storm system moving across the South.

In this season of giving why not consider a gift to the Department of Geography? With flat annual budgets coming from the lawmakers downtown, it’s difficult for me to expand our excellent programs without support from our alumni and friends. A new opportunity that I’m excited about for geography (and the college) is undergraduate training in coding (UTC). The goal is to provide analytical tools that will last students a lifetime. Flexible, open-source computer software (R, Python, Stan, etc), now widely available, makes this possible. We need to go beyond ready-made knowledge and create the conditions for creativity. Coding does that. Students who code have a tremendous competitive advantage in the job markets of tomorrow. Your contribution will help by allowing me to hire adjuncts and recruit students who will teach and mentor the first generation of coders in the social sciences. Support this initiative with a year-end gift. Give the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you!

Letters of Reference

November 14, 2016

November is the time of year when students apply for academic jobs. Which means we as faculty are asked to write reference letters. Despite the time it takes to write a good letter the effort can be enjoyable especially when the student has excelled. Not all letters are the same nor should they be. Unfortunately there can be gender bias. According the the Commission on the Status of Women from the University of Arizona, letters of reference for men are four times more likely to mention publications and twice as likely to have multiple references to research. Be aware of this potential bias, and be aware it’s not only a male problem. Make sure you put critical accomplishments in every letter. Emphasize accomplishments, not effort. Use adjectives emphasizing skills rather than those describing effort. Keep it professional and steer away from stereotypes. Adjectives to avoid: caring, compassionate, hard-working, dependable, diligent, dedicated, warm, helpful. Instead include: successful, excellent, accomplished, outstanding, skilled, knowledgeable, insightful, resourceful, confident, ambitious, independent, intellectual.

No Sexual Harassment

October 10, 2016

Sexual harassment can occur anywhere. But the special conditions inside the academy can increase the risk. Karen James (@kejames) list these conditions as:

* Power structures (senior vs junior faculty, student/advisee)
* Field work
* Lack of formal management & accountability structures
* Tenure
* Small subfields making it difficult to escape toxic people
* Conference travel

Sexual harassment is real and pervasive. It traumatizes the victim and reduces the intellectual vitality of the department. Let’s work to make the Geography Department a civil and welcoming place for all.

Geography Budget 2016

September 15, 2016

Let’s look back on how the department spent its money during my first year as chair. The data for Fiscal Year 2016 were tabulated by Audrey Nichols our Office Manager and Financial Assistant. She asked me to illustrate the categories using a graph. I decided comparisons are easiest to make using an ordered bar graph.

The largest expenditures are faculty and graduate student salaries accounting for nearly two thirds of our budget. Note that the categories of AP, USPS, and OPS are for our staff (Audrey, Alex, and Krystal). I think the university needs to pay its quality staff much better. This is a point of emphasis for me this year.

Here is the R code I used to make the graph.


Cat = c(
"Faculty Salary",
"Faculty Fringe",
"AP Salary",
"AP Separation Payout",
"AP Fringe",
"USPS Salary",
"USPS Separation Payout",
"USPS Fringe",
"Graduate Assistants Salary",
"OPS Faculty",
"OPS Staff",
"OPS Fringe",
"Graduate Fringe",
"Workers Compensation",
"Matriculation Fees",
"Contracts & Grants Overhead",
"ODL Fees"

Perc = c(

df = data.frame(Category = factor(Cat), 
                Percentage = Perc)



ggplot(df, aes(x = reorder(Category, -Percentage), y = Percentage)) +
  geom_bar(stat = "identity") +
  geom_text(aes(label = paste(Percentage, "%", sep = "")), vjust = -.5, size = 2) +
  xlab("") + ylab("Percentage of Total Budget\n 2016 Geography Department") +
  theme(axis.text.x = element_text(angle = 45, hjust = 1))

Chair: Jim Elsner
Executive Committee: Victor Mesev, Mark Horner
Graduate Program Director: Victor Mesev
Graduate Committee: Victor Mesev, Stephanie Pau, Chris Uejio
Undergraduate Program Director: Victor Mesev
Undergraduate Internship Coordinator: Victor Mesev
Department Representative to Faculty Senate: Mark Horner
Colloquium Coordinator: Sarah Lester
Webmaster: David Folch
College Promotion & Tenure Representatives: Jim Elsner, Mark Horner
College Policy and Academic Affairs Committee: Jim Elsner, Victor Mesev
College Reviewer for Liberal Studies Courses: Tinting Zhao
Sabbatical: Xiaojun Yang

Welcome Back

August 8, 2016


I got interested in hurricanes after coming to FSU. It made sense. Snowstorms were fun in Milwaukee as a kid, but I couldn’t expect students from Florida to have much interest in them. Hurricanes are the rage. In fact it was one of my first graduate students who suggested we try to improve Bill Gray’s forecasts. I made a career putting hurricane prediction on firm statistical grounds. But it wasn’t until I moved to geography that I learned how to leverage space to predict hurricane behavior. While meteorologists ponder the behavior of weather systems as they evolve over time (since this relates directly to dynamics), geographers think spatially. Spatial thinking allowed me to quantify the sensitivity of hurricane intensity to ocean heat, an important physical constraint that can’t be estimated from short time records. Read more…


Like most geographers I like maps. I remember collecting them as a kid. Not the ones that fell out of my father’s National Geographic magazines but the ones I’d find inside gas stations. Each company would print their own series and it would be fun to try to get as many states as possible. In the early 1970’s they were free; usually arranged in a wire rack near the counter. I grew up in Milwaukee near a busy three-way intersection (Capitol Drive, Fond Du Lac Avenue, 51st Street) with several gas stations in the area. My brothers and I would walk around the neighborhood collecting the latest maps. The Standard Oil maps were my favorite; the red, white and blue banner on the cover with a stamp showing the season and year. I learned about cartography as some maps were easier to read and about scale as I tried to fit adjacent state maps together. And the multi-state regional maps came in handy when I started traveling to frisbee tournaments like the annual “Throw for the Roses” tournament in Iroquois Park, Louisville.

With the help of Krystal Vester and Victor Mesev, I’ve taken Mort Winsberg’s chronology of faculty in the department since 1925 and updated it to the present. According to Mort “Geography first appeared in the 1925-26 catalog of the Florida State College for Women, having been taught in the 1924-25 academic year.” Four courses in geography were offered in the Department of History and Geography. The first person with a geography degree in that department was Martha Stolfus.

Name Last Degree Years as Faculty Years as Chair
Martha Stolfus Iowa St. Teachers 1925-1927
Henry F. Becker Chicago 1928-1945 1946-1963
Gladys Fawley Clark 1930-1945
Marguerite Taylor Chicago 1930-1934
Mary Alice Eaton Chicago 1935-1937
Delmar A. Bugelli Chicago 1938-1941
Frances Mae Hanson Chicago 1942-1943
Margaret H. Smith Chicago 1943
Sara C. Larson Chicago 1943
Harry Brubaker Michigan 1946-1966
Benjamin Moulton Indiana 1946
Harrison Chase Michigan 1947-1979
George Rumney Michigan 1947
Robert L. Leathers Chicago 1947-1953
David Christensen Chicago 1948-1961
Luther H. Gulick Chicago 1948-1949
J. Trenton Kostbade Michigan 1949-1950
John H. Mc Murry Michigan 1949-1961
William R. Brueckheimer Michigan 1949-1950, 1972-1990 1964-1971
John O Boynton Duke 1950-1961
Burke Vanderhill Michigan 1950-1994
Ennis L. Chestang Indiana 1962-1964
Paul D. Whippo Indiana 1962-1966
Alfred R. Pannbacker Michigan 1963
Morton D. Winsberg Florida 1965-1996
Rashid A. Malik Indiana 1966-1971
James W. Newton U.N.C. 1966-1967
John J. Baxevanis U.N.C. 1967
Edward A. Femald Michigan State 1967-1998
Thomas J. Gergel Georgia 1967-1969
Terry G. Lewis Florida State 1967
Louis Paganini Florida 1967
Louis Harris Florida 1968-1969
Robert R. Myers Georgia 1968-1970
Donald Patton Harvard 1969-1988
Roland G. Wood UCLA 1969-1974
William A. Rabiega S. Illinois 1970-1974
Harold L. McConnell Iowa 1978-1994 1972-1977
Jordan Louviere Iowa 1973-1974
Delmar A. Dyerson Denver 1973-1979
Earl J. Baker Colorado 1974-2014
Karen P. Walby Ohio State 1974-1975
John A. Kahimbaara Michigan State 1974
Patrick O’Sullivan London S.E. 1994-2015 1978-1993
Richard E. Zeller Ohio State 1980-1986
Janet E. Kodras Ohio State 1982-2009
George F. Hepner Arizona State 1984-1988
John Mark Ellis Indiana 1988-1993
Robert T. Walker Pennsylvania 1989-1998
Fred M. Shelley Iowa 1990-1994
William D. Solecki Rutgers 1990-1996
Barney L. Warf UCLA 1994-2008 1994-2006
Marilyn O. Ruiz Illinois 1994-1998
Jonathan I. Leib Syracuse 1995-2008
Philip E. Steinberg Clark 1997-2013
Basil G. Savitsky Clemson 1998-2003
James B. Elsner UW Milwaukee 1999-2016 2015-present
R. Daniel Jacobson Queen’s Belfast 1999-2003
Jason Hackworth Rutgers 2000-2002
Daniel J. Klooster UCLA 2000-2008
J. Anthony Stallins Georgia 2000-2011
Xiaojun Yang Georgia 2003-2016
Mark W. Horner Ohio State 2004-2016
Victor Mesev Bristol 2004-2016 2006-2015
Lisa M. Jordan Colorado 2006-2011
Tingting Zhao Michigan 2007-2016
Tetsuo Kobayashi Utah 2011-2013
Joseph F. Pierce Clark 2011-2016
Christopher K. Uejio Wisconsin 2012-2016
Stephanie Pau UCLA 2012-2016
David C. Folch Arizona State 2014-2016
Mary Lawhon Clark 2014-2016
Sarah E. Lester UC Santa Barbara 2015-2016
Tyler A. McCreary York-Canada 2016-2016

Spring Escape

April 11, 2016

Last month I organized the 10th annual Tally Rally frisbee tournament featuring top players from around the country including as far away as Wisconsin, Alaska, California, and Virginia. The game is officially called Double Disc Court, but informally we call it `Escape.’ The game is played like doubles tennis except that there are two discs and you and your teammate need to avoid getting caught with both discs at the same time. See for more details.

But the point here is to demonstrate how to create line graphs in R without legends. Starting with an initial seeding of players the tournament proceeds in rounds with players moving up or down in ranking according to how well they perform. A graph of the rank by round provides a rank trajectory through the tournament by player. Perhaps you can use graphs like these? See

Thank you, Audrey!

April 1, 2016

I don’t know what I would do without her. Ms. Audrey Nichols is an exemplary employee providing consistent service excellence as office manager in the department of geography. Since her arrival in 2014 she has shown a continuous attitude of excellence in service. According to the FSU Controller’s office the compliance rates on budgetary manners under Audrey is now averaging above 90% on a monthly basis. In fact for the fiscal year 2015 the geography department’s compliance rate was 99%. This is up from 67% on an annual basis before her arrival. The rate varies by month but it has generally been above that achieved by the college’s administrative unit.

She serves the faculty and staff in the department with a positive attitude and demands excellence from her subordinates. Her attention to detail is deeply appreciated. She shares generously of her time providing an outstanding example of diligence for faculty, staff, and students. Audrey has single-handedly changed the research culture of the department through her efforts in helping faculty with proposals and grant-related matters. Over the past few months she has worked tirelessly with the folks in immigration to secure the needed paperwork for our newest faculty hire from Canada. Thank you!

Culture of Coding

March 18, 2016

A source of pride for me as chair of this department is our culture of coding. We code to analyze data, create maps, and draw inference. As a graduate student in the 80’s I was trained in FORTRAN but statistics were always easier with SPlus. Hassles with annual licensing made it hard to use it for teaching. I tried SPSS for a semester but all the pointing and clicking made it tedious for students. I started coding in R about 15 years ago and I’ve never looked back. It’s better to teach what you use.

R is free and open source. So is Python. Most students I know like this. They learn R in Quantitative Geography and put it to use in Applied Spatial Statistics. I now teach ggplot (R package for plots) in my undergraduate courses, including those online. I’m glad to see that Python is also being taught. Not all geography is quantitative but what is benefits from code.

Sexual Misconduct

February 24, 2016

Since becoming chair of the department I’ve been thinking about sexual harassment a lot. Just like I did nearly 20 years ago. Then a young faculty in my former department was handed a dismissal letter after her first semester on a tenure-earning line. I demanded to know why. The chair, supported by the dean and many of the senior (read: powerful) faculty, eventually claimed she lacked collegiality. I said WTF. She was fired and I left for Geography.

Sexual misconduct is real and pervasive. When it occurs it often involves powerful males and their female students or junior colleagues. It is unethical. It impedes equal opportunity. It traumatizes the victims and reduces the intellectual vitality of the department. Let’s respect the dignity and worth of each individual and work to make our department a civil and welcoming place for all.

The front office has a new mail sorter. Thanks to the hard work of Audrey and Krystal the staff is now set to sort your daily mail more efficiently. The sorter has extra desk space so you can grab a donut (or other sweet) as you pick up your latest copy of the Annals.

Geography Radar

February 10, 2016

According to Academic Analytics (vAAD2013.10.464) the Department of Geography at FSU ranks number one (out 100 geography departments in the country) in percentage of faculty with an article and the percentage of faculty with a citation. It also ranks 7th (94th percentile) in the number of articles per faculty member and 19th (82nd percentile) in the number of citations per faculty member.

SRAD per faculty

January 15, 2016

I’m interested in comparing departments within the college based on metrics of productivity. There are many ways to do this but here I examined the SRAD (Sponsored Research Administration Distribution) per faculty. I obtain the annual numbers from I then ran the following code.

Number of Faculty

Order from left to right is: ECO, PA, PS, SOC, URP, GEO

AllFac = read.csv(file = "FacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
JunFac = read.csv(file = "JuniorFacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
SenFac = AllFac - JunFac
SenFac$Year = AllFac$Year
Wide = read.csv(file = "SRADDistribution.csv", header = TRUE)
names(Wide) = c("Year", "Economics", 
                "Public Administration", "Political Science", 
                "Sociology", "Urban and Regional Planning", 
Wide2 = Wide/AllFac[3:10, ]
Wide2$Year = Wide$Year
## Warning: package 'ggplot2' was built under R version 3.2.3
Long2 = gather(Wide2, Department, SRADpF, 2:7)
ggplot(Long2, aes(x = Year, y = SRADpF, color = Department)) +
  geom_line(size = 2) +
  scale_x_continuous(breaks = 2007:2014) +
  scale_y_continuous(labels = dollar) +
  ylab("SRAD Per Faculty") +
  theme_economist() +
  ggtitle("SRAD Distribution Per Faculty") +
  scale_color_few(palette = "medium")


## Attaching package: 'dplyr'
## The following objects are masked from 'package:stats':
##     filter, lag
## The following objects are masked from 'package:base':
##     intersect, setdiff, setequal, union
Ranks = Long2 %>%
  group_by(Year) %>%
  mutate(Rank = rank(-SRADpF))
ggplot(Ranks, aes(x = Year, y = Rank, color = Department)) +
  geom_point(size = 10, shape = 15) +
  scale_x_continuous(breaks = 2007:2014) +
  scale_y_reverse(breaks = 1:6) +
  ylab("Rank") +
  theme_economist() +
  ggtitle("Departmental Rank\nBased on SRAD Distribution Per Faculty") +
  scale_color_few(palette = "medium")

Faculty Counts over Time. Tried to use xlsx package but javascript did not work.

Faculty = read.csv("Faculty2005.csv", header = TRUE)
Faculty %>%
  group_by(Employee.Classification, Descr.2) %>%
  summarize(Fac = length(unique(Name))) %>%
  filter(Employee.Classification == "Regular") %>%
  filter(Descr.2 == "Economics" | Descr.2 == "Geography" |
         Descr.2 == "Political Science" | Descr.2 == "Public Administration" |
         Descr.2 == "Sociology" | Descr.2 == "Urban & Regional Planning")
## Source: local data frame [6 x 3]
## Groups: Employee.Classification [1]
##   Employee.Classification                   Descr.2   Fac
##                    (fctr)                    (fctr) (int)
## 1                 Regular                 Economics    25
## 2                 Regular                 Geography    13
## 3                 Regular         Political Science    23
## 4                 Regular     Public Administration    14
## 5                 Regular                 Sociology    20
## 6                 Regular Urban & Regional Planning    10
Faculty %>%
  group_by(Employee.Classification, Descr.2, Job.Code) %>%
  filter(Job.Code == "90039S") %>%
  summarize(JFac = length(unique(Name))) %>%
  filter(Employee.Classification == "Regular") %>%
  filter(Descr.2 == "Economics" | Descr.2 == "Geography" |
         Descr.2 == "Political Science" | Descr.2 == "Public Administration" |
         Descr.2 == "Sociology" | Descr.2 == "Urban & Regional Planning")
## Source: local data frame [6 x 4]
## Groups: Employee.Classification, Descr.2 [6]
##   Employee.Classification                   Descr.2 Job.Code  JFac
##                    (fctr)                    (fctr)   (fctr) (int)
## 1                 Regular                 Economics   90039S     6
## 2                 Regular                 Geography   90039S     4
## 3                 Regular         Political Science   90039S     8
## 4                 Regular     Public Administration   90039S     3
## 5                 Regular                 Sociology   90039S     8
## 6                 Regular Urban & Regional Planning   90039S     3

We recently replaced the computer and projector from the conference room with a 152 cm (60 in) TV screen on a moveable cart and a HDMI cable. To use the equipment for classes you will need a laptop with an HDMI port. Simply turn on the TV with the remote and plug in the HDMI cable to your laptop port. The cable reaches across the table. The bright screen is viewable even with the shades open. Wireless connection options that will allow you to mirror your computer (or phone) screen are being tested but have yet to be implemented. Hassles associated with security to use the computer, human resources needed to keep the software current, cost of replacing the projector bulbs, and the limited visibility of the screen are the main reasons for the change. If your laptop does not have an HDMI port please let me know. I trust you will enjoy the upgrade.

Top ten ranking

December 7, 2015

In the latest release of Academic Analytics (AAD2013.10.464) the Department of Geography ranks sixth in the nation in research articles per faculty member. The ranking is based on 100 geography departments at research intensive public universities.

We out rank Arizona State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Florida. The top five in order include the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Utah, the University of Maryland, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

You can help us continue our excellence by making a tax deductible contribution to our foundation. Thank you!

While not quite on the cover, I did make it into today’s electronic edition of Rolling Stone.

I’m interested in comparing departments within the college based on metrics of productivity. There are various ways to do this of course but here I examined the number of Ph.D.s conferred. Departments with more faculty are expected to produce more Ph.D.s. Also since early-career faculty require some time to graduate a Ph.D. student, I divide the number of Ph.D.s conferred by the total number of tenured faculty. With the help of Audrey Nichols I obtain annual counts of faculty by rank for the six departments. With the help of Nancy Marcus I obtain annual counts of Ph.D.s conferred. Then using the following code I plot the annual number per year (2005-2014) and the rank of the department per year.

Number of Faculty

Order from left to right is: ECO, PA, PS, SOC, URP, GEO

AllFac = read.csv(file = "FacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
JunFac = read.csv(file = "JuniorFacultyNumbers.csv", header = TRUE)
SenFac = AllFac - JunFac
SenFac$Year = AllFac$Year

PhDs Conferred

Wide = read.csv(file = "PhDsConferred.csv", header = TRUE)
names(Wide) = c("Year", "Economics", 
                "Public Administration", "Political Science", 
                "Sociology", "Urban and Regional Planning", 
Wide2 = Wide/SenFac
Wide2$Year = Wide$Year

Wide to long

Long = gather(Wide, Department, PhDs, 2:7)

Long2 = gather(Wide2, Department, PPF, 2:7)
ggplot(Long2, aes(x = Year, y = PPF, color = Department)) +
  geom_line(size = 2) +
  scale_x_continuous(breaks = 2005:2014) +
  ylab("PhDs Conferred Per Tenured Faculty") +
  theme_economist() +
  ggtitle("PhDs Per Tenured Faculty") +
  scale_color_few(palette = "medium")