Student Spotlight: Ryan Shields, Geography Whiz

In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:

ryan shields

FHSS: What’s your major?  

Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.

FHSS: Why did you choose it?

Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.

FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?

Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.

FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?

Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.

FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?

Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!

FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?

Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.

FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?

Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.

 

 

William K. Wyckoff to Give 2017 Chauncy Harris Lecture

William K. Wyckoff,  a geographer from Montana State University, will give this year’s Chauncy Harris Lecture. The lecture will take place on Thursday, November 16, at 11 a.m. in 250 SWKT. He will speak on “Producing Public Geographics: Creating a Field Guide to the American West.”

william wyckoffDr. Wyckoff studies the cultural and historical geography of the American West. The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences and its Department of Geography hold this lecture annually, named after Chauncy Harris. Harris graduated from BYU in 1933 with degrees in geography and geology; he was 19 years old at the time. He went on to earn his postgraduate degrees from Oxford and the University of Chicago, later becoming a professor who specialized in urban geography and Soviet geography.

Harris also developed the multiple nuclei model, which theorizes that a central business district is a city’s first core, but that new nuclei develop as various activities spread throughout the urban area over time.

We’ll see you at the lecture!

Student News: The BYU Farmers’ Market and How it Creates Community

Autumn is well under way, but there are still a few weeks left in BYU’s own farmers’ market. While students might not necessarily think of that market as important to their experience here, it can in fact provide them with multiple benefits, not the least of which is a greater sense of community. Research is beginning to show that that sense has started to erode with the explosion in popularity of online shopping, and is something that many scholars, including Professor Michael R. Cope, in our department of sociology, have studied. In that sense, farmers’ markets in general could be seen not only as a boon to students, but also a solution to societal problems.

Benefits to Students of Farmers’ Markets

  • connecting with your local community: You see other students on campus every single day, but you might not often get the chance to interact with local families and businesses. This is one way to immerse yourself in the experience of college life, a period most often experienced only once in a lifetime.
  • getting access to fresh produce: Now that you’ve been back at BYU for a month, you’re probably ready to eat something besides ramen or spaghetti. Give your physical health a boost by adding fresh produce to your diet.
  • experiencing local culture: In addition to offering produce, the farmers’ market includes booths for baked goods and arts and crafts. There are often live music performers present, so you can also become more familiar with the local music scene. It’s a way to “live in the experience,” as Michael Featherstone, an alum of our Economics department, said in their most recent magazine.
  • making grocery shopping fun
  • making a difference in the community

BYU’s Farmers Market takes place every Thursday afternoon through October 26 in the south parking lot of the LaVell Edwards stadium.

What other value do farmers’ markets provide?

The Sociology Behind Farmers’ Markets

“As our local communities increasingly shed their traditional production and consumption functions,” said Professor Cope in a 2016 study, “they may also increasingly fail to imbue their residents with identity and connections to larger social realities.” In other words, the less goods a community produces and the fewer goods bought within that community, the higher the likelihood that its residents will feel “hyper-individualized.” The good news is that research strongly suggests that farmers’ markets tie communities together as civic-minded people converge. The Local Food Movement (LFM) is a project that champions that cause and backs many of the 8,000 farmers’ markets around the country. It aims to help communities develop more self-reliant and resilient food networks, improve local economies; and have an impact on the health, environment, community, or society of a particular place.

From a sociological standpoint, their objectives are admirable, possibly even necessary. The bad news: despite that, farmers’ markets aren’t always inclusive. The number of female shoppers is significantly higher than the number of male shoppers, and shoppers are disproportionately white and highly educated. But it’s important not to view the LFM as an egalitarian movement taking on the Goliath of agribusiness. Instead, Wheaton College sociologist Justin L. Schupp suggests that “the more interesting prospective framing of the LFM could have the movement admitting its potential for intra-group stratification while working further toward its stated goals of the democratization of food access.”

Vendors and shoppers at farmers’ markets have the right idea, but they would increase their community impact if they operated in more low-income neighborhoods and attracted a wider variety of people.

The Geography Behind Farmers’ Markets

Common sense tells us that farmers’ markets bring communities together, but it doesn’t fully explain how or why that happens. Interacting with other people fosters a sense of community, but can geography teach us something about farmers’ markets as well, their benefits to students, and their role in creating more unified communities? While shoppers can find farmers’ markets all across the United States, there is geographic disparity in their distribution. There are higher percentages of farmers’ markets in communities in California, New York, and Midwestern states than in southern states; farmers’ markets are also more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Are those communities more tight-knit or egalitarian? Do many students shop at farmers’ markets?

While research doesn’t yet point to direct answers to those questions, it does show that those who do shop at those markets tend to not visit the markets nearest to their own homes, and that the LFM has a ways to go in terms of helping to establish farmers’ markets in more low-income and ethnically-diverse neighborhoods (Schupp, 2016).

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The Status Quo of Farmers’ Markets

Be that as it may, farmers’ markets continue to grow not only in number but in symbolic value. From 1984 to 2001, farmers sold goods in a large market at the base of the World Trade Center, but the morning of 9/11 was the market’s last day of operation — until June 20, 2017. The newly reopened market is located next to the Oculus. Security is tighter than you’d find at another farmers’ market, but vendors are fairly optimistic about its future.

In fact, the entire future of American farmers’ markets is bright. The number of markets has boomed since the 1970s, and it doesn’t look like they’re going out of style anytime soon.

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California: A Sum of its Parts

“Just as in the human body, where no atom or cell can act individually without affecting its surrounding elements, the history of nations has been written and shaped both by the most incongruous farmer and the exceptionally boisterous politician,” said Dr. Sam Otterstrom in his new book From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast. In it, he examines the growth of the Golden State, it’s migration and settlement patterns, and the people who forged it.

The Basics

To understand California at its most basic level, one has to start with the individual in the context of the following groups:

  • Family
  • Neighborhoods and communities
  • Counties/cities
  • Regional system

gold-ingots-golden-treasure-47047 The way that individuals acted in these settings determined how and where the state grew. For example, families would move to California in search of gold, forming rough mining communities. These were often short-lived however, as miners were continually on the move: looking for better opportunities or ways to escape their harsh lifestyle. Cities were formed around the mining industry, particularly Sacramento and San Francisco. “In this way, all of northern California was intertwined and interrelated in the nearly living regional organism that matured into and economically innovative and increasingly dynamic spatial system,” says Dr. Otterstrom.

 Individual People

“Amidst this mass of historical data is an intricately woven tapestry of interrelated people and events that literally created this dynamic state,” said Dr. Otterstrom. Who are these individuals? They included: 

  • people-vintage-photo-memories Samuel Brannon, a high-profile business man and leader of the Brooklyn, a ship sailing from Eastern America to California, and
  • John Augustus Sutter, whose 40,000+ acre ranch “became a key center throughout the 1840’s for Alta California and the focal point of the gold rush form 1848 on.” 

More often than not however, these trailblazers went unknown. In California, people had the opportunity to find gold and become wealthy; an ordinary man could transform his life almost overnight. Such seekers forever altered the land and forged California into the Golden State. 

Connection to Christ

One may find connections between the examination of California as a unique entity that is part of a greater whole and Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians regarding their particular value as part of the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12: 12 reads: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body.”

Migration

This concept is further exemplified by California’s migration and settlement patterns. They can be broken down into four interdependent categories that mesh in a number of ways, as illustrated by the following venn diagram:

cali gold venn

While some mining towns faded from maps and memories, others developed into cities that still thrive today, despite constant and rapid in- and out-migrations. “The towns that survived and that have sizeable populations today were the ones that, very early on, fulfilled a variety of economic functions and thus were less dependent on mining,” said Otterstrom. Their resilience was due, in part, to their economic diversity, but also, he found to the number of post offices each town contained. Again, this demonstrates that, no matter where individuals found themselves geographically, they sought connection and viewed themselves, at least subconsciously as part of a greater whole.

The Sum of its Parts

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference,” said Jane Goodall. Nowhere is exemplified better than in Dr. Otterstrom’s From California’s Gold Fields to the Mendocino Coast.  In it, one comes to understand the vital role of the individual in molding California into a singular state, one that is truly a sum of its parts.

 

Think Spatial: Think Maps & Success

Some students panic as finals week approaches. They worry that they have too much to do, between tests, papers, and the like. Many want or need to make their work stand out, to give it an edge in the grading process. Sometimes, a visual may be what’s needed. And sometimes, BYU’s own Think Spatial, a map making and data analysis club, can help.

Think Spatial: What is it?

think-spatial
Courtesy of Think Spatial

This club specializes in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) training and analysis and cartography: “Think Spatial is a consulting agency run by students to serve the geospatial needs of the BYU community, including students, faculty, and administration.  Since 2013, we have made maps for scholarly publications, developed web mapping sites, helped administrative units develop spatial data, and assisted professors in conducting analysis for their research,” says Roman Huerta, the group’s president.

They provide training so that students can analyze, understand, and display their data in new ways. One-on-one sessions enable them to tailor their training so that students can create their own professional-looking maps.

What are People Saying About It?

Professional is the very definition of their work, says Devan Jensen, BYU’s Religious Studies Center’s executive editor. He has had the group make maps for various books, including An Introduction to the Book of Abraham by John Gee, as well as Richard Cowan’s Provo’s Two Temples and The Oakland Temple: Portal to Eternity. Of Think Spatial’s work, Jensen said, “Overall, they did outstanding work: highly professional results at a good price. The students are a joy to work with. In particular, Roman Huerta exudes great enthusiasm and follows through very well on projects.”

HBLL Communications/PR Manager Roger Layton had much the same to say about Think Spatial: “I don’t have the final maps yet, but I’m happy with the maps I’ve seen. The students were great to work with. They asked good questions and they were very detail oriented in their work.” The club is making floor maps of the library. Layton anticipates that these will help us to better find what we are looking for.

It is this zeal coupled with the members’ talents that have pushed Think Spatial forward.

Have You Ever Made a Map?

 

BYU Geography Professor Teaches Students to be Disciples of Christ

bridge canada

Jill Knapp, professor of Geography at BYU, shares Doctrine and Covenants section 88, verses 78 and 79, in which we are taught to learn about “countries and kingdoms” that we might “be prepared in all things” in the first lecture of every semester in her class Geography and World Affairs. Through the class, she strives to increase students’ awareness of their relation to the rest of the world.

She says: “The Lord sees geography as an important thing. And that’s partially because geography helps us know that we’re not an isolated people, but we’re connected to the rest of the world.”

Learning Sympathy through Geography

To that end, Knapp fuses gospel learning with secular education throughout the course. One of her class outcomes is to “better understand the inter-connectedness of the world so we will appreciate those who contribute to making our life so abundant and easy and so we will be more willing to help those who have less. For me, the hope is that by introducing students to a variety of different peoples, cultures, and problems in the world, that they become more sympathetic.” Over the twenty-two years she’s taught the course, she’s noticed a difference in her students.

“Today’s students are so much more globally aware. They’ve traveled more, seen the world more, and are much more willing to get involved.”

The Blessed Location of the United States

In a history class, you’ll likely learn about how politics, ideologies, and religions shaped the world. But geographic location and environment is not always considered as part of the equation. Knapp teaches, however, that much of the reason that the United States has been so prosperous has been due to environment and geographic location.

peoples

“We have been so tremendously blessed to live in the United States,” she says. “People everywhere are our brothers and sisters. And [the fact that we live] in such a blessed circumstance [is] not by chance, nor [is] it without some responsibility for the rest of the world. I try to help students understand that we really aren’t more deserving of the blessings that we have [than anyone else], so let’s go do something to improve the world in some way. Finding that way can be tough, even for me. But there is certainly a way for each of us to do it.”

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Desire is More Important than Knowledge

At BYU, we enter to learn and then go forth to serve. Jill Knapp is just one of the many great professors who are working to build the kingdom of God on the earth, one pupil at a time.

“For me, it’s more important to instill a desire than to instill knowledge,” says Knapp. “I encourage my students to be disciples, and to go out and love the world. A desire to learn, serve, and to learn for a lifetime – that’s what I want for my students.”

What other BYU professors do you know who help others become disciples of Christ?