Have you ever discussed schools and universities with someone from another country or even institution, and gotten confused over terminology? Words like college, faculty, credit, … while generally sharing latin roots, have taken on different meanings around the world. In this blog post, I try to make sense of it all, using my experiences from Switzerland, France, Australia, US, and Canada, and what I’ve learned from elsewhere.Read the rest of this entry »
As part of the University of Lausanne Masters in Geography (orientation Development and environment), we recently organized a very successful ten-day “field school” in conjunction with the University of Antananarivo. The Swiss and Malagasy students focused on issues of poverty, development, and sustainable farming in the highlands of Madagascar.Read the rest of this entry »
I’d like to introduce my current doctoral team, who are a great pleasure to work with. Their research interests have coalesced around the political ecology of environmental governance, specifically of forests, commodities, and rivers. In other words, who decides, who wins, who loses, and why, when decisions are made about trees, water, fish, cocoa, and sheep? What ideas are decisions based on, and how does the materiality of the object shape the outcomes? Here are some brief words on the team and their interests, grouped by three general themes: Read the rest of this entry »
We have just inaugurated a new field trip to Morocco with grand success for our masters program*. The idea is to give our masters students experience in “the field” before they head off for their independent fieldwork for their masters thesis. We sought to expose them to the pleasures and challenges of fieldwork that involves linguistic, cultural, and logistical barriers, and build their “soft skills”. To do so, we brought them to a cluster of villages perched on a mountain side in the High Atlas, and – during 4 days of intensive field surveys, interviews, muddy boots, and mint tea – learn what we could about how the villages manage their water, their waste, their cropfields, their pastures, and the touristic potential of the region.
Parents learn can learn a lot about an education system from the vocabulary their children bring home. Since our arrival in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, the results are telling. The words bouncing around the living room are “test, oublie, revision, bavardage, arrivée tardive, heure de retenue, heure d’arrêt, redoubler…” These are all words about discipline or performance. Previously, in very different school systems, the words were more along the lines of “my project, the school concert, assembly, homework“. What does this show? Read the rest of this entry »
All good things must come to an end, and so it is with my time at the School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Melbourne.
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The last two years have been unpleasant for geography and environmental science at Monash. What was once a thriving School of Geography and Environmental Science has been wilfully destroyed, reduced to a “Centre” soon to have only four permanent staff. Excellent and committed as these colleagues are, they have been marginalised and will struggle to return GES to its glory days unless the university reinvests in genuine interdisciplinary teaching and research at the nature-society interface. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently, several geography programs I am familiar with – notably my own at Monash – have been in the throes of administrative reshuffling and identity crises. In written submissions, hallway chats, and meeting room polemics we have all declared, at one point or another, that the strength of Geography is its interdisciplinarity, its crossing of bridges between the natural and the social, between science and arts. We have also declared that the integrity of the discipline depends on it staying together as one, even though a climate modeller will have different needs than an analyst of urban indigenous social movements. Read the rest of this entry »