1. From the Department Head

A summer of spatial chaos

Cindy BrewerMy start as department head brought a flurry of activity.

We gained three new rooms on the second floor of the Walker Building as AESEDA moved to a new location. This new space let us balance the department across the second and third floors of Walker Building. We moved faculty with varied sub-fields to second floor offices: Lorraine Dowler, Alan Taylor, and Rob Brooks joined Guido Cervone, and Alex Klippel on second. Erica Smithwick moved to a larger office, and Anthony Robinson moved into her former office by the seminar room, both on third. We moved Erica’s lab, LEAPS, out to windowed space on the second floor, next to extended lab space for Riparia.

We now have a full row of ecology and biogeography labs and faculty offices on the second floor, and a large shared lab space in the basement with fume hood, dryers, measurement equipment, and expansive bench space.

GeoVISTA research faculty, Justine Blanford and Scott Pezanowski, moved to windowed offices on the back wall of the second floor. Our communications expert, Angela Rogers, moved to the front office, and Marnie Deibler, who guides research contracts, moved into the department head’s old office space, also providing a large area for needed records storage.

As we thought about space and labs, we improved the graduate students’ access to collaboration space by creating a new lab in 324 for the human geographers with qualitative methods software, a meeting table, and a sunny suite of sofas, chairs and coffee tables for reading and talking. Our committee of grads has chosen the acronym, PLACE, (Penn State Lab for Analysis of Culture and Environment) for their lab. The postdocs moved to an office in the midst of other new faculty to bring them more into the community.

We also allocated an office on the second floor as a dedicated breastfeeding room, giving it over to an all-campus program for scheduling these private and well-equipped spaces. We created a club room for the GIS Coalition, an undergraduate student group, that will host GIS help hours, intense volunteered geographic information sessions (such as adding to OSM or helping build street data during emergency response), and UROC undergrad research assistants.

This was very spatial activity. Four sequences of moves had to happen across five weeks to be ready for fall. For example, Alan Taylor moved down to the second floor, then Karl Zimmerer could move into his office on third, then Marnie moved to the head’s old office (I keep trying to tell her that she is now running the department), and Angela moved to Marnie’s old office. I delighted in the multiple revisions of color-coded floor plans (maps!). It was a team-building effort, since we needed to make the moves in sequence and ready the rooms within a week each time.

Our floor custodian, Brian, jumped in with rapid floor waxing and carpet shampoos when the rooms were empty. Some older built-in furniture was removed and some rooms were painted while we had them empty. Barbara Luther, at the front desk in the main office, was buying and distributing bunches of boxes, organizing undergrads who were packing large volumes of books, calling my favorite local movers (Appalachian) who came in between their larger jobs to disassemble big desks and move these with book cases and file cabinets (saving our backs). Bob Hibbert and I roamed the halls each night organizing for the next day.

My obsession with matching task chairs became a running joke. We also moved all the junk out the door before classes started so we looked pretty organized for the start of the semester despite a summer of spatial chaos.

And I stayed put in 325, my corner office by the stairwell where I have been happily receiving you for 20 years, and where everyone in the department is welcome to drop in. I am proud to have the responsibility now to lead geography at Penn State.