Sociology Department to Introduce New Geography Minor

by,  Shannon Gleba and Lauren Schuster, Staff Writer & Senior Writer 

Starting in the fall semester of 2020, the sociology department at Manhattan College will begin to offer the opportunity for students to receive a minor in geography.

Currently, students majoring in sociology may choose to concentrate in one of three subjects: criminal justice and criminology, social services, and geography. But, this minor will allow students from all majors and schools to learn important analytical skills in geographic information systems. 

“The new geography minor is an exciting complement to the Sociology Program as it adds the dimension of spatial analysis to the critical study of our social world,” Ricardo Dello Buono, a professor of sociology,  said. “This is a very useful skill to enhance the employment possibilities of liberal arts majors.”

The geography minor is spearheaded by Robin Lovell, Ph.D., who joined the faculty at MC last year.

“Students from across the campus can take a series of skills-focused geographic information systems (GIS) and human geography courses, preparing them for entry level jobs that involve spatial analysis of human or environmental systems,” Lovell said.   

The minor is different from the concentration despite both programs having some similarities.

“The minor is slightly more focused on building GIS and physical geography skills, while the Sociology Concentration is focused on integrating human geography and sociology disciplinary concepts,” Lovell said.  “Both the minor and concentration consist of five courses each, all within the sociology department.”

Professor of sociology and chair of the department Cory Blad, Ph.D., is looking forward to students improving their GIS skills because these analytical skills are becoming more important in many fields as time progresses.

“We’re trying to shift the sociology department a little bit into kind of an analytical skills direction,” Blad said. “So, we’re kind of emphasizing social analytics in ways that are going to be more immediately transferable to, you know, when people are asking, ‘Well, what am I going to do with this degree?’ You’re saying, ‘Okay, well, you’re going to get this skill, this skill, this skill and this skill, and those are going to be what you know, you can do with your degree.’ And, geography and those GIS skills are wonderful examples of that approach, you know, develop the skills, then you’ll get the job.”

Right now, during the COVID-19 crisis, Lovell’s students are using their skills to analyze maps of the outbreak.

“There has been a lot of the spatial analysis since the Coronavirus outbreak,” Lovell said. “We spent a lot of time discussing the data, visualization, and trends that the online Johns Hopkins map shows.”

In the future, Lovell has plans to continue the work already being done on campus in the subject of geography, but also has some new goals in mind.

“I would love to showcase some of the great work the students have been doing since Spring 2019,” she said.

Some of the work students have already done include topics  such  as sustainable fishing in Long Island Sound, car insurance rates and how they relate to demographics, and energy efficiency in NYC.

Lastly, Lovell hopes the program can lead to a revamping of the map of Manhattan College, and to make it more interactive.

“I hope to create an interactive map that can integrate with other great community initiatives on campus, like showing locations with free food after catered events end,” Lovell said.