The department of geography and regional development (GRD) at The University of Arizona has always trained many of the top graduate students in the country. Currently nine UA doctoral students have National Science Foundation (NSF) doctoral dissertation research improvement grants (DDRIs, see http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2001/nsf01113/nsf01113.htm).
J.P. Jones, head of GRD, thinks this may be a record number for any geography department in the country. “This award may be the most prestigious award graduate students can receive in support of their research.”
"NSF doctoral dissertation grants are extremely competitive," said Leslie Tolbert, UA vice president for research, graduate studies and economic development. "The number and breadth of these awards in geography recognizes the quality of graduate education in this program, and it is emblematic of the many excellent graduate programs we have at the UA."
"Each submission is evaluated by several external reviewers and by a distinguished panel," said Jones. "With an award rate of around 25 percent, the panels fund only the most promising work. The research has to contribute to basic knowledge, be methodologically sophisticated and have high societal significance and scientific merit."
Jones attributed the department's recent successes at obtaining NSF grants to a number of factors, most notably excellent students and committed faculty.
"But there are other factors that have helped: a strong professional development program, rigorous courses in research design and proposal writing, and a supportive network of students committed to collaboration," he said. "Students are also aided by college-level seed funding from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute, and by an environment that encourages them to push at the frontiers of social and environmental knowledge.
"One theme present in all of these awards is the importance of social and natural science fieldwork," Jones said. "These students can be found collecting data on worker coops in Argentina, neighborhood governance in Brazil, genetically modified plants in Guatemala, the coffee economy and water reuse in Mexico, gender geopolitics in Turkey, medicinal plants in South Africa, and the political and hydrological aspects of climate change in the western U.S. The world really is geography's laboratory."
GRD graduate students and their funded DDRI projects include:
John Baldridge: "Cooperative Institutions and Socio-Spatial Transformation in Argentina's Recovered Businesses"
Kristina M. Bishop: "The Nature of Medicine: Colonial Regulation, Nature, and Medicine in South Africa"
Jessica H. Clark: "Gendered Development and the Social Reproduction of Security in Southeast Turkey"
Michael Cline: "Advances in the Methodologies and Implications for Hydrologic Responses to Climate Change in the Upper Colorado Watershed, Utah and Colorado
Jeff Garmany: "Governance Without Government: Explaining Order in a Brazilian Favela"
Heidi Hauserman: "Agro-Ecosystems and the Politics of Commodity Reregulation in Veracruz's Coffee Lands"
James Klepek: "Biotechnology Regulation and the Politics of Expertise in Guatemala"
Katharine Meehan: "Informal Water Use in Tijuana"
Jennifer L. Rice: "From Nations to Networks: Global Climate Change and Local Climate Governance in the U.S."