Special Events

The 2020 AAG Annual Meeting will be held Monday, April 6, to Friday, April 10, 2020. Read on for more details about interesting plenaries and exciting events.

Presidential Plenary: Resurgent Ethnonationalism: The Politics of Purity in a World of Difference

Monday, April 6, 6:05-7:25 pm; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton

This special plenary panel on Resurgent Ethnonationalism: The Politics of Purity in a World of Difference describes and analyzes new political movements based around more exclusive forms of national identity. Nationalism relies on the conception of a shared community, even if that community is fictional.  There must be something that binds together a group of strangers.  Often characteristics such as language, or religion, or a shared heritage apply, but there are many instances where a self-described nation includes members who do not easily fit into the boxes.  

Ethnonationalism is tied to a nationalist political project that perceives a nation along ethnic lines.  Ethnonationalists insist that the nation has an impermeable “cultural” identity (as defined by the ethnonationalist) and those outside of this identity can completely assimilate, leave, or suffer a decline in rights.  Ethnonationalism animates politics in many countries.  India contains a form of strident Hindu nationalism that is antagonistic to Muslims, Sikhs, and others who are considered outsiders.  China has clamped down on its Muslim Uighur population in Xinjiang.  In European societies, ethnonationalism has emerged as a key organizing principle among many right-wing populist parties.  The exclusionary far-right movements in the United States today have a long provenance, from the anti-Catholic “Know Nothing” party of the mid-nineteenth century to the anti-black and anti-Semitic Ku Klux Klan established in the early twentieth century.

Panelists, all of them engaged public scholars, will participate in a conversation regarding ethnonationalism around the world.  We will discuss how ethnonationalism manifests itself in different societies, whether it can coexist with civil society and cultural diversity, points of comparison and contrast among ethnonationalist movements, how ethnonationalism is expressed in attitudes and policies, and the future of this trend. This timely topic will also be represented by numerous sessions at the Conference under the theme of Ethnonationalism and Exclusion.

Introductions and moderation:
David H. Kaplan


Liah Greenfeld, University Professor at Boston Univ.  She has a long record of work on the history of nationalism.  Authors several books including the groundbreaking Nationalism: The Five Roads to Modernity.

Kenan Malik, Public intellectual and essayist in the UK.  He has written widely on multiculturalism, race, immigration and identity, primarily in the UK context.  Columnist for the Observer.  Several books including Multiculturalism and its Discontents.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Professor of Sociology and Education at American University. Her interest is primarily in far-right extremism, especially in Germany.  Author of several books, including Blood and Culture: Youth, Right-Wing Extremism, and National Belonging in Contemporary Germany.

Andreas Wimmer, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University.  He has expertise in race, ethnicity, and nation-building.  Author of several books, including Ethnic Boundary Making.

Caroline Nagel, Professor of Geography at University of South Carolina. She has written on immigration, transnationalism, multiculturalism and Islamophobia. Several articles on these topic in Space and Polity, Ethnic and Racial Studies>, and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.  

AAG Council Open Forum

Monday, April 6, 12:15 - 1:00 PM; Tower Court D, Second Floor Level, IM Pei Tower, Sheraton

Learn more about the AAG and its activities from council members. This forum gives an opportunity to ask questions and to provide input.

AAG for Everyone — breakfast social and welcome address from Gary Langham, AAG’s Executive Director

Tuesday, April 7, 7:00 - 8:30 AM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton
Enjoy a complimentary full breakfast with colleagues and meet AAG’s new Executive Director Gary Langham. He will share his vision and strategic direction of AAG in the coming years. Building on the 100-year foundation, we will ensure that all voices are heard at meetings and that we continue to diversify both membership and leadership. Most important, we will strive to deliver best-in-class member services. Don’t miss this all-inclusive event which will set the tone for AAG 2020 Denver and for the future.

From Academia to Advocacy: Today's Women in Science

Tuesday, April 7, 8:40 - 9:55 AM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton
Part of AAG's Women in Science track within the Expanding the Community of Geography theme

What is the intersection of research and advocacy? We expect our elected officials to make informed decisions based on the latest advancements in science and research, but who serves to bridge the gap between objective research and often subjective political agendas? Furthermore, do women in science have to take on the role of not only defending their work, but also their own credibility? This panel discussion features a slate of exceptional women who have leveraged their academic expertise into lives of advocacy and public-facing communications. Leaning on their substantial experience and wide range of expertise, our panelists will reveal some of the toughest challenges women face in translating from academia to advocacy, both in terms of enacting meaningful change as well as in the context of inspiring a broader public audience. They will further discuss the enduring obligation of defending scientific work in environments hostile toward scholarly integrity, and the increased prevalence of such environments under different political administrations.

Panelists include:
Cynthia Miller-Idriss, Professor of Sociology and Director of Research, Center for University Excellence (CUE) at American University
Maria Caffrey, Climate Specialist and Independent Contractor with the Union of Concerned Scientists, former National Park Service contractor with University of Colorado Boulder 
Melissa Burt, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Walter Scott Jr. College of Engineering, Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University
Gretchen Goldman, Research Director, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Insights From Women Who Lead U.S. Centers and Institutes in Geography/GIScience

Tuesday, April 7, 11:50 -1:05 PM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton
Part of The AAG Women in Science track within the Expanding the Community of Geography theme

The participation of women in the discipline of Geography and in GIScience has improved over the past decades but how far have we come? Where do we want to go? And how do we identify allies who can help us get there? Increasingly, women are leading the establishment and execution of geographic and geospatial centers or institutes on higher education campuses nationwide, or serving as department chairs. However, these opportunities for leadership carry many challenges such as, juggling administrative duties with academic responsibilities, undertaking the time-consuming and high-energy requirements of community engagement, addressing funding sustainability pressures, and walking the tightrope of power relations inherent in assuming leadership roles in our institutions. This panel of women leaders will share their experiences and strategies for success derived from their leadership roles in institutes and centers or as chairs of departments. These insights can also be applied to colleagues who seek to support the success of women in geography and GIS, to fellow directors of centers, departments and institutes, and to aspiring early career women who seek to assume leadership roles in the future. We hope to inspire both individual and collective action to identify resources we need to empower ourselves and our discipline in the 21st Century.

Panelists include:
Wendy Guan, Executive Director, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University
Diana Stuart Sinton, Cornell University and Executive Director of UCGIS
May Yuan, University of Texas at Dallas and President, Cartography and Geographic Information Society (CaGIS)
Laxmi Ramasubramanian, San Jose State University and Chair and Director, Geospatial Research Center
Patricia Solís, Arizona State University and Executive Director, Knowledge Exchange for Resilience, Director and CoFounder, YouthMappers
Lisa Marshall, North Carolina State University

Honorary Geographer Kathy Sullivan

Tuesday, April 7, 1:10 - 2:20 PM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton
Part of Women in Science track of the Expanding the Community of Geography theme

Kathy Sullivan, AAG's 2020 Honorary GeographerAAG Executive Director Gary Langham will bestow AAG’s 2020 Honorary Geographer Award on Kathy Sullivan in this special session, in which she will talk about her experiences throughout her career.

Sullivan, a geologist and former NASA astronaut, was crew member on three Space Shuttle missions and was the first American woman to walk in space in 1984. She served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and as Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 2014-17.

In bestowing the AAG 2020 Honorary Geographer Award, the association recognizes Sullivan’s excellence as a non-geographer. The direction in which she steered U.S. Administration and NOAA priority work in the areas of weather and water services, climate science, integrated mapping services and Earth-observing capabilities is immediately recognized and welcomed by geographers. That she also led NOAA with regard to satellites, space weather, water, and ocean observations and forecasts to best serve American communities and businesses resonates powerfully with the AAG. As a woman scientist and role model, she mirrors many of the values geographers also actively pursue in their discipline and in the AAG.

Climate Crisis: Are Geographers Being Heard? featuring Bill McKibben

Tuesday, April 7, 2:25 - 3:40 PM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton

The late Gilbert White posed words of wisdom to the profession: “Let it not be said that geographers have become so habituated to talking about the world that they are reluctant to make themselves a vital instrument for changing the world. ... What shall it profit a profession if it fabricates a nifty discipline about the world while that world and the human spirit are degraded?”
During the April 2019 Annual Meeting, the AAG Council adopted a Resolution on Climate Change that concluded with a call to action: "The AAG should encourage its membership to stimulate public understanding of climate change and its potential impacts (including armed conflicts) through relevant research, teaching, publications, and participation in public forums and study panels, writing op-ed columns, blog posts, and other available means."

Panelists will discuss how geographers, individually or collectively, are responding to that call to "stimulate public understanding of climate change and its potential impacts." This session will provide useful commentary on geographers’ contributions to public debates and those tangible outcomes.

Rutherford H. Platt, Chair and organizer, University of Massachusetts - Amherst 
Diana Liverman, University of Arizona
Glen MacDonald, University of California - Los Angeles
James Wescoat, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linda Mearns, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Bill McKibben, environmentalist, author, journalist, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, and leader of the climate campaign group 350.org

Walking the Tightrope: Practical Ideas for Women in Geography on Design Thinking

Tuesday, April 7, 4 - 6:30 PM; Mineral Hall D/E, Third Floor, Hyatt Regency
Part of AAG’s Women in Science track within the Expanding the Community of Geography theme

Join us for the seventh annual workshop in a series of themes addressing career advancement and success for women in Geography. This year’s workshop will explore practical ideas for women in geography and GIS to integrate Design Thinking into career advancement. The tools shared around Design Thinking support a growth mindset for envisioning a career, managing uncertainty, and seeking new experiences. Whether it is negotiating for salaries or raises, or advocating for broader improvements in the professional landscape, the Design Thinking mindset fosters clear communication, time management, and success. This workshop is free, but please register online or at the onsite registration desk.

World Geography Bowl
Tuesday, April 7, 6:45- 10:40 PM; Governor's Square, Concourse Level, Sheraton

The World Geography Bowl is a quiz bowl tournament held annually at the Annual Meeting of the AAG, featuring teams of graduate and undergraduate geography students representing each of the AAG’s regional divisions. Contestants are selected by regional divisions via a competitive process, which in many divisions includes participation in a regional geography bowl held at the division’s annual meeting. If you are interested in participating, contact your regional division leadership for more information.

The winning team, runners-up, and high scoring individuals are awarded with prizes, provided by the generous donations of corporate benefactors. In addition, each participant in the World Geography Bowl receives a travel stipend, co-sponsored by the AAG and that student’s regional division, greatly offsetting expenses for attendance at the national meeting. Typically, approximately 50 students benefit each year from World Geography Bowl stipends.
The World Geography Bowl is fully staffed by volunteers, who write and edit questions and help run the proceedings as judges, scorekeepers and moderators. Please contact Dr. Jamison Conley for volunteer opportunities.

Team registration will begin at 6:20. Following that, AAG President Dave Kaplan will kick off the event with opening remarks at 6:45 PM and the first round of the competition will begin at 7:00 PM. 

Thank you to the 2020 World Geography Bowl sponsors and volunteers.

Speaking up for Science: Your Advocacy and Legal Toolkit

Wednesday, April 8, 11:10AM - 12:25PM; Windows, Second Floor Level, IM Pei Tower, Sheraton

There has never been a better time to reach out to your elected officials and make your voice heard. But as an academic researcher, today's political environment can seem difficult to navigate. And as you go through the process of producing and disseminating work, it's hard to anticipate legal pitfalls that can set you back. 

This two part series panel will arm you with the tools and information needed to reach out to your elected officials as well as defend yourself against some common legal hurdles in the world of science and research. You will come away with expertise in communicating with members of Congress and their staff, translating your work into the most impactful terms for policymakers, anticipating and protecting yourself from the aggressive use of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, participating in federal Notice and Comment periods, and more. 
We are pleased to feature speakers from the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund as well as the Consortium of Social Science Associations.

Camille Hosman, Consortium of Social Science Associations
Michelle Kinzer, AAG Government Relations Manager
Augusta Wilson, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund

Past President’s Address: Science, Geography, and Human Rights by Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

Wednesday, April 8, 12:30-1:40 p.m.; Grand Ballroom 1, Second Floor, I.M. Pei Tower, Sheraton

Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach portrait by Amy Colleen Photography
AAG Past President Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach will focus her special address on the theme of Science, Geography, and Human Rights. The AAG is a founding member of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary in Fall 2019. The Coalition was founded on the goal of promoting ratification of Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: the human right to benefit from science. Coalition members, including geographers, engage in educational and public policy projects promoting science and human rights across multiple disciplines. Framing principles include “recognizing the right of everyone to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications; conserving, developing, and diffusing science; respecting the freedom indispensable for scientific research, and recognizing the benefits of international contacts and co-operation in the scientific field” (AAAS SHR 2020; ICESCR, 1966:4). This address will highlight the roles played by AAG and Geography in the coalition, and address the broader impacts that geographers can and do contribute to promoting Science and Human Rights.    

During the opening of the session, Luzzadder-Beach will present the 2020 AAG Presidential Achievement Award to Sally P. Horn, professor of Geography at the University of Tennessee, and Nicholas P. Dunning, professor and head of Geography at the University of Cincinnati, for their long-term, major contributions to the discipline.

Geographical Review Annual Lecture Presents Scott Warren

Thursday, April 9, 4:55 - 6:10 PM; Grand Ballroom 1, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level, Sheraton

This fourth annual Geographical Review lecture presents Dr. Scott Warren, who will speak about his experiences preventing the needless deaths of migrants who have crossed the Mexican border into the U.S. For his actions, on behalf of the not-for-profit No More Deaths, Warren was put on trial twice by the U.S. government for illegally abetting undocumented immigrants. He has been acquitted and will share his story about how activism, geography, and connections to place are vital to his work.

After the talk, we will present the Wrigley-Fairchild Award for Best Paper in the Geographical Review for 2019.

(CORRECTION: We had inaccurately reported that Scott Warren would be receiving the Wrigley-Fairchild Award. The actual awardee will be announced during the conference.) 

AAG Awards Luncheon

Friday, April 10, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm; Capitol Ballroom 2, Fourth Floor, Hyatt

Join colleagues and friends for the AAG Awards Luncheon to celebrate and congratulate the recipients of the AAG Honors for their lifetime achievements and accomplishments in scholarship, service, publishing, and education. Several other awards also will be presented during the luncheon. They include: the AAG annual book awards, Miller Award, Nystrom Award, Jackson Prize, AAG Enhancing Diversity Award, Specialty Group Awards, and many other awards. Members who have held 50 years of continuous membership will be recognized for their enduring support and contributions to the Association.

Individual seats for the luncheon are only $65, including service and tax. Tables for parties of ten can also be purchased for $620. Tickets may be purchased here.