American Association of Geographers Funds National Parks Excursion
Bowie, MD. – May 23, 2022 — Classes are over and most college students are preparing for their summer break or graduation, except for 10 students at Bowie State University (BSU) who are concluding a ten day 1,500 mile camping trip to five National Parks to experience the outdoors, explore the physical geography, history, and cultural landscape in the western United States. Through experiential learning, students will acquire knowledge about geography, national park sites, preparation for outdoor travel, and camping.
“Bowie State received a grant from the American Association of Geographers that will be used to enable students to explore our National Parks,” said Dr. Sumanth Reddy, a geography professor at BSU. “The university is one of the first HBCUs to embark on a trip to some of our nations’ most coveted and pristine locations to enable students to discover history and explore habitat in nature’s classroom,” he said.
The students are visiting five parks: Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park. They will also visit the Four Corners Monument, which marks the point in the Southwestern United States where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. It is the only point in the nation shared by four states and is maintained by the Navajo Nation.
“What a great adventure for these students and what a great way to connect them with the special and irreplaceable geographies of the American Southwest,” said Gary Langham, Executive Director of the American Association of Geographers. “We’re grateful that Dr. Reddy approached us with such an imaginative proposal for funding through our Bridging the Digital Divide program.”
The national parks system has been referred to as America’s best idea, yet not all Americans are able to engage with these valuable national treasures. Recent studies estimate that only 1.2 – 6% of visitors to national parks in the United States are African American, which is considerably lower than the 13% of the U.S. population that is African American.
“African Americans have made major contributions in the Rocky Mountain and desert Southwest regions of the United States,” said Professor Reddy. “My goal is to take students to various areas where African Americans are a part of the cultural landscape such as The Black American West Museum and the Five Points Neighborhood in Denver, and the Fort Garland Museum and Cultural Center (Buffalo Soldier exhibit) in Fort Garland, Colorado.”
“This has been such a great experience,” said Zoey Days a junior biology major at BSU. “Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is just breath taking,” she said. “I was also impressed with the stone arches formed over millions of years that I saw at Arches National Park. The trip has given me hope and made me believe that the world is not as bad as many people think,” said Days.
“I met people from around the world who came to visit our national parks,” said Kwari Jackson, a BSU sophomore history major. “Visiting the parks was a treat. Camping outside in a tent, nature, Grand Canyon, the Arches, and the other sites were much more than I ever imagined. I’ll definitely come back,” he said.
In addition to Days and Jackson, the eight other BSU students participating on the 10 day National Parks camping trip are Kevon Allen, a sophomore and elementary education major; Alma Bangura, a junior majoring in government; Malaika Dixon, a senior computer science major; Kalil Greenfield Jr., a sophomore history major; Ayen Kuol, a computer science graduate student; Rodah Ngorem, a sophomore majoring in nursing; Bridget Oppong, a junior computer technology major; and Mark Sims Jr., a freshman majoring in communication.
“In the future, students will be required to create a video, write a paper, blog, or publish on a topic of their choice that is related to what they saw, experienced, and learned on the trip. They will also be eligible to receive 3 – 6 independent study credits in geography,” said Professor Reddy.
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