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Maintaining the Spirit of Engagement

December 18, 2015

In 2001, the Department of Geography, Environment and Society lost a large presence: John Borchert, Regents Professor and founding director of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), passed away. In addition to contributing immensely to the University, he also believed strongly in reaching out to the communities surrounding campus and in greater Minnesota. Borchert was a member of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission (now the Metropolitan Council), the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission, the Board of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and many other organizations.

In 2008, the department honored his legacy by naming the Borchert Lecture Series after him. “Because of John’s spirit of engagement we decided to start this series in recognition of him,” Susanna McMaster, co-director of the MGIS program, said. Borchert had a strong passion for mapping, spatial analysis, and outreach.

The lecture is traditionally held during Geography Awareness Week, a week dedicated to promoting the importance of geo-literacy and geo-education. This year the event was held on November 20 and featured Dr. Amy Kircher, Director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, as the keynote speaker. Her lecture, titled “Big Data and Visualization: Deriving insights from global data to identify and warn of food system disruption,” was widely enjoyed.

The Borchert Lecture Series is part of a larger event called the Spatial Forum. Co-sponsored by U-Spatial, the Forum provides a platform to highlight notable GIS research and for broad discussion of relevant topics. The event takes place in Rapson Hall, a space that showcases innovative technology, a student map gallery, panel sessions, exhibitor booths, lightning talks, and more.

In an effort to welcome wider discussion and participation from the GIS community, the department and U-Spatial keep the Spatial Forum free of charge and invites speakers, presenters, and organizations from all over Minnesota. This year, speakers came from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Institute on the Environment, Polar Geospatial Center, University of Minnesota Foundation, among others.

“These events are very welcoming and open to anyone that is interested in learning about GIS,” McMaster says, “We’re working to establish better public visibility of what is possible with geospatial technology.”


This story was written by an undergraduate account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.