Texas State organization bridges the gap of minorities in geography studies

Madyson Sanchez, Life and Arts Reporter

Across the U.S., geography continues to be a male-dominated study; however, Texas State students are making efforts to a more gender-inclusive and accessible field for all.

Supporting Women in Geography is an organization that uplifts women and other minorities in geography studies and careers. SWIG chapters across North America are part of a larger diversity and inclusion initiative by the American Association of Geographers.

SWIG vice president Sara Moya is a geography graduate student who became involved with the organization after a professor brought up the lack of gender diversity within the field.

“My professor addressed the fact that women are a significant minority not only in the discipline of geography but also in the American Association of Geographers, which is our annual conference,” Moya said. “I decided to join, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie between members and that they supported everyone.”

The AGG reports that only about one-third of geographers are female.

According to the Department of Geography, SWIG at Texas State is set upon inclusion and encouragement through providing students with the ability to network with professionals and gain insight while working within the San Marcos community.

Chapters within the organization have been operating for over two decades on North American campuses. Austin’s own larger organization, Supporting Women in Geography and Geographic Information Systems, was established in 2008 for the professional realm.

SWIG at Texas State is one of 11 university groups in North America that aim to promote and support women and greater gender diversity in geography studies.

The organization first emerged at Texas State in 1998 after a chapter created by alumni Vanessa Eckert and Lydia Bean with the assistance of Julie Tuason.

SWIG acting president Alisa Hartsell, geography doctoral student, said she became heavily involved in the organization after transitioning as a graduate student to geography from her background in history.

“There’s no surprise that (SWIG) is at Texas State because we have one of the largest geography departments in North America,” Hartsell said. “After the first year of just being a member, I jumped into the treasury position to help out and, y’know, pull in the all-inclusive [aspect].”

Hartsell and other officers believe that SWIG offers two over-arching benefits: professionalism and community.

Each semester, SWIG officers meet and organize monthly meetings, panels, socials and other community events to keep members involved on-campus and in the San Marcos area.

SWIG public relations officer and treasurer Salma Rosales, urban and regional planning junior, has worked since the fall semester to rebrand SWIG’s social media platform and promote events to new and current members.

This semester, members will have the opportunity to connect at upcoming events like Bobcat Build, hiking and relaxation socials and professional panels throughout March and April.

“Whenever we have our career panels, we usually invite like four or five different people from different parts of geography,” Rosales said. “They tell us separately how they got there and what they do. I think it’s a good way to explore your options.”

SWIG Secretary Diego Perez, sophomore urban and regional planning major, believes that SWIG events are an easy way to meet other students and expand your professional and personal network.

“It’s a great way to meet new people, make friends and start networking,” Perez said.

The organization is open to anyone at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level interested in geography and getting to work within SWIG’s collaborative learning space. Hartsell said SWIG pulls together people from diverse backgrounds to create support within the collegiate and professional realm.

“We try to create a welcoming environment that draws upon diversity and also promotes professionalism for men, women or non-identifying (people),” Moya said. “We are an inclusive organization.”

For more information about getting involved with SWIG at Texas State, visit @txst.swig on Instagram or email [email protected].

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