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Interview with Professor Kari Jensen About Her Role as Faculty Sponsor for Our Geography Honors Chapter (Mu Kappa), Published in the Gamma Theta Upsilon (the International Geographical Honor Society) October 2018 Newsletter

GAMMA THETA UPSILON Newsletter October 2018

From the Newsletter:

Interview with Dr. Kari Jensen on Being a Successful Chapter Sponsor

By Jimmy Wilson, 2nd Vice President of GTU

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of visiting with Dr. Kari Jensen, associate professor of global studies and geography at Hofstra University, about her ongoing experience as faculty sponsor for the Mu Kappa chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon. Her chapter has been quite active and recent years, and has the distinction of receiving our GTU Honors Chapter award for the last four years. Below is the narrative of our conversation. Thank you, Kari, for making time to visit with me and for passing along your experiences.

Jimmy: When and where did you become a member of GTU?

Kari: I was inducted into Gamma Theta Upsilon Penn State in 2007.

Jimmy: How did you become the GTU chapter sponsor at Hofstra University?

Kari: I founded the chapter in 2012. Since then I have been President and Faculty Sponsor of the chapter.

Jimmy: Has the experience been rewarding?

Kari: Yes, it has. I will admit that in the beginning I was a bit reluctant since I was very busy with teaching, research, and a lot of service engagements, so when my chairperson of the department of global studies and geography at Hofstra University approached me about it, I did it mainly because it would count positively towards my tenure case. I felt ambivalent about this whole honors society and honors ceremony thing. In Norway, from where I have my academic training up to the PhD level, we didn’t have anything like that – we didn’t even have commencement ceremonies! So I felt the whole thing was a bit foreign and elitist in nature. However, when I saw how much this opportunity of recognition meant to our students, and how it could help us raise awareness of Geography as an academic discipline, I became motivated to continue. Since the chapter was started in 2012 we have initiated 118 members!

Ten of these are faculty, so we have initiated 108 students into Mu Kappa in the seven years since Mu Kappa was founded. Including Vice President Veronica Lippencott, who was also initiated at Penn State, and me. Mu Kappa has 120 members!

Jimmy: What do you feel are important qualities for chapter advisers?

Kari: You have to be organized, patient, social, and appreciative of the opportunity to spend time with young geographers. Or at least it will make your life easier if you have these qualities.

Jimmy: Your chapter has a reputation for being very active. What are the more important characteristics of your chapter that accounts for its success?

Kari: We have dedicated faculty and a supportive chairperson, Grant Saff, who himself is a member of Mu Kappa. Our department’s office administrators (Christine Kempski back then when the chapter was founded, and Jackie Geis the last few years) have also been supportive of the logistical needs and helpful with planning of events, etc. And it helps a lot if there are at least a few students who are willing to be active in the chapter. Until now we have only had one or maximum two active students on the board at the same time, but this is about to change. I am very excited to convey that since our last induction ceremony in May this year, several of the new members have contacted me to say that they are very interested in getting actively involved. This is a new trend – in the past I usually had to try to convince students that this would be a good thing for them to do. I think the fact that we have now inducted a lot of students and the chapter has had some fancy induction ceremonies with luncheons and guest speakers – Geographers of course – several years in a row, has

made membership more attractive. And there is strength in numbers – several students who already know each other are running for positions on the new board. Our first ever election for board positions in Mu Kappa will actually take place next week! Students are running for all positions, including President and Vice President, because we feel it is time for us to step down and let the students take over the leadership of our chapter. Only one position (a position we added to the usual GTU positions), the Director of Events, will still be a faculty, our GIS professor Craig Dalton, because of his excellent network of potential speakers. I will continue as Faculty Sponsor and I look forward to guiding the new board during this exciting transition period.

Jimmy: What chapter activities or events are you especially proud of?

Kari: Our textbook drive, which we ran last semester. Students, staff, and faculty all became

involved in collecting text books that we shipped to the organization Books for Africa in Atlanta, and they are shipping the books to several universities in different African countries. We learned about this organization through GTU. Especially our student Rachel Scarpino, Mu Kappa secretary, did a great job in organizing this drive. I am also proud of our induction ceremony events with outside speakers, and our Geography Awareness Week celebrations, where we have been able to host a Geographer as guest speaker several years in a row. Thanks to funding from Hofstra’s Cultural Center, we have been able to pay honorariums to some of the guest speakers and organize a nice lunch afterwards where students and faculty get a chance to talk more informally with the speaker. In this way our students have been able to start networking with Geographers who have been and can be of assistance for many years to come. As an example, I want to mention Burrell Montz, who was the speaker at our initiation ceremony back in 2014. Subsequently, based on networking and flows of information resulting from this encounter, two of our students have had graduate assistantships in her department at East Carolina University, and one of them, Tom Vogel, is now pursuing his PhD there!

Jimmy: For those flirting with the idea of becoming a chapter adviser, what advice can you offer?

Kari: Just do it. It is rewarding, and it may give you some important reminders about why Geography is such a unique and important discipline.