GeoInspirations: Bob Dulli, a loud and persistent voice for Geo Ed

By Joseph J. Kerski

Editor’s note: Directions Magazine has been privileged to work with some of the most influential minds in the geospatial industry. Over the years, we have showcased their innovations with the hope of inspiring our readers to greater heights. Dr. Joseph Kerski joins us for our newest series, GeoInspirations.  He will interview some of those men and women who have changed the face of our industry, shining a light on the importance of geography. We hope that you’re inspired to make a difference with geography in your corner of the world.

When the idea for this column was first discussed, one man came immediately to mind: Bob Dulli. Bob has been instrumental in promoting and supporting geography education at all levels for decades, beginning with his position at National Geographic. He has influenced tens of thousands of university and K-12 instructors, and school and university administrators and policymakers. Through those efforts, he has influenced even more thousands of students. It is an honor to feature Bob Dulli as our GeoInspiration.

"In 1977, my sophomore year at Miami University, I took a class called Environmental Biology from Dr. Don Kaufman. That opened my eyes to how everything on Earth is connected to everything else. After that class, I set a goal, that after I obtained my undergrad degree, I would get a Masters degree at the Institute of Environmental Science and become an environmental educator or environmental manager. I met with Dr. Gene Willeke, Director of IES, and he suggested an undergraduate degree in geography would be a good path for me to follow. Dr. Willeke was right. It was a great path for me to follow. It led me to National Geographic and the chance to have a meaningful career and to work with the country’s finest geography educators. I will always be thankful for his counsel," Bob told us. At National Geographic, Bob found a mentor and role model in Gil Grosvenor, the person he credits with being the most influential force in his career.

"I had the good fortune to work closely with Gil Grosvenor for most of my career at National Geographic. He is a friend, a mentor, and certainly an inspiration. I was his Special Assistant in Education for three years, directed the Geography Education Program that he started, for ten years and while he was chairman, served as his deputy for another ten years. Gil devoted a good part of his career to bringing the influence of National Geographic, full force, to improve geography education in the United States. Modeling after him, I learned how to be patient, kind and respectful to everyone; to trust K-12 teachers and university professors to lead geography education reform in their states; and to never take my eyes off the prize." One of the greatest prizes of his career to date, and the accomplishment of which he is most proud, has been the Alliance Network.

"We built an Alliance Network led by close to 100 geography professors at over 80 universities across the country. They in turn recruited over 100,000 K-12 educators as members of their Alliances. These educators, or as we began to call them, “geo-evangelists” are devoted to more and better geography education in their states. I am pleased to have played a role in creating that network. At National Geographic our work was more of a campaign than a job. I am proud to have been part of the team that influenced geography’s inclusion as one of five essential disciplines in the National Education Goals (that later grew to nine); the publishing of Geography for Life (the National Geography Content Standards for K-12 in the USA), that, in turn, led to geography standards in every state; adding geography as one of ten subjects tested regularly by the National Assessment of Educational Progress; and the creation of the fastest growing AP test in America, Advanced Placement Human Geography, which will soon reach over 200,000 students each year," he said.

Despite these impressive accomplishments, Bob feels that the geographic community must continue to improve K-12 education. "We need to continue to support our K-12 educators with the materials, professional learning experiences, and the latest technologies they need to teach modern relevant geography in the best way possible. We need to support our university educators who are instructing future K-12 educators. Finally, we need to be a loud and persistent voice for the importance and relevance of geography education for those educators and parents who are on the front lines fighting for time in the school day to teach important geographic content," he emphasized.

How can you be part of this "loud and persistent voice," particularly if you are new in the field? "I would suggest new geography educators contact and become involved with their state geography alliance. I would suggest they join the National Council for Geographic Educationand take advantage of the webinars, meetings and other opportunities they provide. I would suggest they explore what National Geographic, the American Association of Geographers, and Esri have to offer geography educators. Through these activities they will realize many opportunities and meet other educators with similar interests." 

If you know a GeoInspiration, please share those with us, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  We may feature them in an upcoming column.


Published Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Written by Joseph J. Kerski


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