Dear UGA members:
You may be wondering why you have not been receiving regular updates from the Utah Geographic Alliance regarding geographic education, resources, and opportunities. We want to bring you up-to-date on what has been happening. Over the past 6-7 years, National Geographic Society and National Geographic Education Foundation (NGEF) have made major changes in the focus and priority of geography education. Those who have been around awhile might remember fabulous resources from NGS like Geography Awareness Week packets, 2 or 3 week long national and state institutes to train teachers "to do" geography, engaging students with "state of the art" technology, lobbying Congress to federally fund geography as part of NCLB, an incredible National Alliance Network that included each state, Canada and Puerto Rico, the insurgence of GIS, and a marriage of public education with higher education and career geographers. But as leadership, organizational structure, and even ownership of NGS has changed, so has the direction of the National Geographic Educational Foundation.
More recently, resources were spent in Alliance "strategic planning" in hopes to find business partners to support the wavering funding and focus toward geography education. It was becoming a model that created (in our minds) a "business" heart, rather than a "student/teacher/professional geographer" heart. Being professional educators ourselves, it was a difficult transition. We became involved in the Alliance network because we believe that a geographically literate population is critical for our future and want students in Utah to have the best opportunities to experience geography. We are not comfortable as fundraisers or business managers.
That said, we wholeheartedly agree with the critical attitudes, skills and knowledge outlined in the National Geographic Learning Framework (http://nationalgeographic.org/education/learningframework/). But we are disappointed that the NGEF has chosen to cut off funding (see below) to the Utah Geographic Alliance, halting any momentum we tried to create in supporting and disseminating innovative approaches to teaching and learning geography.
All this background is to simply say that the last year the UGA was fully funded was 2013-2014 and even that year, much of the funding was prioritized toward strategic planning. In 2014-2015 half of the money from the payout of our $1M endowment was withheld by National Geographic Education Foundation because, we were told, they were keeping it for the new alliance coordinator as start-up funds. This was the first we heard that our 501(c)(3) model was no longer going to be funded and that the Alliance would have to be housed at an institution of higher learning in Utah if the Alliance was to continue to receive funding from the endowment or NGEF. A formal search for a new alliance host was initiated by National Geographic Education Foundation. Although a few universities inquired about hosting the UGA, none submitted an application. We are told that search is still on-going.
In February of 2015 at the Alliance Network meeting in D.C., we were both recognized for our contributions and energies promoting geography education in Utah. We accepted that recognition graciously, and are grateful for the opportunity we had to work with so many wonderful and dedicated educators across the nation.
As National Geographic Educational Foundation insists on every alliance being hosted by a university, the UGA 501(c)(3) was dissolved last October, when the remaining grant from 2014-15 ended. As a result, there is no Alliance in Utah associated with the National Geographic Education Foundation, and we are no longer the coordinators. Despite our best efforts to sustain an organization that has been serving teachers and students since 1988, the UGA is, in effect, dissolved until an institution of higher learning agrees to host the UGA. This was a unilateral decision made by the NGEF board. In short, NGEF would not release any funding to the UGA 501(c)(3), even though there was no other host institution in place.
We were lead to believe that Robert Austin (our State Social Studies Specialist) would be allowed to write for funding for some professional development in Utah from the endowment money held back, but we have had no confirmation that any money has been released.
This Utah Geographic Alliance website is in name only, and has not been maintained in any professional way. It is NOT affiliated with the Network of Alliances for Geographic Education or the National Geographic Education Foundation. While we wait for the NGEF to find a host institution, this website can be used to communicate geographic education opportunities to a network of amazing Utah teachers and geography professionals. This can remain until the small amount of revenue (generated separately from NGEF) that is used to maintain the website and domain name is exhausted.
We have cherished our association and friendship with so many dedicated educators and professional geographers in the state. We look forward to our continued collaboration to promote geographic literacy in other capacities.
With sincerest thanks,
Norma Jean Remington and Doug Andersen
Coordinators bid a fond farewell to the Utah Geographic Alliance
Dear UGA members: