The GSC’s Geography Career Fair

Hello Backyard Geographers!

          The Geographic Society of Chicago is excited to invite you to its inaugural geography career fair, Career Opportunities in Geography, in conjunction with DePaul University, the Illinois Geographical Society and the Illinois GIS Association. Please join us at this FREE event on February 25th from 5-8pm at DePaul University’s Student Center in room 314. Present at the fair will be employers from the geography field, including Esri, CMAP, MapCorps, Ecolab, Urban GIS, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Walgreens, and HERE Technologies. Additionally, there will be a panel of geographers with experience in the field, ready to answer questions and give advice. Panelists include, but are not limited to:

  • Lucy Stanfield

Lucy Stanfield is a GIS Specialist at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Chicago. She creates maps and trains staff on visualizing data and graphics in presentations. Lucy graduated from the University of Chicago (BA) and the University of Arizona (MA), both in Geography. At one time, she planned to be an archeologist, but now focuses on the art and science of maps and how they can best communicate environmental science and information.

  • Judy Bock

Judy Bock is Director of Online Geospatial Programs at Elmhurst College.  In her capacity as director, students often inquire about potential jobs and careers in geography and/or GIS.  She helps students consider the direction they would like to pursue, based on the multiple aspects of students’ interests and skills.  Judy will share a variety of potential job and career opportunities.

       This event is not limited to DePaul students or those studying geography; it is open to the public, and students from all disciplines and universities are welcome. This event will provide fair-goers with information on not only potential jobs in the field, but also internships, graduate programs, and other programs. Students, please consider bringing a copy of your resume. Additionally, there will be snacks! Please reach out with any questions, and be sure to register before the event here.


See you at the fair!



Is it Kiev or Kyiv?

Hello Backyard Geographers!

It’s been in the impeachment hearings. It’s been in the news. It’s the elephant in the room. Why is everyone mispronouncing Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev? As it turns out, they’re not. Here’s your cheat sheet to the who, what, where, and why behind Kyiv’s change in spelling.

Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has dealt with various issues around naming. In 1995, Ukraine demanded that its most populous city no longer be referred to as Kiev, but instead Kyiv. There are a few reasons behind this change, but they all tie back to Ukraine no longer being a part of the Soviet Union. 

Kiev is the English understanding of the Russian spelling, which is stylized as “Киев,” whereas the Ukrainian spelling is stylized as “київ.” With the two spellings being visibly different in their languages of origin, it would only make sense that they are translated to English a bit differently. Ukrainian, not Russian, is the official language of Ukraine, so “Kyiv” is the translation that should be utilized by English-speakers, according to the US Board of Geographic Names (BGN). The BGN operates as a sector under the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The board’s job is to standardize names to facilitate ease of communication and clarity across cultures. The BGN has been a key player in this fight, and officially standardized Ukraine’s capital city’s name as “Kyiv” instead of “Kiev” back in 2006.

Before demanding that the name of its capital city change, Ukraine had been fighting to be recognized as “Ukraine” rather than “the Ukraine” beginning in 1991. Ukrainians called for the removal of the oft-used “the” prior to “Ukraine” because of its implications about Ukraine’s independence.

There are several theories behind the roots of Ukraine’s name, but a popular one includes “oukraina” as meaning “borderland,” which facilitated it being referred to as “the Ukraine,” or “the borderland.” According to TIME, “The Ukraine is the way the Russians referred to that part of the country during Soviet times … Now that it is a country, a nation, and a recognized state, it is just Ukraine. And it is incorrect to refer to the Ukraine, even though a lot of people do it.” Continuing to refer to “the Ukraine” is problematic for Ukrainians because it centers their entire existence around Russia, depriving them of a sense of national identity apart from Russia.

It’s easy enough to make the change to simply “Ukraine,” but back to Kyiv – how does one pronounce the new spelling? This article contains a pronunciation from Columbia University’s Yuri Shevchuk, stating that “native Ukrainians stress the first vowel, and pronounce it like the ‘i’ in the word ‘kid’ or ‘lid.’ The second vowel is pronounced as a separate syllable, and sounds like the ‘ee’ sound in ‘keel.’ The v is also pronounced a bit differently, like the end of the word ‘low’” (Zraick). It’s a bit different, indeed, but the recording in the article is beneficial for the English-speakers that this change targets.

With all of this in mind, why do so few people utilize the new spelling and pronunciation? For many, it’s a matter of not knowing this change has taken place. For others, it seems to be an issue of old habits dying hard. Business Insider says it best with “I can understand why this argument is infuriating to Ukrainians who want Western media organizations to use ‘Kyiv.’ It’s practically a Catch 22 — the media won’t use that word because no one understands it, but no one understands it because the media doesn’t use it.” However, the impeachment hearings have been a catalyst by which many have become acquainted with the new spelling and pronunciation.

The power of language has been especially prevalent in the media as of late, and can also be seen with Merriam Webster choosing the word “they” as its word of the year. Both of these examples show the transience of language, and that it is sometimes difficult to make a change to things that seem permanent and longstanding. However, all language is created and constantly changing, so it is necessary to appropriately address places, people, and populations by their preferred names.


Go forth and spread the word! #KyivNotKiev




COOL Summer Learning Experience Reflections

Hi Backyard Geographers, Julie here!

This summer, I was the Geographic Society of Chicago’s intern for the COOL Summer Learning Experience (CLE) in Waukegan, Illinois. Never having heard of Waukegan or CLE, I thought it would be a great chance to explore a new area, learn how to ride the Metra, and keep my GIS skills sharp. Little did I know, I’d leave at the end of the summer having met some amazing students who, might I add, were more proficient in GIS in eighth grade than I was as a freshman in college.

Each year since 2008, this summer education program has provided students with science-oriented experiential learning opportunities, and since 2012, the Geographic Society of Chicago (GSC) has been a part of that mission. In working together, CLE and the GSC are able to provide students with opportunities including field trips, GIS, and this year, improvisational comedy.

I was assigned to help the eighth and ninth grade students, and our main task was to create Story Maps (an interactive presentation-style technology from Esri) to display how Waukegan’s harbor has changed through the years. Story Maps are great tool to bring GIS and mapping to a broader audience beyond those already familiar with these technologies. With this in mind, our final product was three separate Story Maps on the past, present, and future of the harbor. We did this by gathering waypoints of local businesses near the harbor with our GPS units, and conducting interviews with the owners. We uploaded not only our data, but also photos and the information from the interviews to our Story Maps. The Story Maps were also made possible by a technology guru who went by the name of Turtle as well as a helpful volunteer named Dave.

 There are many teachers, staff members, and volunteers behind this operation, but the leader of the pack is the caring and benevolent Ms. Coyote (Barbara Waller), who insists that everyone at the camp, including both staff and students, goes by a “nature name.” The concept of nature names had a way of bringing everyone together, and I was excited to be dubbed “Otter.”

At one point, the students were to give presentations on potential career they would like to pursue. As the students were practicing their presentations, their teacher Ms. Butterfly (Kimberly Waller) and I noticed that some of them could use a confidence boost. Once Ms. Butterfly found out that I enjoy doing and teaching improvisational comedy in my spare time, she decided that we could use this to help the students relax and feel confident in what they were saying. I watched their confidence blossom each time we did improv, which translated to them feeling more capable in their speech-giving as well as in their GIS skills. 

The community engagement that CLE fosters is unlike anything I’ve seen before; with these students being knowledgeable on their community’s history, it supports them in paving the way for their community’s future. If you are interested in learning more about COOL Summer Learning Experience and its mission, find its website linked here:



Undesign the Redline


Hello Backyard Geographers!

I come to you today to share the “Undesign the Redline” exhibit, which is currently being displayed in Evanston at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. I heard about this exhibit through word of mouth, so I mistakenly thought that it was about the CTA’s Red Line. Instead, it delved into Chicago’s history with redlining, a practice used by banks to deny loans to minorities and devalue areas based on the presence of people of color via color-coded maps. It is necessary to note that, while redlining and its effects are highly visible and impactful in Chicago, it is a ubiquitous problem, and has been since the conception of redlining maps in the 1930s.

A primary takeaway of the exhibit was the way in which racism became purposefully encoded into everyday structures and systems through redlining. “Redlining embodies a process that transformed explicit racism into structural racism […] The structural situation created by these programs largely remains the same” (Undesign the Redline, 2019). And indeed, these structures and their impacts continue on; the exhibit included four superb maps that centered on mobility, education, economic security, and health & wellbeing. The connection between redlined areas and these categories became apparent as the redlined maps were layered over present day data on these categories, allowing the viewer to see that, for example, mobility is incredibly low in previously redlined areas (see map gallery above).

The second photo shown in the gallery above is a 1939 map of the “Homeowners’ Loan Corporation Residential Security Map,” which shows small yellow push pins. These pins are placed by visitors to indicate where they or someone they know lives. This exhibit encouraged visitor participation, from providing sticky notes and pens to post questions and comments on the panels, to asking thought-provoking questions of its audience. One of the questions was “How might redlining play a role in shaping the experiences of people in your community?” This question correctly assumes that redlining shapes the experiences of people in their communities, and leaves it to the audience to use the information they’ve gleaned from the exhibit to give their answer.

On one wall, there was an in-depth timeline of racism in the United States, which showed how the U.S. moved from slavery into current manifestations of structural racism. These panels, shown in the gallery above, give necessary context to see those present day manifestations of racism, like the racial wealth gap. In the past, it’s been said that this wealth gap is due to differences in education, employment, and income. These factors have some bearing, but do not affect the wealth gap with as much gravity as intergenerational wealth, something that non-white communities have been deprived of. This disparity resulting from intergenerational wealth (or lack thereof) leads to the following: “[…] Whites have a median net worth ($111,740) nearly 16 times that of Blacks ($7,113), and over 13 times that of Latinos ($8,113)” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).

In the present day, redlining has morphed from its original shape; this is not to say, however, that redlining in its original form has been completely eradicated. A current example of redlining’s presence can be seen in recent days as Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of the United States House Financial Services Committee. He was being questioned by Joyce Beatty (D – OH) when Beatty commented on Facebook’s practice of withholding certain information from particular communities based on redlining. “[…] You are redlining or using zip codes to eliminate people from getting information,” (Webb, 2019). Beatty’s comment manifests a present-day use of redlining that is more covertly racist than denying people home loans based on race.

This exhibit had a wealth of information on practices beyond redlining used to systematically oppress minorities, including blockbusting, predatory banking, contract buying, and speculative investment, all of which are shown in the gallery above. These policies are explicitly racist and were intended to be so from the beginning; when classifying neighborhoods, words like “Foreign Born,” “Relief,” and “Negro” would be used to describe the residents and subsequently redline them, causing disinvestment. “Any threat of foreign born, negro, or lower population? If so, indicate these by nationality and rate of infiltration like this: ‘Negro – rapid’” (Undesign the Redline, 2019).  Aside from the overtly racist language used, surveyors were instructed to describe the “rate of infiltration” as though people of color were the enemy, and committing a crime by residing in certain neighborhoods.

Although this exhibit mainly focused on presenting and outlining the history of redlining and other discriminatory practices, there were also suggestions to remedy it. “Redistributing, regenerating, and recirculating needed resources” (Undesign the Redline, 2019) were all listed as ways to un-design redlining, as the title of the exhibit stated, and reinvest in disenfranchised communities. It is possible that the suggested solutions were kept vague in order for viewers to engage with the concepts and potentially think of their own solutions, writing their suggestions on the space provided at the end of the exhibit.

The only thing that I would change about this exhibit is its accessibility; it was so well done that I would love to see it in schools and libraries all over Chicago, rather than being tucked away on the third floor of Evanston’s civic center. In fact, my friend and I were looking for the exhibit and asked multiple people if they knew where the exhibit was, only to find out that most people didn’t know it existed. This being said, I absolutely recommend taking a day trip to visit. As a practice in thinking geographically, take notice of who is occupying certain spaces while in Evanston, and conversely, who is not occupying them. In thinking like a geographer, perhaps you can use some of the information from this blog and WE’s Undesign the Redline exhibit to contextualize your findings.


Enjoy your visit!



Undesign the Redline was produced by WE, a social impact design studio. Check out their website for more information on their work and projects.



Works Cited

“Undesign the Redline.” 4 Oct. 2019, Evanston, IL, Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

Webb, Kevin. “Ohio Congresswoman Rips into Mark Zuckerberg, Calling It ‘Appalling and Disgusting’ That He Failed to Answer Questions about Facebook’s Civil Rights and DiversityProblems.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 23 Oct. 2019,