Calvin Prof to Map Ethiopia’s Geography

Calvin College geography professor Johnathan Bascom will return to Ethiopia in January to help organize the first national conference of Ethiopian geographers.

While there, he also will serve as coordinator and editor for an overall geography text of the country.

A Contemporary Geography of Ethiopia will be the first geography text on that country in 30 years. It will be an electronic book with downloadable data sets, maps, and bibliographic references.

Bascom will do the work through an extension of his 2011-2012 grant from the Fulbright Scholars Program.

As part of his grant, Bascom co-taught and did research with Ethiopian geographers at Bahir Dar University, partnering with them to work on the digital atlas.

In the digital book, Bascom also will be weaving together maps with related narrative content using hyperlinks. The printable, server-accessed text allows for expansion, updates, a data bank, portals to related sites, and color graphics.

“I am not at all surprised that the United States (which administers the Fulbrights) would award another Fulbright to Johnathan because I have seen him on the ground in Ethiopia, having gone this last January when he was there,” said Bascom’s geography colleague Jason VanHorn.

“I can confirm his deep passion for cultural exchange in the teaching environment and his special ability to work within the bounds of his environment to be a man of renewal empowered by Jesus Christ.”

Bascom describes his work in Ethiopia as a type of “educational development.”

“In many developing countries of Africa—and certainly in Ethiopia—most education is at a chalkboard, in lecture mode. Students are rote learners,” he said.

This method of learning fails to instill the ability to interpret data, Bascom said.

“Faculty members who can use teaching methods that challenge students to think through and solve problems are greatly needed in Ethiopia.”

About the Author

Myrna Anderson is a senior writer in Calvin College’s communications and marketing department.
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