Short biographical sketch of Dr. Casey D. Allen
Not your typical bachelors-to-masters-to-PhD professor, I have had many professional, real-world experiences outside of the Ivory Tower. But, being trained formally as a Geographer, Educator, and Academic Advisor, my interests remain wide-ranging: rock art, virtual learning environments, aesthetics, sense/spirit of place, biological soil crusts, medieval cartography, assessment, biogeomorphology, and the list continues...But while my professional background may appear science-laden at first glance, upon deeper inspection, each piece inherently includes some form of humanistic geography that allows me to research how better to help people learn complex knowledge and processes through fieldwork—two fields where I am recognized as a leading scholar. Whatever I do, these two foci always guide my endeavors. Case in point: my article in the top-tier journal, Progress in Physical Geography, where I argue for using Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to enliven (often) boring science concepts. In fact, my dissertation focused entirely on how fieldwork—through actor-networks inherent in the landscape—enhances student learning. Another humanistic endeavor has been published in the journal Area—the Royal Geographical Society’s professional journal—where I demonstrate how the physical and human world can be connected using ANT. Turning towards enhancement of learning via field experiences, I can point to my work in the Geographical Review and award-winning research in Research in Geographic Education.
On the technical side, I have experience in general editing, designing/managing websites, digital photography & editing, video and direct-to-web production, and spatial analysis (remote sensing, including low altitude, high-resolution applications with a UAS). I pride myself on keeping current in New Media endeavors and up-to-date with technological advances as they pertain to my teaching and research, readily incorporating such ideas whenever possible. For example, I designed the format and assessments for several online courses at Arizona State University (and also taught a number of them) for a new graduate program. At University of Colorado, I created (and teach) the first-ever high-enrollment online general science course, which received rave reviews from students in its inaugural debut (Fall 2009, n=127), and now represents the most popular online science course at the University of Colorado Denver. In a similar vein, I no longer use standardized tests of any kind in my classes—even large introductory survey lecture classes. My upper division and graduate fare also centers more on doing than lecturing, including local and extended field trips and in-class-based exercises and labs. In all instances, I champion non-traditional pedagogies, favoring humanistic and project-based assessments instead. I also work hard to incorporate student-driven fieldwork opportunities locally, regionally, and internationally—most recently in the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, and the US Southwest.
As an Educator, I strive to give students meaningful and real-world experiences. This usually entails some kind of fieldwork—getting out of the classroom and on the ground. Whether that means students experience the natural world through interacting with ancient petroglyphs etched in rock varnish, learn about the constructed world through art and architecture, or gain a deeper understanding of people by interacting with different cultures first-hand, it matters not to me. Experience gained through on-the-ground research remains an invaluable skill. A quick perusal of current and past research supervised displays a variety of topics, once again focused on humanistic geography and grounded in fieldwork: from drinking water quality and local paleoflood processes to interactive mapping and architectural analysis. In every situation, I ardently believe in providing students with the tools they need to succeed. Truthfully, I live to serve them.
As a Geographer, I use the World as my pedagogical stage. One of my greatest joys lies in exploring places, well-known and foreign, domestic and international. Just wandering allows for myriad discoveries not otherwise experienced. I encourage the same behavior in my students, and work hard to provide them with these types of opportunities. To that end, all of my courses include some type of field element (really just an excuse for me to help students see the value in getting outside the “four walls” of formal education). For example, I continue to lead students through the old, winding streets of Paris or modern-day Tokyo, help them gain appreciation for science and the Arts through interactivity in the landscape, aid them in discovering their own sense of place, and show them how to enjoy “Island Life” in my annual Sustainability in the Caribbean course that takes place on the Island nation of Grenada. In each instance, these experiences remain grounded in fieldwork, but contain a humanistic flair. To enhance these endeavors, I’ve developed the concept of Geography by Rail® to help students experience, appreciate, understand, and learn about landscapes in a unique way, and making use of what would otherwise be downtime on an excursion, and bringing back the old-time way of assessing landscapes first attempted over a century ago by explorers. I have led GbR excursions assessing the physical geography of London and Paris, Imperial Japan, and England and Scotland. The program continues to thrive, as students are eager for this kind of experiential experience.
My combination of skills and experiences lend themselves well to spatial thinking—an oft-overlooked yet important skill to develop because it helps us see trends others might miss. Using this guiding principle, however, I have found many students, who otherwise might become lost or overwhelmed, suddenly realize they can make sense of things. Indeed, this represents the foundation of my pedagogy and, in my eyes, Geography. In the end, my goal rests in mentoring students to achieve success. This is what matters to my heart and soul. Whatever the case, I remain a vehement believer that everyone can succeed if they are given the proper guidance. So I stand ready to help in any way possible.
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