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Concord Student Receives Honors at Geography Conference

Concord Student Receives Honors at Geography Conference

Athens, W.Va. — Most students are not aware of the tradition of using novels in the geography classroom, but Concord University senior Jessey Gilley’s awareness led to a special topics study, and the development of a paper that was selected for presentation at the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geography (SEDAAG) conference held in Biloxi, Miss., on November 22, 2004.

Gilley, a 33-year-old non-traditional student from Anawalt, W.Va., authored a paper entitled “Yi-Fu Tuan’s Place and Local Patriotism in ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’: a novel by G.K. Chesterton.” Gilley examined the role of geography in the novel, which entailed local pride and patriotism over a street that the main character called home.

Mr. Gilley submitted the paper to Concord University professors, who then submitted it to SEDAAG. “It was a ‘refereed’ paper,” said Dr. Joseph Manzo, professor of geography. “This means that judges at the conference do not know whether the paper was submitted by a faculty member or a student.”

Manzo noted that it was not common for an undergraduate student’s paper to be accepted for presentation. “I’ve been turned down in the past,” he noted.

“Presentations are usually by faculty first, and then graduate students, followed by a distant third for undergraduates,” he continued.

“I’ve been a big G.K. Chesterton fan,” said Gilley. During his readings, he realized the role that geography played in the book and was inspired by how the author was “very colorful about writing about different places.” His interest prompted him to enroll in a special topics course, an opportunity in which students develop research with faculty assistance for academic credit.

“We’re really pleased whenever a Concord student is inclined to make a presentation. We will help them all we can. Faculty members know the ropes, and students have the motivation,” said Manzo, who advised Gilley on his research presentation.

“Any student in any division will find a faculty member that will help them,” Manzo observed about Concord’s faculty.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gilley’s paper was scheduled for presentation at the same time as Dr. Manzo and Concord professors, Dr. George Towers and Dr. Ronald Canterbury, were presenting in another session. Although, having been there for all of the rehearsals, faculty missed the “big show.” Still, other Concord students in attendance spoke highly of Mr. Gilley’s presentation. One student in attendance made it clear that he would like to present next year at the meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. “One benefit of attending a professional academic meeting is that some students will attempt to stretch themselves in terms of the academic research tradition,” Manzo said.

Gilley received another honor while at the conference. He was recognized as the highest undergraduate scorer and seventh highest overall scorer in the conference’s Geography Bowl. This honor qualifies him to participate in the national geography bowl, which will be held at the AAG annual meeting in Denver, Colo., in March.

“He faced some tough competition,” said Manzo, “Students who participate in the contest include fourth-year Ph.D. students.”

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CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Jesse Call, a student in Concord University’s political science department, wrote this press release. His hometown is Pocahontas, Va.