Membership and Its Privileges: University of Idaho Joins the National Geographic Alliance Network

Wednesday, August 4 2010

Written by Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – Membership has its privileges and its inherent responsibilities.

As a new member of the National Geographic Alliance Network (NGAN), the University of Idaho is now the state’s representative for NGAN. As such, the institution will receive $30,000 annually to integrate NGAN resources into pre-service and in-service teaching experiences for K-12 geography educators in the state.

As the member institution for Idaho, University of Idaho also will take a leadership role in shaping geography education for the state.

“As the Idaho representative of NGAN, we will be working with stakeholders to set goals for achieving geographical literacy expectations and education standards in Idaho,” explained Melissa Saul, University of Idaho’s NGAN coordinator.

To establish and support high standards of geographic literacy in Idaho, the university will work closely with NGAN, faculty in geography, the State Department of Education, other institutions of higher education, and K-12 geography teachers and other educators across the state.

Saul, a social studies teacher educator in the University of Idaho's College of Education, will serve as NGAN coordinator, connecting geography teacher educators with content experts and coordinating university efforts with National Geographic and the State Board of Education, ultimately creating a systematic approach in the state for geography education.

Saul brings a global perspective and insights into the workings of K-12 education to the new post. Working with a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad grant, she recently led 13 interdisciplinary professors, teachers and students in a study abroad experience focusing on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The trip focused on curriculum development for K-12 educators to teach U.S. students about global awareness, human rights, conflict resolution and the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Understanding global positioning and tracking technologies like GPS and GIS systems also is an essential element of 21st century geography education. University of Idaho Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Coordinator Jim Gregson will work with Saul to integrate the use of GIS and GPS into Idaho geography education.

That technology helps make geography more participatory for students. In Idaho, Gregson and Saul hope to bolster regional as well as global geographic literacy.

“We are really interested in the dynamic between local and global,” said Gregson. “And National Geographic is really interested in our focus. Becoming a member of NGAN enables us to collaborate with institutions across the nation, and to connect with them on related issues like climate change and demographic change. It’s connecting University of Idaho research with other institutions’ research, and moving action research into our K-12 schools.”

U.S. citizens and students fall well below others around the globe in their understanding of physical and cultural geography, Gregson noted. Membership in NGAN provides a network of experts who can address that shortfall. Membership also makes the University of Idaho eligible to compete for grants to further promote geography literacy.

The NGAN works to promote geography education at the local, state and national levels. It includes K-12 teachers, college geographers and educators, school administrators and others who are dedicated to improving geography education.

For more information on the NGAN and its affiliates, go to
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit