The Human Geography Methods Committee with Emily Hawes



What is the Human Geography Methods Committee?
The Geography Graduate Students’ Association (GGA) formed the Human Geography Methods Committee several years ago (this is my second year on the Human Methods Committee, alongside Emily Rosenman, Elanna Nolan, and Paige Patchin) to promote knowledge exchange regarding the diverse research methods and methodologies employed by human geographers in the field and at home. Throughout the 2014-15 academic year the committee has been busy organizing a series of workshops and discussion groups to explore the ‘nuts and bolts’ of fieldwork in our discipline. Professors, Master’s, and PhD students have come together to share their experiences, questions, and expertise with a view to facilitating the research process for graduate students.

What kind of events have you had in the past academic year?
In October, our first session brought students together with Dr. Jamie Peck. We unpacked the mysteries of research design and its relationship with theory, the difference in scope between Master’s and PhD theses projects, and the process(es) of conceptualizing a research project. Everyone agreed that the session was both fun and informative! November saw our second session, featuring field reports and shared experiences by recently returned PhD and MA students Julian Yates and Kelsey Johnson. Kelsey, freshly back from the Yukon, shared her experiences with the challenges and successes that accompany the short-term fieldwork that most Master’s students must deal with. Julian balanced the discussion by recounting research stories from his own multi-sited, long-term fieldwork in Peru. Touching on the inevitable set-backs and changes to research design that accompany human geography fieldwork, the exchange was a productive and fun way to learn about research being undertaken in our department while getting some questions answered before setting out on our own projects!

The committee kicked off the New Year with our own Dr. Juanita Sundberg and Emily Rosenman, who facilitated a productive discussion about ethnography, ethnographies, and what it means to undertake ethnographic fieldwork. In particular the group explored the types of projects that lend themselves to ethnographic approaches, as well as the ethics of doing ethnographic work and the practical and ethical dilemmas of working with organizations. Thanks to Emily and Juanita for sharing their insights and experiences!

Emily’s Note:

If you were part of these past discussions, thank you for your participation! If you were unable to attend any of the previous meetings however, we have three additional sessions planned for the remainder of winter term and all are welcome. These final sessions will be ‘happy hour’ themed, taking place at the Academic and Coppertank on Broadway for an informal and fun escape from campus:

*In February: We will convene at the Academic to hear field reports from four grads about their recent research and the ethical dilemmas that they encountered in the field. For grads that are planning their own research, this will be a great opportunity to share ideas and get feedback on potential fieldwork scenarios!

*In March: Siobhán McPhee (Instructor) and David Wachsmuth (Postdoctoral Fellow) will join us at the Coppertank. Focusing on the transition from student life to professional academic life, this session will be particularly useful for those in the latter years of their PhD programs considering academic careers and effective methods to support research output in the short-term post-PhD.

*Late March: Aimed particularly at new MA and PhD students, our final meeting will bring us back to the Academic for a happy hour session of “Ethics Speed-dating”. This will be an informal opportunity to pick the brains of your peers in anticipation of upcoming UBC ethics applications for new research projects. It will also be a great opportunity to get info and grad perspectives on the mysterious Spring Review!

If you have questions or experiences to contribute, we hope you’ll join us for one or all of these exchanges of knowledge, even if you just want to get together for some off-campus fun. Look out for dates and times to be confirmed!

Photo by Emily Hawes