Dr. Marie D. Price will soon add ‘President of AGS’ to her already long list of achievements in the field of geography. A Professor of Geography and International Affairs at the George Washington University for 26 years, Price will also be the first woman to hold the title of President for the society. Price earned a BA in Geography from Berkeley, and a PhD in Geography from Syracuse University, yet she says that prior to studying abroad in Ireland in college, she had no idea that the discipline of geography existed.
Price’s studies focus on human migration, natural resource use, environmental conservation, and regional development. Price’s work in human migration is particularly relevant today, as the world becomes increasingly globalized. “When people talk about ‘globalization’ they think of it as the flow of goods and capital, but a really important aspect of globalization is the movement of people,” says Price. She continues by asking the question, “what is the relationship between economic globalization and the more cosmopolitan diverse society we live in?”
Price calls the tone of today’s migration conversations, “disturbing…negative…hateful.” She says that, “immigration always goes through these cycles, and right now the words ‘immigration and crisis’ are linked. It is not always that way.”
In the early 2000s, Price began to wonder which world cities had the largest immigrant populations. Price, along with colleague Lisa Benton-Short, began working on a project which they called, GUM: Globalization, Urbanization, and Migration (http://gum.columbian.gwu.edu/) The two geographers decided to map the urban areas with the highest numbers of immigrants. The project was expected to take weeks, but quickly turned into a multi-year project. Price says that no one collects urban immigration data at a global scale. The United Nations collects country-level data on the foreign-born, but since most immigrants move to cities, collecting data at the urban scale reveals more nuanced patterns of settlement.
“When talking about immigration people will say, ‘why is it geographical?’ Well, because it’s extremely uneven,” Price points out. “There’s a real spikiness to it. It’s not like spreading margarine across toast-there are peaks and valleys. Some places get large numbers of immigrants, other don’t get any.”
New York City remains the metropolitan area with the largest population of foreign-born people in the world. But according to Price, there are other major immigrant destinations with over 1 million immigrants that are less studied such as Madrid, Moscow, and Riyadh.
“The consequences of large numbers of diverse peoples coming into an area is that it changes that place,” explains Price. But this is not always considered a negative shift. “When I talk to people in their twenties who grow up in big, metropolitan areas they just assume that diversity is the norm.”
Price also suggests that studying the places people are leaving is just as important as studying the places where newcomers settle. She feels that in America, we often only look at one side of the flow.
“I think human mobility is part of human nature, our innate curiosity. There have always been people who want to move. We wouldn’t be humans settled across the earth if that were not the case. But I think there’s a sedentary bias in how we think about migration” adds Price. “People become a part of a place and once their roots are there, they often don’t choose to leave. Today’s immigrants often feel that they have to leave for some kind of gain or benefit…Certainly there are economic reasons for people leaving, there are family reasons for people leaving, there are conflict reasons, and there is human curiosity, which are all drivers of migration.”
Price has been involved with the American Geographical Society Council for over two decades, and will soon become the Society’s president. “I believe there’s never been a better time to have a body in which people in government, business, and academia talk to one another. These three groups don’t often all sit together in the same room…I like the idea that the kind of skills and thinking that geographers have are being shared with people in government and business, and I think we in academia can learn from people in government and business as well.”
Price also mentions the importance of gaining the support of young geographers. Currently, over 200,000 high school students sit the Advanced Placement Human Geography exam each year. Price hopes to use AGS as a way to show students that geography is not just a subject to study in school, but a discipline that can lead to all kinds of career opportunities.
Price’s passion for geography is obvious when she concludes our interview by declaring, “I think it’s a great time to be a geographer!”
The AGS Council will meet and Price will become president on June 24th of this year. Our current president, Dr. Jerome E. Dobson, plans to retire but will continue to serve on the AGS Council.– Emma Hayward, AGS (02/24/2016)