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Instructional Development Award Recipients

Several undergraduate instructors who attended the 2004 or 2005 SPACE workshops were awarded funds to continue their efforts in integrating spatial analysis into their course curriculums. These pages showcase their achievements. See the full recipient list.

Benjamin Forest

Affiliation: Department of Geography, Dartmouth College (currently at McGill University)
Workshop Attended: Introducing GIS for Undergraduate Social Science Courses, San Francisco State University
Accomplishment: Developing a revised GIS course project to help students understand the need for spatial thinking in political geography.

Future Participation

…the [SPACE workshop] experience opened my eyes to the integration of social and physical data. The student project [I had developed previously] was simply about the division of political space, with no attention beyond the electoral consequences. The revised exercise…will allow students to appreciate the social and economic consequences of political divisions.
Benjamin Forest

I propose to develop a student course project on political representation and national sovereignty, using Quebec as a case study, for my undergraduate Political Geography course at McGill University. I previously developed a similar exercise using the Houston area for my Political Geography course at Dartmouth. My new position and the unique politics of Quebec mean, however, that the project needs entirely new data and a new framework. Moreover, the crosscutting linguistic, political and sovereigntist political preferences in Quebec offer an excellent illustration of the need for spatial thinking in political geography.

The student exercise - "Redistricting" Montreal & Redrawing National Boundaries - will have two parts. The first will be very similar to the "Houston" one, and for the sake of simplicity, will be limited to the island of Montreal (1/3 anglophone, 2/3 francophone): Students will be assigned to one of several groups, each with a different political agenda, and will need to produce a gerrymandered set of ridings that reflect the interests of their group. Students representing political parties, for example, will seek to maximize the number of ridings in which they hold a majority. Federalist parties will also seek to minimize the number of ridings held by the PQ and ADQ. A "nonpolitical" group might, for example, seek to minimize population deviations between ridings. Advanced undergraduate and graduate students may also use these data to develop predictive models of federalist-sovereigntist support, and to address issues and questions of ecological inference.

The second part will use data from the entire province, and will pose an even more provocative question: If a narrow majority of voters in Quebec voted for sovereignty (as they nearly did in 1995), how would one draw the boundaries of the new nation to keep the majority of "federal" voters in Canada? More formally, what would the boundaries of Quebec look like if one applied the principle of self-determination to the sub-provincial level? This second part thus takes the exercise beyond traditional issues of electoral geography, into geopolitical questions of nationalism and democratic self-determination. Here, data on natural and economic resources would be of particular interest. What, for example, would be the natural resource "cost" of different national boundaries? Would an independent Quebec retain control over a proportional level of economic resources if one applied national self-determination at different scales? How might one draw workable national boundaries in urban areas given the existing built environment and infrastructure?

Course Materials

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