Geography Colloquium brings knowledge to MSU 

The geography department at MSU requires its majors to attend the Geography Colloquium, a series of public lectures that take place 3-4:15 Fridays through Dec. 1. 

Don Friend, a geography professor, said he encourages anyone to attend the events, which include 45-minute speaker presentations. 

“The speakers are interesting, and this is our job to help spread knowledge about our world. I hope that the topics are interesting and germane about our society and about our Earth,” said Friend. “Learning about our Earth and our people in our society is important. That’s what geography studies is: the relationships between people and environment.” 

Defransa Swann, the lead geography instructor, started the Colloquium in the 1890s by bringing in sporadic guest presenters. Geography professors George J. Miller and Cora Sletten formalized it in the early 2000s. Over a century has passed since the custom began, and Friend has been running this colloquium for the last 20 years. 

“When we officially became a department in 1953, we decided that it was appropriate to require that our geography majors, seniors, attend the Colloquium. It’s learned individuals, some professional practitioners and professors, public speakers, all kinds of folks,” said Friend. 

On Friday, Edward R. Carr, a professor at Clark University, will present via Zoom about climate change. His presentation is titled “Walking Backward into the Future: Loss and Hope in a Changing Climate.” 

Friend said he chose to have Carr present because he knows a lot about climate change as he’s written many books on it. 

“He’s also one of the lead authors on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago,” said Friend. “He’s a straightforward scholar of climate and society. And he believes we’re not doomed to climate chaos, that there’s good stuff going on.” 

When picking out the speakers for the event, Friend picked them based on their expertise and let them know their audience. He also doesn’t let them limit what they can and cannot discuss. 

“It’s mostly college seniors, perhaps some juniors, grad students and faculty members. I asked them to make it highly visual and interesting. And I included language like that in the written invitation,” said Friend. “I didn’t invite Ed Carr to talk about the World Series. He could talk about the World Series. I don’t know if he’s a baseball fan, but I invite people to talk about their expertise.” 

Friend hopes that students come to this Colloquium because it will expand their world knowledge. 

“As professors, our job is to share knowledge. I hope that I do that every day in all the classes I teach. The campus gets to experience a dozen other new leading scholars in the nation and, actually, from across the world,” said Friend. “I brought in international scholars to share their knowledge with the campus. I feel I’m doing the university’s mission to the best of my abilities by sharing knowledge widely with our students, making the campus a better place and providing a great opportunity for our students.” 

Header photo: The geography department at MSU requires its majors to attend the Geography Colloquium, a series of public lectures that take place 3-4:15 Fridays through Dec. 1. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at

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