Mental maps: Somali perceptions of the Twin Cities

Posted on May 30th, 2013 by

Here’s an interesting project on “Mental Maps: Gaining Insight Into the Diverse Somali Perceptions of Residential Desirability in the Twin Cities” by Fartun Dirie, a geography student at the University of St. Thomas. The text below is excerpted from a St. Thomas newsroom piece by Kelly Engebretson.

aaa“Last semester, Fartun Dirie, a junior geography major, got inspired in Dr. Paul Lorah’s (Geography Department, College of Arts and Sciences) Human Geography Class, where she was introduced to “mental maps,” geographic visual tools used to show how people perceive their environments. Later, with the help of a Summer Housing Grant through the McNair Scholars program, and advising guidance from Lorah, Dirie was able to develop her idea of mental mapping Somalis living in the Twin Cities.

“Her findings reinforce Minnesota’s (particularly the Twin Cities’) reputation as the ‘de facto Somali capital of the United States,’ she said. While doing background research, Dirie found that  in 1994 there were virtually no Somali-owned businesses in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Today there are more than 550.

“Her results also showed that while most Twin Cities’ Somalis spend the majority of their time near downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis, regardless of where they live, they have diverse views on the areas they consider residentially desirable. While some Somalis indicated they preferred urban areas to suburban, there also were many Somalis who preferred the opposite.”

Those of us who heard Dirie present her work at the Midwest Undergraduate Geography Symposium in April will not be surprised to learn that she won first place in the 2012 GIS/LIS Consortium annual conference student competition.

For the full story and photos, see here.


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