“Why Geography” Series Presents: Grace Tobin ’21 Posted on November 16th, 2020 by

1. Why did you choose to major in Geography?

I chose to major in Geography because it was exactly the field I’ve been looking for my whole life. After just two weeks of my first two classes in the department, Energy and Urban Geography, I knew that this was what I wanted to study. I’ve always been interested in what influences people’s behaviors, decisions, and life stories, and geography helps me understand how place plays a role in all of those things.

2. To what extent your geography education has already transformed how you view and act on the world?

I’ve only been a Geography major for one year. I have learned and grown so much in this time because of the professors in the department and the content in the classes. An education in geography has helped me be able to zoom out, see the big picture, understand the larger processes of the world as well as to zoom in and see how those can manifest in a person’s life. Geography has taught me how to incorporate context into assessment and analysis which has led to a deeper and clearer understanding of the causes and perpetuators of issues in the Anthropogenic era.

3. Beyond coursework, what other experiences have enriched your geography education?

I’ve been fortunate enough to go abroad on three separate occasions during my time at Gustavus. Once with the Gustavus Wind Orchestra to Sweden and Norway, a whole semester in Sweden, and once with the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra to Singapore and Malaysia. The semester I spent in Sweden was where I was introduced to the other side of geography that is everything but memorizing state capitals and where places are on a map. As the program took our group up and down the country throughout the semester, my eyes were truly opened to how much geographic location affects our lives. I started to reflect on my own lived experiences with this new lens and was so humbled by the people that were willing to share their experiences and help cultivate this broadened perspective in our group. Spending time in different cities, states, or even countries than the ones you know well really gives you a chance to see patterns and connections that can be harder to see in your home. One of my favorite things about geography is that almost everything you learn about in the classroom is visible outside of it. It’s easy to make connections between theory and practice, so any experiences you’ve had in your life can enrich your geography education and I think that’s part of what makes Geography so cool, engaging, and unique.

4. What will make the world a better place and where do you see yourself in five years?

When we are able to see other people’s troubles as our own and take actions to solve them, that is when the world will be a better place. We all have roles to play in this. Currently I see my role as working to make cities more accessible and equitable so that their infrastructure serves people better. My plan is to work for a few years after graduating from Gustavus and then go to graduate school for urban planning, so I’ll probably be back in school in five years but hopefully somewhere on the West Coast.


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