World traveler now calls SDSU home


Trisha Jackson believes her life experiences from traveling have qualified and prepared her for a space in 242 Scobey Hall.

Jackson landed a job in SDSU’s Geography Department this summer, moving her and her family to Brookings.

Part of her travels: a combination of a graduate student program in the world’s largest island, Greenland, and tours with a rock band. Jackson spent her time in different places and worked plenty of jobs – up to three at one time. She eventually enrolled in graduate school at the University of Kansas. She received her doctorate in August and was teaching physical geography to students on campus within a month.

“I was out in the world, trying to figure out what it was I interested in doing for the rest of my life,” Jackson said. “… I would say I was always interested in science and I liked to travel a lot. Fortunately, geography lets you study a little bit of all the different sciences.”

Question: It’s so lightly inhabited, so what was it like being in Greenland?

Answer: My experience was different from someone who lives in Greenland. I travelled with the military, basically. Where Americans do research there is highly militarized, old bases. I flew on a C-130 (military aircraft) to get there. And then I stayed in a facility that was especially there for American and international scientists. I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to talk to local people there – I took every opportunity I could. Right next door to a high school – but I don’t remember what they called it – was full of 16-year-olds, and so I talked to that group quite a bit. I could talk to them when they were out of school interacting with each other. They knew how to speak English pretty well.

Q: How did all that traveling get you ready or disciplined for a teaching job?

A: I had liked science, but I didn’t really know what to do with that. As an adult when I traveled, with some knowledge of physical geography, I could start to put some of the school knowledge I had, but the cultural aspect is important too. It broadened my thinking. I understood how little I knew.

Q: What got you to SDSU, do you think?

A: I had several research positions before I went to graduate school and I really wanted to do research. I had a professor who said I should be in academia, because I could do research. Well, then as a graduate student I had the opportunity to teach and so I really enjoyed that. That’s when I changed my mind. I decided that instead of doing research for the private sector, academia was the right thing for me where I could do both research and teach.

Q: It’s been about a month since you started teaching here, what has that month been like instructing college-aged kids?

A: It’s been on-the-job training, really. My plan has come to be not the best plan. I’ve tried to adapt as I go. I’ve asked for feedback from the students and they’ve given me some great ideas, so that’s been a really effective strategy, I think.

Q: A lot of kids will take a geography course not exactly out of a lot of interest, but because it’s sometimes a requirement in the curriculum. What case would you present that geography is a worthwhile class to take?

A: Because it’s the one class that’s going to give you knowledge of your world. You can use geography every day.