Featured Geographer

Kate Ronan

About Kate:

Kate Ronan Cape Town Harbour
Cape Town Harbour as seen from the Robben Island Ferry. Devil's Peak (to the left) and Table Mountain (center) form a stunning backdrop to the city.

Home for me is Rushford, a small town in Western New York. Rushfordians would tell you with pride, should you choose to visit there one day, about its beautiful lake, created by a dam where once stood East Rushford; how its humble streets once bustled with a ‘booming’ economy (based on the lumber industry and later cheese factories and dairy farms); and they might direct you to Moss Lake, a bog created by glacial ice melt 7,500 to 10,000 years ago and widely known for sightings of members of the Ronan clan.

Curiously, several Ronans (and their close relations) have made the trek to Syracuse NY for educational purposes. However, they often find themselves lost in the bustle of ‘the big city’ and natural instinct leads them to some environmentally-friendly realm where they may also look at social justice issues and learn more about this world of which Rushfordians are just a part.

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Enjoying Fall in Syracuse. Photo taken along Old Erie Canal Trail (Cedar Bay stop, just east of city).

Interestingly enough, Syracuse turns out to be an amazing place to spend four years and this Rushfordian has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities I have had in my classes to learn more about Syracuse and get involved in local initiatives. As a Literacy Corps tutor I have been able to learn about the diversity of Syracuse through working in local schools. Taking an interest in exploring the city has shown me that there is much to learn about Syracuse and much to enjoy.

From the politics of map-making to struggles over the meaning and use of public space, to seeing how race and class are inherent to environmental issues and realities, Geography has challenged me to think in new ways.  Most recently, my studies in Geography and my interest in learning more about the world around me landed me at approximately 26˚S and 28˚ E.

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'Ronanville': The View From Above. Headquarters conveniently hidden by the fall foliage, but neighboring houses and farm visible.

While I touched down in Johannesburg, South Africa, I spent most of my study abroad in Cape Town and Durban. Here I studied social justice and development while learning about South Africa’s divided past and looking into the complexities of its present. I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with host families of different backgrounds while looking more critically at development practices, conservation politics, and discourses around nation and identity in the context of a relatively new democratic government. I came to see a geographical perspective as important to understanding what I saw around me, whether I was walking in Durban’s fascinating informal street markets or gazing at memorials dotting Cape Town’s landscape.

While I have no plans of yet for post-SU life, I know I will use the perspectives and insights gained through my studies in Geography wherever I go. Ultimately I hope to use my knowledge of geography in meaningful ways in working towards social justice.