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Curry Earns Geography Award
April 5, 2005

A Calvin College scholar who studies how religious worldviews affect people's relationship with the land has been awarded a prestigious geography award.

Janel Curry, a geography professor and dean for research and scholarship at Calvin, will receive the John Fraser Hart Award for Research Excellence this week in Denver at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers.

Hart is a longtime geography professor at the University of Minnesota who has been described as a fixture in the field of agricultural geography. He has authored several books, including The Land That Feeds Us and The Changing Scale of American Agriculture.

The award in his name recognizes "a scholar who has achieved and maintained excellence in the fields of agricultural and/or rural geography research."

Curry was recognized for her career-long devotion to rural geography, work that includes co-authorship of the 2002 book Community on Land: Community, Ecology, and the Public Interest, a book that asserts that the suffering of community and land are intertwined. Currently Curry is researching marine and coastal management in New Zealand and she is part of a working group of scholars attempting to explore in greater depth the relationships among theology, social structures and the earth.

The Hart Award carries special significance for her since Hart sat on her Ph.D. committee and read her dissertation (Curry earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in geography from the University of Minnesota).

"He taught me how to write," says Curry. "He taught me to always include real people. And he is probably the pre-eminent agricultural and rural geographer in North America, if not the world. I was pleased (to receive the award), but it was especially meaningful to me because I know Fraser Hart, and I think I'm the first person to get it who's studied under him."

The award is granted only every few years by the rural geography specialty group of the Association of American Geographers.

Curry's unique contribution to the field of rural geography is her concentration on religious worldviews and how they shape people's attitudes toward the land.

"Her consistent emphasis on the relationship between the worldviews of different agricultural communities and their farming practices has broken new ground in agricultural geography," says Calvin geographer Henk Aay, who nominated Curry for the award.

Early in her career, Curry studied religious worldviews among different Iowa communities - how what people believed affected the way they farmed. She has also made a scholarly comparison of Canadian and U.S. forest policies and published papers in the Geographical Review, the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Society and Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Human Values.

Curry came to Calvin in 1996 as the William Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-in- Residence Chair.