Dr. Tom Mueller, a professor in the Department of Earth Science and a geographic information systems expert, has been chosen as an educational associate team member of the Ukraine Research Institute at Harvard University’s MAPA Digital Ukraine Program.
The institute is a resource for students, fellows and associates who are pursuing research in Ukrainian studies. The MAPA program uses GIS to illustrate and explain economic, historical, political and social transformations within the country.
Using the institute’s research on Ukraine nationalism, Mueller created a lesson plan for Cal U students — “MAPA in the Classroom: Ukraine and Language Exercise — that was published on the institute’s website.
That work led to his selection as an educational associate.
“For me it was like winning an Oscar,” said Mueller. “But more important was that the lesson plan got the students immediately interested and asking questions about the data.”
Mueller’s lesson plan focused on understanding and analyzing what language is used in different regions of Ukraine — Russian or Ukrainian — and the impacts of language on culture and national unity.
“From the (GIS) information, they create those maps and then we have a discussion of what they see,” said Mueller.
“When we have those type of discussions with our students, not only do they get the spatial sense but they also start to understand the regional implications,” Mueller said.
This semester Mueller plans to create lesson plans for the Holodomor, a man-made famine in 1932-1933 that killed millions of Ukrainians.
“I hope to build a series of lessons with our students so they get their name on the publication and can put that on their resumes,” he said. “It will also show that they can go from a seed of research as an educational lesson to the finished product.”
Mueller hopes Cal U’s students are on the cusp of what could be a most beneficial relationship.
“Perhaps we can go after grants based on our work here, and being an official team member gives us a little more push to keep expanding these opportunities for our students,” Mueller said.
“We need to give them a sense of a more global vision, which will make them better in the real world.”