Professor goes abroad to further his research

by Stephanie Saccente

Stephanie Saccente, Staff Writer

Dr. Stuart Aitken was one of seven professors honored with a Monty Award for Outstanding Faculty Contribution at this year’s All-University Convocation. Aitken, a San Diego State geography professor in the College of Arts and Letters is an internationally renowned researcher and geographer.

Aitken, who began his teaching career 32 years ago didn’t always plan to be a professor. At an early age, he became fascinated with maps and imagined living in exotic places. Aitken spent years studying the world around him and did a study about water rights in the Colorado River when he was 14 years old. It wasn’t until he started getting involved in geography research and culture that he considered university-level teaching.

“We have some amazing students in geography here at SDSU who push me and get me to think about things in different ways, and if it weren’t for them, in another less stimulating environment, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing,” Aitken said. “They really keep me on my toes and I like that.”

Aitken is also the director for the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Youth and Space, an organization promoting research on the geographic spaces of children, families and local to global communities.

Beginning with a grant in the ‘90s from the National Science Foundation for a workshop on children’s geography, ISYS has joined with organizations to improve programs for children and young people.

Aitken’s idea is to think globally but act locally.

“We have had a number of different projects in the community,” Aitken said. “We’ve worked with kids down in Little Italy, kids at the Jackie Robinson YMCA, and even kids at the border that are at detention centers.”

In January, Aitken will continue his research and studies by participating in a sustainability project in China focused on children and families in rural parts of Asia. He encourages people to reflect on different countries’ viewpoints in order to broaden their understanding of the world as well as relations between countries.

“If we as professors can set out a passion for a different way of understanding how the world fits together, I think we’re doing our job,” Aitkensaid.