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interviewed by Danielle E. Riley.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (40 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 expanded summary (digital, PDF file)
USF 50th (2006) anniversary oral history project
Interview conducted February 27, 2004.
Kevin Archer discusses his arrival at USF and his role in the revitalization of the Geography Department in the early 1990s. He also discusses the development of the Human Geography Laboratory, and growth in the application of Geographic Information Systems. Dr. Archer served as the Chair of the Department at the time of this interview.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
University of South Florida.
University of South Florida.
x Dept. of Geography.
Riley, Danielle E.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND EXPANDED SUMMARY
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2008, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
1 USF Florida Studies Center Oral History Program USF 50 th History Anniversary Project Narrator: Dr. Kevin W. Archer Interviewer: Danielle E. Riley Current Position: Chair, Geography Location of Interview: Tampa Department Campus Library Date of Interview: February 27, 2004 Abstractor: Jared G. Toney Editor: Danielle E. Riley Final Editor: Jared G. Toney Date of Edit: May 11, 2004 TOPICS OF DISCUSSION Academic background Dr. Archer earned a bachelor's degree in economics and a m aster's degree in geography at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He got a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in geography and environmental engineering. His specialty is urban development. Experiences overseas As a doctoral student, he was sent to northern France to work in a public policy institute on regional development issues. After returning from France, Dr. Archer received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Belgium, where he spent the following year. Marriage; Job market In the meantime, Dr Archer was married to a fellow student from McGill with whom he had been keeping in contact. While in Belgium, the couple had a baby. Because his wife had been so supportive of his academic pursuits, he agreed to do the same for her, and the two moved ba ck to the United States where she began her doctoral studies at the University of Maine. When she completed her Ph.D. four years later, Dr. Archer entered the job market. "The problem was it's hard to find two tenure track positions in the same instituti on it's hard to find them in the same city so I wanted to find somewhere where it might be possible to get her a job too." USF When he came to the University of South Florida, he believed that he might be able to work out some arrangement whereby his wife would be able to work as well. For his interview, Dr. Archer flew out of Maine on a propjet in the midst of a blizzard at nearly five degrees below zero. When he arrived in Tampa it was a beautiful February day at around seventy eighty degrees. "I wa s taken to the Hurricane at St. Pete Beach I just shoveled my car out of snow and here I am the next day sitting at the beach in a full suit and people are walking around in bikinis and it's sunny and I was thinking life
2 doesn't have to be this hard. The Geography Department at USF agreed to work on his behalf in order to find a position for his wife, Ingrid. First impressions of USF When Dr. Archer stepped on campus, his first impression was of an industrial park. "I thought it was ugly as sin I couldn't figure out what the campus was On the other hand I saw that it was a place of real opportunity It looked like a place that I could hit the ground running and still have time for my family." He made the decision based first on family, and s econdly on a "fairly decent salary" that was offered to him in addition to finding work for his wife. After a few years, Dr. Archer received help from Provost David Stamps in securing employment for his wife at the University. Human Geography Dr. Archer was the first in the department to study "human geography," an approach that "the older fellas didn't understand." While geography itself is the study of the human environment relationship, human geographers study how people affect the socially constructe d environment, asking questions such as how cities are constructed and how they modify human behavior. "My human geography is more social Why is it that we have rich people in the suburbs and poor people in inner cities, and how do those environments aff ect the behavior of those people." Human laboratory Because he saw USF students as largely regional and homogenous, one of his goals was to "bring the world to them." Being at a commuter university where many students maintain lives off campus makes it mo re difficult for Dr. Archer to "take them into my little laboratory which I call my classroom" and get them to think differently about the "real world" and its human constructions. He perceives another role he plays at the university as doing "missionary w ork" for the discipline of geography. Personal reputation on campus "I have a reputation around campus so that people that take my classes you know he's crazy as a loon, he's going to pound walls, he's going to jump up and down, wake you up, he's goin g to be like a Protestant minister in your face, and so, you better be ready for it." Development of the department In the late 1980s, a new department chair was hired to bring in a "more modern geography," focused in part on computerized cartography referred to as Geographic Information Systems. This computerization facilitates a more effective understanding of geographic relationships. While that is a valuable technique, as a geographer, it is important to determine what data should be considered and how to interpret the results.
3 Department revitalization At one point in the 1980s, the department had dwindled down to three faculty members, and there was talk about closing it down and reassigning the staff elsewhere. The Dean at the time recognized i ts value and worked to save the department from dissolution. Part of the program's revival was the hiring of a new dean in 1987 who began bringing on new faculty members. Dr. Archer was hired in 1991. Experiences at USF "My experiences here have been mos tly positive I've been very impressed by my ability to get to know upper administrators on a personal level they don't embody a sort of haughty institutional approach to their position it makes it a lot more interesting it's a team effort we ar e creating an institution." Current work Though he enjoys serving as chair of the department, his "real joy" is teaching and research. He currently teaches one single credit course each semester in addition to his administrative duties, and also particip ates in the honors program. Memorable experiences One of his most memorable experiences with his students was taking them on a field trip to Celebration in Orlando, "Trying to give them a sense of what the meaning was instead of just being a sort of them e park experience but a real lived environment that was being constructed right in our midst I think that stands out because it turned around a lot of their thoughts about the polarization of wealth and poverty." End of Interview