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time tracks On the road by Robin Fletcher


On the road

East Texas show

Down the Corridor


Geography field trips have been anticipated events for 75 summers at North Texas. According to the Campus Chat, geography instructor Mary Jo Cowling arranged the first trip "ever to be organized and conducted by any department" in the history of the university in June 1932. She led students to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico for a three-day outing in their private automobiles. The trip proved so popular that Cowling scheduled another during July in a chartered bus.


Geography department field trips have been offered to North Texas students since 1932. This photo of a group studying rock formations is from the 1957 Yucca.


Trips to Carlsbad Caverns continued for decades and the itinerary was expanded to include many other destinations. According to a history of geography at UNT (pdf) by Donald Lyons, associate professor of geography, and Bill Forbes ('02 M.A., '02 M.S., '04 Ph.D.), Cowling listed 28 separate field trips for her students by 1936.

After Cowling's death in 1943, professors Robert Miller and Lee Knox expanded upon her legacy. They created a six-credit field trip course in the late 1940s, alternating each year between the eastern and western parts of the United States. Their month-long or longer field trips included destinations such as the Grand Canyon, the California coast, Yellowstone National Park, Washington, D.C., New York and even Canada.

The trips were a bargain by today's standards. Students on the 1956 tour, who visited 22 states in 24 days, paid $220 for transportation, tolls, taxes, lodging and tips. Meals, figured at $2 per day, were extra.

Geography students toured many Texas destinations, too. On summer trips with faculty member Walter Hansen in the '50s and '60s, they witnessed farm conservation in Pilot Point and the effects of erosion in Wise County. A popular destination was the Lone Star Steel Co. mill in Lone Star, referred to in several Chat articles as "one of the great shows in East Texas." The highlight was observing "Flossie Belle," the blast furnace, in action.

More recently the geography department has offered field courses to the British Isles, Ghana and Spain and archaeological trips to the southwest United States. Students taking the course "Human Impacts on the Environment" this May visited Mexico, covering such topics as the environmental effects of decorative flower-growing, water treatment and urban planning. And breaking from the summer tradition, a field course to Nepal is planned for this winter.



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