It takes a village

Geography professor Kelsey Hanrahan builds global relationships.

Kelsey Hanrahan

Think geography is just about maps? Think again.

“Sometimes students in my human geography class are surprised that what they’re learning is called geography,” laughs Assistant Professor Kelsey Hanrahan, who delights in sharing how the discipline also explores “relationships and connections between people and their environment.”

Hanrahan is all about relationships.

For nearly a decade, the geography department professor has been building connections with villagers in rural Ghana for her research on, guess what? Relationships. That is, the bonds that matter when people are trying to support themselves in a labor intensive, agrarian society.

It’s nice to be able to contribute a perspective inspired by feminist approaches that challenge some long-standing assumptions. ”

Kelsey Hanrahan

Ghana has had a lot of research attention, says Hanrahan, but she’s looking at the country and its people through a particular lens.

“It’s nice to be able to contribute a perspective,” says Hanrahan, “inspired by feminist approaches that challenge some long-standing assumptions, chiefly the idea that people make individualized and purely economic decisions. I, instead, focus on how people depend on each other and make difficult, complex decisions about individual, family and community physical and social well-being.”

Back on campus, one of her favorite parts of teaching is the relationships she builds with students.

Hanrahan, who joined TU in 2016, looks forward to involving students in her research, including working with the data she collects or even taking them with her to Ghana.

For now, she welcomes those knocks on her office door — students coming for academic advice, career advice, life advice.

“Those moments in my office are a lovely extension of teaching,” says Hanrahan, “into that other space where you see them think about the world and their position in the world, who they want to be, who they want to become.”

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