Kristen Conway-Gómez, Ph.D stading in front of lake titicaca

Kristen Conway-Gómez, Ph.D., Associate Professor

Department of Geography and Anthropology California State
Polytechnic University, Pomona

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My Research Interests

I am a geographer who studies natural resource conservation from social and ecological perspectives.  I have worked in several communities in Latin America studying various aspects of natural resource conservation.  Most recently I have worked with several communities near Parque Nacional Noel Kempff Mercado in Bolivia on their use of turtles and the impacts of market integration on this use.  As a comparative study of attitudes towards protected areas I interviewed residents near La Reserva de la Biosfera La Amistad in Panamá and Costa Rica and near El Refugio de Vida Silvestre Punta Izopo in Honduras (this would later be declared Parque Nacional Punta Izopo) (1997).  In Honduras I worked with local residents in 1997 to assess their level of interest in participation in then-proposed Parque Nacional Punta Izopo.  In Costa Rica (1992) I conducted phenology studies and worked with school children and adults in communities adjacent to Parque Nacional Carara on environmental education and conservation of scarlet macaws (Ara macao). 

Don Ceferino making a drum in a Garífuna community on the north coast of Honduras Tropical rainforest in Carara National Park Costa Rica Podocnemis unifilis hatchlings in IBAMA conservation project, Laranjeiras, Brazil
Don Ceferino making a drum in a Garífuna community on the north coast of Honduras Tropical rainforest in Carara National Park Costa Rica Podocnemis unifilis hatchlings in IBAMA conservation project, Laranjeiras, Brazil

My Teaching Philosophy

Teaching geography is an extension of my research, one I enjoy because it keeps me attentive and open to new perspectives.  This reciprocity strengthens my work in the classroom and outside it because one is constantly refreshing the other.  Furthermore, I believe knowledge retention is increased and geography highlighted when students see a real life application of classroom lectures or can make a connection between classroom lessons and their lives.  I like to actively engage students in the learning process and emphasize several outcomes through my teaching: critical thinking, integrated research and design, and effective communication.  One of the most important outcomes of education and a vital component of life is the ability to interpret and critically analyze information.  To guide students toward critical thinking I aim to set up a learning environment for students where it is safe to ask questions and where coming away from the experience with more questions than answers is a productive exercise.  Answering a question with a question is one way of demonstrating to students that the pursuit of knowledge is an ongoing process, a vital component of research. 

Introducing students to research design or helping them develop these skills is as important for conducting research as it is for assessment.  My strategy here is to link my teaching materials and research experiences directly to make the learning process more exciting and relevant for students.  I have succeeded in making the connection between theory and application through creating and implementing research projects, which I have done in the classroom, around campus and beyond.  For example, demonstrating the principals of a GIS by having groups determine viable locations for a school based on predetermined criteria compared to characteristics they map out on a raster system on overhead transparencies.

During courses I periodically solicit feedback on my teaching style and content as well as ideas from my students.  This allows us to adjust and improve before the term is over.  It is also a means of actively involving students in their learning.  I have found this to be a positive exercise in fostering collaborative learning, satisfaction in and ownership of the process.

My Mentoring Philosophy

As a student I was fortunate to have several strong mentors who pushed me to challenge the limits of my understanding – of geography and natural resource use and conservation – as well as what I can accomplish with such understanding.  Through the mentoring of Dr. Edward Malecki I have come to appreciate the value of theory and lineage in geography, particularly as it relates to development of academic work.  In my own teaching I strive to share with my students the value of placing information within a geographic context.  Dr. Charles Wood guided my writing through example and constructive criticism – qualities I try to emulate in my own interactions with students through their academic journeys.  Dr. J. Parren Ross repeatedly demonstrated his confidence in my ability to forge new paths of knowledge for myself in herpetology, specifically turtle biology.  Dr. Ross’ consistent recognition of my ability gave me the confidence to open new doors for myself.  It is my hope that some day a student of mine will be able to say the same of me.  As a result of these strong mentoring relationships I am interested in mentoring students myself.  I am eager to work with students to help reach new levels of awareness and confidence in their abilities as geographers and citizens.  I set high standards for each individual based on what I understand to be their particular strengths.  In turn I have high expectations of each individual I work with.  I hope to guide students to increased understanding of geographic thought and share with them my enthusiasm for the discipline through work together. 

Curriculum Vitae

Use the following link to download a pdf version of my curriculum vitae. KCGcv.pdf

Courses Currently Teaching

Basking P. unifilis on the Itenéz/Guaporé River

Basking P. unifilis on the Itenéz/Guaporé River