Geography professor appointed Kentucky’s state geographer

Kaely Holloway

In 1984, the state’s General Assembly created the position of State Geographer, and 29 years later, a WKU professor has been the first woman appointed to the position by Gov. Steve Beshear.

As State Geographer, Margaret Gripshover, associate professor of geography at WKU, will be on call to consult government officials on geographical issues that could arise.


In the past, these issues have dealt with mapping, land use, boundaries, environmental issues and issues dealing with geographical education. She will serve this role until Jan. 1, 2014.

“If an issue comes up, they might contact me to weigh in on it,” Gripshover said. “We tend to think boundary issues have been established a long time ago, but some of our state boundaries and county boundaries are streams, and water likes to change course.”

This new position is not one that will greatly detract from her position as a geography professor.

Her potential travels to the state capital are dependent upon the issue, and whether she was called or wanted go.

As a board member of the Kentucky Geographic Alliance, she has definite issues that she and the alliance support to improve state geographical education.

“I could see some opportunities for lobbying for geography, especially geographic education, in Frankfort,” she said.

David Keeling, head of the geography and geology department at WKU, views Gripshover’s new position as an honor to the department and the university.

“It offers an opportunity to demonstrate how powerful geography can be as an analytical tool,” he said. “Coming from the largest geoscience department in the state, Dr. Gripshover has the support of faculty and students as she helps Kentucky address some important issues that require a geographic perspective.”

Gripshover has been teaching at WKU for four years, but her geographical experience goes back much further.

Before teaching here, she taught at Marshall University and the University of Tennessee, receiving accolades for her achievements and success in teaching college-level geography. She said it’s hard to find issues that don’t relate back to geography, making her role as state geographer important.

“Geographers take the physical environment and the human and put them together, so whether it’s urban issues or rural issues, there’s always a geographic component,” she said.

“It’s nice for there to be a State Geographer. First of all, it raises the visibility for geography and sends a message to the rest of the states saying that this is important. I’m particularly proud of the fact that I can represent the department of geology and geography at WKU and, on a statewide basis, get that kind of recognition for the university.”