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February 8, 2010


Robin Datel
Associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography

Photo: Robin Datel
Robin Datel

Home town:  
I was born in Stockton and grew up in cities throughout California. My dad worked for the state Division of Highways and kept being promoted to new jobs in various districts around the state.

Primary area of expertise:

Urban Geography. My published research has largely been on historic preservation in American and European cities and the social geography of Sacramento, particularly aspects of ethnicity and immigration. I teach an urban geography lecture/discussion course and an Urban Geography field course. Students in both classes do research on the Sacramento region, and the field class in recent years has included a service-learning component that involves “mapping memories” of Oak Park residents. 

Educational Background:

I have a bachelor’s in Geography from UC Davis, and a master’s and Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Minnesota.

What’s on your mp3 player?

I don’t have one. I listen every day to Capital Public Radio. During 2009 I worked with CPR’s food reporter Elaine Corn on her “Around the World in 30 Blocks” series, which featured a different Broadway restaurant each month. 

Favorite Book:

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner is one of my favorite novels. It beautifully weaves together personal and familial stories and struggles with big historical themes like the character of the American West and human-environment relationships.  

Favorite city to visit:

This is an excruciating question for an urban geographer. Wherever urban geographers go, they find places and landscapes that fascinate them. The metropolitan area for which I have a lifetime of affection is the San Francisco Bay area, having learned at my mother’s knee that San Francisco is “The City.”

Who most influenced you to become a teacher?
My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Turner, nurtured my love of the coast by teaching a unit on tide pools. To this day I am a strong advocate of getting out of the classroom and into the field. My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Kishiyama, taught a unit on her native Japan filled with captivating information and artifacts. My best teacher in high school was Frances Tidey. She taught English, and I attribute whatever writing skills I have to her. Every day I use the geography I learned from John Adams, John Borchert and Yi-Fu Tuan at the University of Minnesota. 



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