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MAGAZINE

Nature and Cultures: A Geographic Magazine for Global Explorers

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An important part of AUP’s pedagogical approach involves taking a career-centric view of assessment. Alongside written essays and traditional examinations, professors are encouraged to develop innovative assignments that combine academic rigor with professional skills development. One example comes from Professor Oleg Kobtzeff, who teaches politics, geography and environmental studies. He created a geographic magazine, Nature and Cultures, which encourages student contributions and is tied into the assessment process for several of his classes.  

Nature and Cultures has existed for several years as a website and has produced two full issues. It covers topics related to both physical and human geography, as well as current events. Alongside republished articles from third-party sources, the magazine encourages contributions from academics at all levels. Student contributors, who often submit edited versions of their classwork, have an extra incentive to publish their academic efforts in a journalistic context, as it allows them to experience the editing process firsthand. 

AUP’s diverse community is particularly well suited for a geographic magazine. “I also want students to talk about themselves and where they are from,” explains Kobtzeff. “Their personal experiences in their own cultures.” Recent contributions from students have included an article about Ladin, an ancient North Italian language, and another about the balance between Norwegian sustainability policy and the livelihoods of indigenous Sami communities

During Spring semester 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic caused AUP to switch to remote learning, Kobtzeff saw an opportunity to revitalize Nature and Cultures by tying it more closely into assessment: “I had the idea that staying at home would be an opportunity to drop the traditional term papers and to come up with some innovative projects to relaunch the magazine.” The first of these initiatives is named the Comparative Government Project. Students in Kobtzeff’s Comparative Politics class began compiling a list of the democratic governments of the world in order to create a comparative database. Each student was given several countries to research and produced a write-up consisting of key political information such as the structure of the various branches of government, how legislators are elected, or which powers various legislators have a mandate to enact. 

“The outcome is that students come out of this completely familiar with primary sources on the structures of government,” explains Kobtzeff. Students conduct independent research, visiting official government websites to find the necessary information. They are also encouraged to interview a diplomat or embassy official as part of the process and can also bring in secondary sources. Kobtzeff sees the process continuing in subsequent years until every democratic country is represented in the database, completing a valuable resource for future students studying Comparative Politics. 

The second initiative ties into Kobtzeff’s Waters of the Globe class. A new website, watersoftheglobe.org, was created to act as a resource base, online library and forum for students studying water systems. Students populated the website with crowdsourced resources from across the internet. The website was developed by a student as his final class project. Like Nature and Cultures, this new website hosts student contributions, in this case focused on “hydropolitics,” or the geopolitics of aquatic environments. One recent student contribution tackles the hydropolitics of an Ethiopian dam

Nature and Cultures adds to AUP’s already rich library of academic publications, while also providing an engaging, original form of class assessment that is well adapted to remote learning. Kobtzeff hopes that renewed interest in the magazine will mean the imminent publication of a new issue. The magazine is looking for contributions from students, faculty and third-party contributors – find out more on their website