The Department of Geography is housed in Derby Hall. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

In a new era for the Ohio State College of Arts and Sciences, Darla Munroe has been named the new chair of the Department of Geography, according to a March 20 announcement from Morton O’Kelly, divisional dean of social and behavioral sciences.

Munroe, who came to Ohio State as an assistant professor in 2004, has been serving as interim chair since July 2018. While considering her candidacy for the permanent chair position, O’Kelly cited her impressive work for the department to date.

“As she came up through the ranks, I think that I observed her as someone who was effective at generating externally funded research grants, often grants that were kind of creative,” O’Kelly said. “She was a good departmental citizen, taught great classes, worked with graduate students and seemed to get along with people.”

A committee recommended Munroe’s promotion to Kelly, after speaking with other colleagues, students and staff who were impressed by her strong leadership and open-mindedness.

“A lot of being a chair is being able to be transparent, be available for consultation, touching base with your colleagues and your committees, and that’s what Darla has shown herself very capable of doing,” O’Kelly said.

When asked whether she would become the next chair of the Department of Geography, Munroe was initially worried that she could be too empathetic for a tough role like this one.

“The happiest surprise has been to work with the staff and work with the students in a new capacity and feel like I’m serving them,“ Munroe said. “But there’s an adjustment of understanding these different perspectives.”

She said her passion to serve and represent the department was a deciding factor in choosing long-term leadership. One of her goals includes enhancing the current program’s policies.

Munroe said she will feel like she has done a good job if the department is running smoother or if people are happier when she is done.

“I would really like to make the department a place that I’m really happy to return to as a regular faculty member,” Munroe said.

According to a press release issued by the department, Munroe is expected to begin her new post July 1, and eventually complete her first four-year term in 2023.

In regards to the future of the program, having a vision for leading a broad interdisciplinary program like geography strengthens the whole department, O’Kelly said.

“I think it’s absolutely a smooth and seamless transition,” O’Kelly said. “I’d love to turn the department over to someone who’s going to take it to even greater heights, and I’m very confident that Darla will be able to do that.”