Professional Sketch of Dr. Casey D. Allen
by Casey D. Allen, PhD
Not your typical bachelors-to-masters-to-PhD professor, Dr. Casey D. Allen has had many professional, real-world experiences outside of the Ivory Tower. And, being trained formally as a Geographer, Educator, and Academic Advisor, his interests remain wide-ranging: rock art, virtual learning environments, aesthetics, sense/spirit of place, biocrusts, medieval cartography, assessment, biogeomorphology, and the list continues...But while his professional background may appear science-laden at first glance, upon deeper inspection, each piece inherently includes some form of humanistic geography that allows him to research how people learn complex knowledge and processes better through fieldwork – two fields where he remains known as a leading scholar. Whatever he does, those two foci always guide his endeavors. Although Dr. Allen studies Nature in all its forms, he is, at the core, a humanist – just as much artist as scientist who believes in the individual.
On the technical side, Dr. Allen has experience in general editing, designing/managing websites, digital photography & editing, video and direct-to-web production, and spatial analysis ([historic] repeat photography, photogeomorphology, and remote sensing – including low altitude, high-resolution UAS applications and surface recording gyro guidance systems). He prides himself on keeping current in New Media endeavors and up-to-date with technological advances as they pertain to teaching and research, readily incorporating new concepts whenever possible. For example, he designed the format and assessments for several online courses at Arizona State University (and also taught a number of them) for a new graduate program. At University of Colorado Denver, he created (and taught) the first-ever high-enrollment online general science course, which received rave reviews from students in its inaugural debut and subsequent iterations.
In a similar vein, Dr. Allen no longer uses standardized tests in his classes – even large introductory survey classes. He focuses instead on some type of application and/or knowledge production rubric, with all his classes centering more on doing rather than lecturing, including field trips and in-class-based exercises and labs. In all instances, Dr. Allen champions non-traditional pedagogies, favoring humanistic and project-based assessments instead. He also works hard to incorporate student-driven fieldwork opportunities locally, regionally, and internationally – most recently in the Caribbean since that’s where he resides, but he’s also conducted short-term, field-based study abroad programs in Morocco, UK, France, Japan, the US Southwest, and the US-Mexico Borderlands.
As an Educator, Dr. Allen strives to give students meaningful and professional-level experiences. This usually entails some kind of fieldwork – getting out of the classroom and on the ground. Whether that means students experience the natural world through interacting with ancient petroglyphs etched in rock varnish, learn about the constructed world through art and architecture, or gain a deeper understanding of people by interacting with different cultures first-hand, it matters not to him. Experience gained in situ remains invaluable. A quick perusal of his current and past research supervised displays a variety of topics, once again focused on humanistic geography and grounded in fieldwork: from drinking water quality, landscape change, and alternative energy to interactive mapping, architectural analyses, and documentary production. In every situation, he ardently believes in providing students with the tools they need to succeed. Truthfully, he lives to serve them.
As a Geographer, Dr. Allen uses the World as a pedagogical stage. One of his greatest joys lies in exploring places, well-known and foreign, domestic and international, because just wandering allows for myriad discoveries not otherwise experienced. And he encourages the same behavior in his students, working hard to provide them with similar opportunities. To that end, all of his courses include some type of field element (really just an excuse for him to help students break the “four walls” of formal education). For example, he continues to lead students through the Colonial streets of Bridgetown, as well as a modern-day campus, help them gain appreciation for science and the Arts through interactivity with/in the landscape, and aid them in discovering their own sense of place.
To enhance these endeavors, Dr. Allen developed the concept of Geography by Rail® to help people experience, appreciate, understand, and learn about landscapes in a unique way, making use of what would otherwise be downtime on an excursion and bringing back the old-time way of assessing landscapes first attempted over a century ago by explorers. He has led GbR excursions assessing the physical geography of London and Paris, historical and cultural geography of Imperial Japan, urban geography and geomorphology of England & Scotland, and the general geography of Morocco. People are eager for these kinds of experiential experience. And in each instance, these experiences remain grounded in fieldwork, but contain a humanistic flair.
Dr. Allen’s combination of skills and experiences lend themselves well to spatial thinking – an oft-overlooked yet important skill to develop because it helps us see trends others might miss. Using this guiding principle, however, he has found many people/students who otherwise might become lost or overwhelmed, suddenly realize they can make sense of things. Indeed, this represents the foundation of his pedagogy and, in his eyes, Geography. In the end, his goal rests in mentoring students/people to achieve success. This is what matters to Dr. Allen’s heart and soul. Whatever the case, he remains a vehement believer that everyone can succeed if they are given the proper guidance. So he stands ready to help in any way possible.