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K-State Today

March 1, 2019

Bolton receives second round of funding from National Geographic Society

Submitted by Debra J. Bolton

Debra Bolton, National Geographic Society Explorer and director of intercultural learning and academic success in the Department of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs, has earned a second round of funding from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

Bolton focuses on promoting STEM subjects, targeting females of color, by teaching introductory classes to high school students living in Garden City. Initial funding enabled the four-week courses that she calls "Girl Power GIS." The 2017 funding also helped a school teacher create an after-school Geography Club at Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center and the high school's physics teacher to present a course on wind power. All of these activities were in the Garden City School District.

The current award from National Geographic Society funded "Creating a Pathway to STEM for Females of Color." New funding paves the way for Bolton to "take her show on the road" by presenting her strategies, learning/teaching techniques, and long-term outcomes of the project at two national meetings later this calendar year. The current funding also helps Bolton continue a popular public radio program called, "Silver Rails: Music of the World in the Folk Tradition." During Geography Awareness Week in mid-November, the two-hour program features music that matches the annual theme for the week. Geography Awareness Week-related programming on High Plains Public Radio in western Kansas and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles began eight years ago and features daily modules with geography tidbits, called, "Did You Know?"

Recently, an additional cohort of funding for "Girl Power GIS" came from a K-State Center for Engagement and Community Development Engagement Incentive Grant. The next Girl Power GIS class takes place in April 2019 in Garden City.

Bolton began her relationship with the iconic National Geographic Society, first, as a policy point person and Grosvenor Scholar of the Kansas Geographic Alliance, based at Kansas State University and Fort Hays State University. A policy point person advocates, legislatively, for raising classroom standards in geography that go beyond the simple "embedding" the subject in other courses.

Bolton worked for K-State Research and Extension as a specialist based at the Southwest Research Extension Center in Garden City for 13 years before becoming director of intercultural learning on campus.