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David Padgett

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David Padgett

David A. Padgett, Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Geographic and Information Sciences Laboratory at Tennessee State University, is the winner of its sixth annual Youth Environmental Science (YES) Medal.


David serves as Associate Professor of Geography at Tennessee State University (TSU) and is TSU’s GLOBE Trainer and Partner since 2001. He is a true trailblazer—he is THE original geospatial practitioner to apply the use of geoscience to improve understanding of and access to data about environmental justice issues. And, David shares his methods, expertise, and experiences broadly to allow other practitioners to follow in his footsteps. 


David joined the faculty of Tennessee State University in 1999. At that time, Tennessee State University was among the HBCUs that did not have earth science or geospatial technology programs. Undeterred, in 2000, David founded the TSU Geographic Information Sciences Laboratory.  


During his two-plus decades as the GIS Sciences lab’s Director, David and his many undergraduate research assistants have provided technical assistance in geoscience and geographic information systems (GIS) to environmental justice communities throughout the United States. 


David’s work is not limited to educating future leaders at TSU, however. He is also the convenor of the HBCU-Environmental Justice Technology Team (HEJTT). Founded with Environmental Justice luminary Bob Bullard and funded by the Bezos Earth Fund, David brings together GIS practitioners from HBCUs to coordinate outreach and support to EJ stakeholders within their own communities. Specifically, they train community-based organizations in how to use geospatial data tools such as EJ SCREEN and others to understand local conditions and take action based on these data.


David has led the study and practice of democratization of geospatial technology through a project funded by the American Geographical Society and Omidyar Network. In this effort, called “EthicalGEO,” David developed a participatory mapping tutorial for communities fighting for environmental justice.


David has served as TSU’s GLOBE Trainer and Partner since 2001. In this role, he has trained many pre-service teachers and in-service educators to prepare them to be part of GLOBE as soon as they enter their teaching careers.


David also leads GLOBE’s HBCU Informal Education Institution (IEI) Collaborative which is focused on creating new GLOBE Partnerships at HBCUs and developing a model for successful GLOBE implementation in urban settings. The partners in this initiative train and certify informal educators in the GLOBE protocols with the goal of broadening the participation of students from populations underrepresented in STEM research and careers as part of the ongoing effort to close the racial STEM achievement gap. This project also seeks to increase the numbers of Black K-12 science educators, in both formal and informal settings.


With his YES Medal award, David selected two organizations to support—Earth Matters Tennessee, based in Nashville, and the GreenDoor Initiative based in Detroit, a partner in the IEI Collaborative. David selected these two community-based organizations because they have a long and successful track record of training youth and young professionals in the areas of sustainability, technology, and environmental justice.

“It is a true honor to be selected for the 2020 YLACES YES Medal. My work within the environmental justice community and on the GLOBE program is consistent with the motto of TSU, “Enter to work, leave to serve,” that calls for all faculty members and students to serve the community,” says David.

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