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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Geography professor to be honored for earning university's highest faculty award

John "Jack" Wright, professor of geography at New Mexico State University, will be honored as this year's recipient of the Westhafer Award for excellence in teaching at a reception from 3-5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the Hotel Restaurant Tourism Management wine academy on campus.

Head and shoulders photo
John "Jack" Wright, geography professor at New Mexico State University will be honored at a reception Nov. 4 as the 2013 recipient of the Westhafer Award. (NMSU photo by Ben La Marca)

Wright, who joined the College of Arts and Sciences faculty in 1990, is described as a world traveler, teacher, scholar and writer who cares profoundly about his students. He is known as someone who teaches based on his own research and personal experiences. His classes include cultural geography, environmental planning and world regional geography, which is among the largest introductory classes at the university.

Originally from Maine, Wright is recognized as an expert on the cultural, historical and environmental geography of New Mexico and the American West. He has traveled to over 70 countries in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania, and has built his classes on that experience.

Wright has published five books and more than 140 articles and technical reports in both academic publications and field journals. In 2003, he helped to found New Mexico Land Conservancy, where he served as chair until 2012. During that time, NMLC conserved over 112,000 acres of agricultural land, wildlife habitat and scenic open space across New Mexico.

Wright earned a Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley in 1990, a master's in geography from the University of Montana in 1983 and a bachelor's in geography from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1973.

The Westhafer Award, one of NMSU's highest honors, was established in memory of Robert L. Westhafer, professor in the mathematics department from 1946 to 1957. The annual award, which includes $3,000, is given in alternating years and recognizes NMSU faculty for excellence in teaching, research and creative activity.