by Terence Baker | March 01, 2004

Oscar Larson"The main issue on the agenda right now is the geographical dimensions of terrorism."

Oscar Larson is conference director at the Washington, D.C.-based Association of American Geographers. This is Larson’s first planning position; he is a recent graduate with a degree in geography from Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

After studying geography, did you intend to become a meeting planner? No. I wanted to work for a geographical organization and then just fell into planning. But my interest definitely makes the job fulfilling. I organize one annual meeting and several smaller, co-hosted meetings. I spend most of my time putting together the meeting’s academic side, booking 700 speakers every year.

Where do your attendees hail from? Only half are academics; the rest are students, government officials and employees from private companies. This month we will hold our 100th annual meeting, and I expect between 4,500 and 5,000 attendees.

What are the key issues for the association? The main issue on the agenda right now is the geographical dimensions of terrorism. Also, an initiative called My Community, Our Earth Project, encourages people to use maps and other geographic tools to improve their communities.

How is geography generally viewed as an area of study? The value placed on geographical education has diminished greatly. We have a full-time employee dealing solely with raising the status of geography in schools and universities.