Hansens establish fund for geography research

The Macalester urban geography program, a major section of the Geography Department, has a history of conducting community-based research in the Twin Cities. Kathleen Hansen ’63 and her husband, Leland, recently established the Leland and Kathleen Hansen Geography Research Endowed Fund to provide financial support for student research in urban geography.

“The Hansens have been connected to the college for a long time, and they know there is a focus on community-based research,” said Geography professor David Lanegran.

The Hansen family has multiple ties to Macalester that stretch back over 80 years. Mrs. Hansen’s father, Harold Lawler, attended Macalester in the 1930s, and the Hansens’ daughter, Laura Hansen Smith ‘94, is an associate professor in the Geography Department.

The endowed fund provides an annual amount of $100,000 specifically for urban geography students to conduct research. The largest group of students conducting research will be juniors studying urban geography, but some sophomores will also have the funds made available to them. The funding could be used for summer research as early as this year.

This funding gives students an advantage, according to Lanegran, by allowing them to conduct field research with fewer financial constraints.

“It’ll be easier for faculty to plan for research projects,” he said.

In the past, the department had to work to seek research funding for various sources, but the Leland and Kathleen Hansen Geography Research Endowed Fund will provide a reliable funding source indefinitely.

Field research is important for students seeking to gain admittance to graduate schools.

“[The endowed fund] is a big advantage for students because doing this sort of research almost guarantees they get into grad school,” Lanegran said. “Grad schools want students to do research with faculty.”

But even if students choose not to go on to a graduate institution after studying geography, Lanegran believes the endowed fund will still benefit them.

“It is a deep experience that will set them up to be successful,” he said. “I think it’s a really wonderful thing.”