smith Faculty ImageJan Smith

Office: 203 Rowland Hall
Phone: 717-477-1757
Homepage: n/a


Ph.D. (1999) Geography, University of Georgia
M.A. (1994) Geography, University of Georgia
B.S. (1984) Education, Secondary Social Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University
B.A. (1983) Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia


I started my career as a geographer as long ago as I can remember—planning bicycle routes to the city park in my hometown of Greensburg, Indiana, drawing maps of the “treasure” buried in my backyard, and imagining adventures using the maps that came with National Geographic every month. However, throughout my schooling (K-16), I never knew that there was an academic discipline of geography. Fortunately, I encountered a professional geographer just as I began teaching high school social studies. I had been assigned 4 sections of ninth grade world regional geography. The principal’s advice to me was to just get the students to memorize places and resources. Geography, I knew even then, was way more than this so I contacted a local university to see if I could take my first geography class. As luck would have it, I was able to take two courses during the summer before I began teaching. My interest in geography grew as I attended professional conferences and a summer institute for teachers sponsored by National Geographic. After seven years of teaching, I really wanted to know more about the discipline of geography and so I began graduate school at the University of Georgia.

I joined the faculty at Shippensburg in 2003, after teaching at Slippery Rock University for three years. Currently I teach World Geography, Cartography, several of our GIS courses, and Senior Seminar. In addition, I supervise student teachers. I serve as the Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education—a non-profit group, funded in part by the National Geographic Education Foundation, which works to promote geographic literacy and provide professional development opportunities for teachers.   For more information on the PA Alliance visit the website at

My academic interests revolve around two major themes—geography education and applied geography. I am fascinated by how children see the world and learn about the world. Some of my research has focused on the influence of cultural artifacts such as toys and textbooks on the acquisition of spatial understandings. Additionally, I have been involved with several projects that examine the influence of international collaboration on geographic knowledge and attitudes. Geography remains a discipline that can influence policy and change. To this end, I have investigated the use of GIS: to locate new Head Start Centers in Atlanta, to determine the spatial implications of “No Child Left Behind,” to analyze daily commuting patterns of single parents, and to identify the concentrations of female-headed households living in poverty in Georgia.

Teaching & Research Interests

  • GIS
  • Cartography
  • Spatial Cognition of Children
  • Geography Education
  • Spatial Inequality in allocation of public school resources
  • Geographic implications of No Child Left Behind (NCLB )


GEO 101 World Geography
GEO 202 GIS I: Introduction to GIS

GEO 391 Geography Senior Seminar
GEO 363 Cartography
GEO 420 GIS III: Advanced GIS
GEO 517 Applied GIS

Community and Professional Service
  • Member: SU Geography & Earth Science Dept. Curriculum Committee
  • Member: National Council for Geographic Education (President 2008), Association of American Geographers, and National Council for Social Studies