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The Whole World in Her Hands

Alumna finds her place working in geography department

As a geography student, Courtney Sutcliffe, ’14, G’18, had what she described as the coolest job in the world.

Sutcliffe joined a team of Bridgewater State students and faculty who brought a giant globe to schools across the region. The globe, called EarthView, inflates to create a two-story-tall classroom via which students see continents and oceans in a new way.

“It’s this jaw-dropping moment,” said Sutcliffe, who is now leading Project EarthView. “It’s something that has a wow factor. There’s no other time when you’re inside of the Earth looking out.”

Sutcliffe would know. In 2009, when EarthView at BSU was in its infancy, she was one of those wide-eyed students enthralled by the massive globe filling her high school gymnasium in Middleboro. She didn’t know then that she would pursue a career in geography.

But Courtney remembered the name of Dr. Vernon Domingo, a Bridgewater professor who led her EarthView session. As a BSU student unsure of her major, Sutcliffe saw Domingo’s name on the course schedule. She enrolled in his physical geography class and became hooked on a discipline that was about much more than capitals, landforms and waterways.

“Choosing geography was almost like choosing it all,” she said, referencing the discipline’s multiple opportunities to study people and their cultures and religions. “Geographers are naturally curious people. We just want to know everything, and the classes and professors were really interesting.”

Sutcliffe enjoyed local field trips and a journey to Nicaragua. She went on to earn a master’s degree from BSU in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and taught in Florida before returning to Massachusetts in 2022.

For the past year, she ran EarthView alongside Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan. Now, she is taking over the EarthView program, which features two large globes and a series of floor maps.

Sutcliffe, who also teaches part-time in the Department of Geography, brings a strong understanding of the varied facets of the discipline. She has the right blend of flexibility, maturity and patience to work with diverse groups of youngsters, according to her one-time professors.

Courtney Sutcliffe stands in front of a giant globe.

“She has a very broad appreciation of what geography is,” Hayes-Bohanan said. “She really gets it.”

Added Domingo, who is now retired: “Courtney is excellent for this role. Very few people could just run with it.”

Sutcliffe already made an impact by more fully involving today’s student employees in teaching EarthView participants. She hopes to grow the program so it reaches additional youngsters, some of whom may – like herself – one day study geography at BSU.

“Bridgewater has been woven through my life,” Sutcliffe said. “I just think it’s a really special place.”

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