Historical Geographic Distribution of American University: 1980/1981-2013/2014

(Map Color Scale: 0-0.1%-Navy Blue, 0.1-0.3%-Aqua/Teal, 0.3-0.6%-Light Green, 0.6-0.9%-Yellow, 0.9-2.0%-Orange, 2.0-4.0%-Grapefruit Red, 4.0-7.0%-Maroon, 7.0-12.0%-Purple, 12.0%-Brown.

Circular dot: 1980, Place marker: 2013)

My final project, which explores the evolving geographic distribution of the American University student body over the last 34 years, was an interesting adventure. A very wise person once said, “The road to success is not straight,” and most certainly, the road to finishing this project was not straight. From the beginning in February, I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate maps into my final projects.

Harkening back to my original post, I planned to observe the relationship between geography/location, and the price of runaway slaves through examining newspaper advertisements and classifieds. As readers of my blog noted, this could be ambitious, so I decided to narrow it down to a specific month and newspaper. However, after delving through what seemed like volumes of newspaper, I confronted several methodological quandaries imposed by my research design. Primarily, the ads themselves did not provide prices in a lot of cases. Thus, I would have to augment my design to account for the lack of ads that fit my criteria; meaning increasing the time frame and possibly including multiple newspapers. I could have neglected to expand the scope of the project, but my sample size would have been small bordering on negligent. The results of the study would not and could not have been conclusive in any form, rendering my research basically useless.

So how could I proceed ahead? I desired to conflate a relevant topic with accessible data. With my sustaining interest in geography, I decided to explore the expanding role of students at American University originating from increasingly diverse geographic regions in the United States through using Google Maps. To host my maps, I used Google Maps Engine Lite, a free version of their Google Maps Engine product that is available for purchase, and can host additional layers. I originally gathered data for the years 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2013, but without buying the Google Maps Engine product, I could not create layers for all of those years. Therefore, I selected 1980 (The first year the American University Academic Data Reference Book released information on geographic diversity). I went to the university archives and photocopied the data, and input it into a table on Google Maps.

To control for the disparity in the growth of the school since 1980 (6573 students) to last year, (12,817 students) (Counting bachelor, law, grad and part-time), I calculated the percentage of the students hailing from the given state by dividing that number by the total for the given year. I then established ranges in order to color code the numeric data so the map could be more visually friendly. The navy blue corresponds to 0-0.10%, the teal/aqua: 0.1-0.3%, the light green: 0.3-0.6%, the yellow: 0.6-0.9%, the orange: 0.9-2%, the grapefruit red: 2.0-4%, the maroon: 4.0-7.0%, the purple: 7.0-12%, and the brown: 12%-. The first layer of the map offers place marks for the year 1980, and the second layer, for 2013-2014. When combined, they demonstrate the shifts in geographic distribution that have occurred at American University over the last thirty-three years.


  • There will be less geographic distribution overall in 1980 compared to 2013.
  • The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states will account for at least 75% of the student body in 1980.
  • California will see the largest growth in enrollment over the 30 year period compared to any other state.
  • No state will see a decrease in enrollment over the 30 year period.
  • In general, the geographic distribution of the student body will remain on the East Coast in 2013-14.
  • “Red” States will be vastly under-represented.

Overview of the Geographic Distribution in 1980

In 1980-81, the majority of the American University student body lived within driving distance of campus (I’m from the Midwest, anything within 12 hours is driving distance). Of course, you could not commute, but judging from map, much of the student population was from the DMV, Philadelphia and New York City. In fact, roughly 60%, from (New Jersey, New York, the District of Columbia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland) could be home likely in 5 hours or so. However, rejecting one of my presumptions, if you add New England, the number hovers around 70%. Meanwhile, if you depart the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, only Ohio, Florida, Illinois and California possessed over 1% of the student body. Interestingly, California had almost the same amount of students as the rest of the states west of the Mississippi combined. The Plains, Midwest, South and Northwest, or largely Republican areas were virtually unrepresented at American University in 1980.

Overview of the Geographic Distribution in 2013

Predictably, the geographic distribution has expanded as time has elapsed. While there is substantially more geographic diversity today than there was thirty years ago, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast still comprise much of the student population. However, today within those states/district (Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia), only 44% compared to 60% thirty years ago originate from those areas. The Midwest, South, Plains and Northwest still lag behind and remain underrepresented. So if the East Coast is seeing a drop (percentage-wise) in students, what states are today’s students coming from that they weren’t thirty years ago?

New Trends

Rise in Pacific Northwest and California

In 1980, less than two percent of American’s student body came from California, Oregon and Washington. Today, over seven percent does, more than three times more than just thirty years ago. California in particular has seen a meteoric ascension. More than seven times more California students go to school at AU today then in 1980, and approximately four times more Oregon and Washington students.

Rise in Colorado, Arizona and Texas

Colorado and Arizona, both states divided politically with one large city, have seen enrollment numbers swell intensely. Colorado has seen a 300% increase, while Arizona has seen close to a 500% increase. It is very likely that much of the student population from these two states comes from the Denver and Phoenix metropolitan areas, though the university does not release this information, so I can’t verify that assumption. Texas meanwhile has witnessed a 300% increase as well.

Fall in Florida and Ohio

Of students from Ohio, attendance has fallen 40%, while in Florida, by over half. It is hard to account for such a loss in student population, but I will speculate that in 1980, these applicants from these states were seen by the university as being “Geographically diverse.” In 1980, there were obviously far less applicants from other regions of the country, so greater numbers from Florida and Ohio could be admitted to increase perception of American as recruiting “Nationally.” However, with more applicants now applying from more diverse areas of the country, less applicants are likely being admitted from Ohio and Florida today compared to thirty years ago.

Fall in New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia

When you read “Fall in New Jersey and New York,” you probably thought to yourself, “How is it possible that there are less Jersey and New Yorker’s here then 30 years ago?” But it is true, American has actually seen a drop in enrollment in people from those two states, with a fall of roughly 30% for New Jersey students, and over 50% for New Yorker’s! The District has seen a comparable fall, with greater than a 50% drop as well. I think some of the reasons outlined above can answer the questions about why there has been such an intense drop. Admissions has become more competitive, and I also think its possible that applicants from these states, like applicants from California, Washington, Colorado, Arizona etc. are beginning to apply to more nationally diverse schools as well, so therefore it is quite possible that there are less applicants coming from these areas.

Macro Analysis

According to Airlines for America, the average cost of flying since 1978 has fallen more than 50%.

A look at airfare prices 1980-2010

A look at airfare prices 1980-2010

Because of cheaper transportation costs, new doors are now open to high school applicants to matriculate at colleges that would have once been impossible because of the distance and high cost of travel. Potential students from perhaps lesser wealth are now able to afford to look and possibly attend these schools many miles from home. I think that it is also true that with increasing globalization, more people are comfortable today with the idea of sending their children far away to school, knowing that they are only a flight away. In addition, families are more spread out today then they were thirty years ago, allowing for a more fluid environment. Finally, new, innovative technology like skype, email, cell phones and with them, texting, have emerged which allow students and their families to remain in closer contact then they ever could have imagined thirty years ago, when I assume mail was the primary source of communication..

On the opposite side of the spectrum, American has benefitted from lower travel costs and ameliorated technology in the sense that not only have they been inundated with volumes of applications from new places, but those applicants who become students are free advertising for them as well. When they go home for the holidays, or return home after attending American, American receives increased visibility in the area, which in turn promotes and raises awareness of the university. This makes the school more familiar to distant potential applicants, and therefore makes them more likely to apply and attend (Basically like an admissions pyramid scheme).

Possible Impact of United States Migration Trends

Over the past thirty years, migration trends have led the South and West to gain population, while cities along the Rust Belt (Indianapolis, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland) have lost population. While California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Texas and Arizona have all seen a growth in population over the last thirty years as well as a rise in attendance at American, I tend to doubt that there is a positive correlation between the two measures. For one, other states that have seen population growth across the South, like Georgia, Alabama and Florida are not seeing a rise in enrollment at American. Therefore, I think it is basically insignificant that states like New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all of which are losing population, are suffering from lower enrollment numbers. This is definitely not as a result of migration trends.

Concluding Thoughts

If the University released more specific information relating to the geographic background of each student, I think even more could be ascertained by the research. It is certainly veritable that the university is trying to increase its geographic diversity, and I do not think it is outside the realm to say that if say you were a high school senior from Montana with equal statistics to a kid from New Jersey, the Montana student would possess a decisive advantage. Over the next thirty years, I think we will see the largest increases coming from Texas and California, and I would not be surprised if Colorado sees a large rise as well. Analyzing the student body, the University tends to attract a large foundation of politically active applicants, the majority of them liberal, coming from liberal areas. I think if anything, the most corresponding, telling variable in this study is political climate of the particular state. Almost the entirety of the student body comes from states that voted Obama in the 2012 election, and many of the states like New York and California, and the District of Columbia which are all decidedly blue, supply much of the student population.

Regarding my Prior Assertions:

  • There will be less geographic distribution overall in 1980 compared to 2013. (True)
  • The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states will account for at least 75% of the student body in 1980. (False)
  • California will see the largest growth in enrollment over the 30 year period compared to any other state. (True)
  • No state will see a decrease in enrollment over the 30 year period. (False)
  • In general, the geographic distribution of the student body will remain on the East Coast in 2013-14. (True-but definitely shifting West)
  • “Red” States will be vastly under-represented. (True)

Predictions for the 2040 Geographic Distribution of the American Student Body

  • California and Texas will see the largest rises in Enrollment.
  • Of all the states with negligent enrollment today, New Mexico and Tennessee will see the largest expansion.
  • Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, DC, New Jersey will all continue to see downward trends in enrollment in 2040 as the University pushes to become more geographically diverse.
  • The South and Midwest will still not supply many students to the University; growth will remain static.



Tripadvisor and Historical Sites

Digital archivist Trevor Owens, part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), makes a claim in his article, Tripadvisor rates Einstein, that Tripadvisor and other social media user-based review websites are valuable tools for public historians to evaluate in interpreting how visitors react to different historic sites. In this, historians and prospective visitors can look at pictures, comments and stories uploaded by travelers and reviewers to mold together an overall experience, and greater understand the historic and cultural significance of these places. In his article, he decides to look into perceptions of the Albert Einstein memorial in downtown Washington DC. Interestingly, as he notes, prior and during its construction art critics, and even Washington Post writers scorned the memorial for being too expensive and immodest. However, as Owens acknowledges in his synthesis, these opinions can scarcely be found in Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews of the exhibit.

I decided to look into Tripadvisor and Yelp reviews of a frequent school field trip destination during my elementary school years, the Daniel Boone home in Defiance, Missouri. The reviews are eclectic, and paint an image of how the home and surrounding village have been interpreted over the years. The majority are positive, and remark on the improvement of the experience since nearby Lindenwood University acquired the property. However, many still illustrate a common concern, that Daniel Boone only lived there during his dying years, so this can hardly be considered his “Home.” Pictures uploaded to Tripadvisor provide an overview of the experience, and allow potential visitors to see what a visit would entail.

These review sites are now becoming a more important part of the visiting experience, even though they are not  a part of the actual “visit.” Now more than ever before, prospective visitors are checking into these sites to gauge if a visit is even worth it. This makes the experience and people’s reviews even more important for historic sites in the age of pervasive social media. In turn, for public historians, these user-generated review sites offer primary content of everyday interactions with historical sites, valuable material that needs to be preserved so historians can document their cultural significance.



Daniel Boone Home- Tripadvisor.com


Exploring Civil War Era Maps



Washington DC 1861-Donald Rumsey Map Collection


I have loved maps since I can remember. In our attic, I recall us having a topographical map of the Appalachian Mountains stretching from Alabama up into the Northeast. I can remember tracing my finger up and down the small, but jagged surfaces of the map, learning the cities and the geography. Of course, even since then (Roughly 15 years ago…geez time flies!), maps have evolved and transformed. They have now mostly been converted to digital formats, like Google Earth,  which display everything from views of one of your old neighbor’s yards, to terrain burned from a forest fire in California. There is also new content emerging, like Hypercities, which allows users to travel back in time to view and explore different cities through layers.

I decided to explore David Rumsey’s map collection, an exhaustive amalgamation of maps, and truly a great waste of time for someone as map-obsessed as myself. I explored a map of Washington DC in 1861 that displayed individual buildings, vegetation and even the names of some homeowners. My first observation was that the cities population was mostly concentrated in present day Southwest DC, and many of the homes found on the map were either in Georgetown or the Capitol Hill area. Much expansion around the city had not yet occurred, and Alexandria it seems, which definitely had a large residential and commercial population at this time, was not accounted for.

I also delved into the relationship between the construction of railroads and the growth of slavery through looking at maps from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The maps analyze the strong relationship between the two, and in fact, as the article highlights, slaves were even used in the construction of railroads that actually contributed for the need for more slaves. As one President of the Mississippi Central Railroad articulated in 1855 to his stockholders:

“I am led to the irresistible conclusion, that in ease of management, in economy of maintenance, in certainty of execution of work & in amount of labor performed & in absence of disturbance of riotous outbreaks, the slave is preferable to free labor, and far better adapted to the construction of railways in the south.” (UNL)


A map from UNL showing the amount of slave owners in the Southeast by county.



From obscurity to national prominence

Jerry Falwell: from obscurity to national prominence

Jerry Falwell, now commonly regarded as a radical Baptist preacher, was not always known by this label. In fact, as the Google Ngram Viewer shows, Falwell was relatively unknown until his rise in the mid 1970s. I argue that this was as a result of his entry into the political arena, a space he had neglected from his pulpit until that time.

In 1977, Falwell supported Anita Bryant’s efforts to repeal a Miami (Dade County) ordinance granting equal rights to gays and lesbians. It was at this stage in the mid-1970s that Falwell began to figure prominently on the national scene. This claim can be verified by the Google Ngram Viewer, which is based on 5.2 million books that have been digitized. It tracks the usage of a word or name in popular media. In this case, even in 1970, fourteen years after he began preaching, Falwell appeared in only 0.0000004833% of articles, books, etc. over the course of the year. By 1980, however, his name was appearing in 0.0000095956%, an almost 200% increase over just one decade. For this reason, it is almost impossible to formulate a perception of Falwell preceding his entry into politics, because, quite simply, people outside of his following and Christianity simply did not care what this man had to say. To provide contextualization for the time, he was almost completely indistinguishable from William Essek Kenyon, who sermonized in a similar manner as Falwell and who received similar media coverage to Falwell until the ‘70s. Now of course, it would be extremely impressive if someone could even identify Kenyon, whose name today does not even compete in the same league as Falwell’s.


Tea Party Later, Archive Now!



Following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, the Tea Party Patriots formed and quickly gained political clout on the far-right side. The Tea Party’s vision is for a “Nation where personal freedom is cherished and where all Americans are treated equally, assuring our ability to pursue the American Dream.” They generally hold oppressively conservative views on social issues, and advocate free market economics/limited government involvement. While the Tea Party has held considerable influence over the Republican Party for the last several years, it is currently waning as the establishment has been swallowing what is left of the Tea Party in the latest primaries. In fact, some political experts predict the continued demise and eventual dissolution of the Tea Party within the next five years. 

The site itself that I’m focusing on, www.teapartypatriots.org, is home to a large part of the party’s faction. On the site, you can navigate to read about a variety of issues important to Tea Party members, familiarize yourself with their mission, explore bills and legislation and track voting by congressman/senator and even gain access to forums. If political experts are correct in their negative projections of the direction of the Tea Party (Let’s hope they are), then the political, social and cultural commentary that litter the site will go with it. In addition to providing official information on Tea Party values and stances, the site also provides greater access to the perspectives of every day Americans who are a part of the party. Reading their comments in forums, which allow for greater transparency and honesty since commenting can be anonymous, will provide for what can be argued to be more lucid, accurate accounts of Tea Party members. It is critical to archive its content so that this movements position and influence in history is remembered, especially for how it swung the GOP even further to the right. 

As a separate website from the actual, official Tea Party webpage, this site which mobilizes and informs supporters will cease to exist if archiving efforts aren’t taken to preserve both pages to remember the polarizing, radical and mostly backward ideals that these people represent. Years from now, we can show future generations the archaic, discriminatory views still held in the 2st century. Of course, some challenges that might confront Library of Congress archivers would be that the owners of the site might not the content preserved based on past government (IRS ahem) interactions with the Tea Party. The site also incorporates a lot of social media content, and links to outside forums, which might provide technological obstacles to crawling the site, which requires greater, more comprehensive identification measures. 

Coding and Its Value

Has anyone ever seen the movie “The Social Network (I’m assuming you have, if not check out the video below)? Do you recall the raucous scene in the middle of the movie when several students engage in a hacking/coding competition for jobs with Facebook? That’s what I think of when confronted with the term, “coding.” Obviously, I have had very limited exposure to it, but if I was asked to describe it in three words with my level of experience (or inexperience), I would say, “Complex, scientific, useful.”


The history of coding can be traced back to the creation of the internet and the first published website circa 1981. In the 1980s, hypertext coding was used until the World Wide Web came into being in 1994, and HTML replaced it becoming the coding language. In this age, web design was very simple, and there was little variation in text, layouts and graphics. In the following years, HTML 2 and HTML 3 would be launched, and animated images emerged thanks to .gif, and Flash. Today, there are coding tools such as Flash, Cloud9, CodePen, CSSDesk etc.

Over the past few years, the pervasiveness of learning the practice of coding among general audiences has risen at impressive rates. As this New York Times piece substantiates, coding classes have never been more popular, and companies are being launched to help the swarms of young and older professionals to acquire this skill. Many see it as “a critical investment into one’s future. . . and a great way to increase your earning capacity.” This trend also points to an upsurge of interest in technological fields.

From the New York Times article: According to the Computing Research Association, the number of students who enrolled in computer science degree programs rose 10 percent in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available.


The value is certainly there to learn coding, but my question is just how necessary a skill can it become? Will there ever be a time where all professionals will need to learn the skill to be considered “qualified?” At any rate, maybe I better pick up some night classes this summer..

Navigating the Mall with the National Park Service App

I celebrated Easter Sunday on the National Mall, and I was most definitely not the only one. Thousands meandered their way around the monuments, enjoying the sunshine and sixty degree weather. Unlike (I will speculate) the majority of the masses, I was utilizing the National Park Service app that we downloaded for class. It was a decision made on the whim (and rather nervously too because my battery life has been pitiful of recent), and I was curious to see how effectively it could supplement my experience. My first reaction was to the interface. It is impressive, yet simple. I would certainly not go as far as to label myself an expert when it comes to using mobile app technology, but I wouldn’t regard myself as a novice either. I did not have any problems adjusting to it, and I think even those much less adept than myself with mobile app technology will not have significant issues. 

The app has a variety of user-friendly features, like a postcard generator, and a tour segment that provides data based on time (either a day, or a four-hour period), or by topic (Military Monuments, Presidential History). In addition, you can even elect to create a customized tour. To be fully candid, I did not use any of these features, so I can’t comment on their quality. My favorite aspect of the app was the park lens component, which as the app describes, allows users to “View augmented reality through your device’s camera.” As you direct your camera toward different monuments, labels materialize identifying the different buildings. The only issue I had with this was that I had to keep re-calibrating with my phone, though I think this was more of a personal problem then with the app itself. Furthermore, the “sites” feature provides a sweeping display of information related to sites around the mall, spanning from the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, to Pershing Park. In addition, it also contains information on sites beyond the boundaries of the National Mall, and allows you to see if you are closely located to any based off of your GPS coordinates since the app needs your location to be properly effective. This feature contributes background information, including times the exhibits are open, photo albums, and programs of events or tours that have happened, or will be occurring. 

One of the only issues I have with the app is that some aspects and information are not updated. For example, the American Veterans Disabled for Life identifies an opening date for the memorial as “fall 2012” when in fact, it’s website says that the dedication ceremony will be October 5th, 2014. Furthermore, when it is as packed as it was on Easter Sunday, its sometimes hard to handle your phone, and navigate the hordes of people at the same time. I also question how using the app would be if I was with a group of people. Perhaps it could help facilitate discussion and interaction, but I also think there’s a possibility it could limit it. Either way, I would highly recommend downloading the National Parks Service app based on its usability and informative nature.


National Park Service Map feature—even details bathroom locations!

Teenage Angst

I have been active on social media since my sophomore year of high school. Back then, it was just Facebook for me, and I used it fairly intermittently. Most of my activity charted the progress of the University of Missouri Tigers football team, or the St. Louis Cardinals, both fairly harmless subjects. Since then, I like to think my social media presence has matured….for better, or for worse. I like to think I have a thriving Twitter, with close to 4,000 tweets, and 260 loyal followers..some more so than others. I tweet about an amalgam of topics, from New York Times news articles, to rants about the AU dining staff. Certainly, it is reasonable, if not necessary that I privatize my account. As I continue to build my online presence, I will have to take particular care to creating a tailored image that reflects who I have become rather than the less mature person I was as a senior at Niwot High School (I’m sure I’ll be saying the same thing again five years down the road about my ‘junior year in college self,’ but I digress).

It is interesting to me that those that comprise the majority of today’s professional landscape did not come of age during the existence of social media. No one will ever find out the “recklessness of one’s youth” unless they did some serious digging, and even then, it would be highly unlikely there would even be photographic evidence. As one of my classmates brought up in a comment, how will today’s generation, who much like myself has literally plastered their lives and daily reflections all over Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc, be impacted down the line? How accessible will our posts be, and will they be used to disqualify us from positions? The impact on aspiring politicians could also be devastating, or just plain big, (Take whichever adjective you think is more fitting). For all of these reasons, this is why my Twitter and Facebook account ain’t going to be going public any time soon!


My first Facebook profile picture. Like I said before, I like to think I’ve changed..


Ethics and Legality of The Time Magazine Corpus

In today’s world, it seems like just about anything can get you tossed in jail or subjected to massive fines. From jaywalking to peer to peer file music sharing, you can committ crimes without even knowing your breaking the law. To come to a greater comprehension of what is ethical and legal in the evolving digital landscape, let us look at a case study, the Time Magazine Corpus.

The Time Magazine Corpus is a database created by BYU Professor Mark Davies that charts the prevalence of words found in Time Magazine and how those words have evolved over time. Since the Time Magazine Corpus essentially acts as an enyclopedia of Time Magazine by taking the content from its articles over the last seventy or so years, questions have been raised over its legality. Thankfully (or maybe not so thankfully), you have an amateur public historian to save and advise you on its use! After looking at text and arguments from American University communications professor, Patricia Aufderheide, and law school professor Peter Jaszi, in their book, “Reclaiming Fair Use: How to put Balance back in Copyright,” I’ve come to the conclusion that the Time Magazine Corpus is good to go as it adheres to the fair use policy.

First, the Time Magazine Corpus in my opinion, borrows a sufficient amount of material to adequately justify the purpose of its use. The content used, according to Professor Mark Davies, is upwards of 275,000 plus in material, and can be found publically online at the Time Magazine Archive.

Another question to ask yourself is if the purpose of the use of copyrighted material changes or stays the same, and in this case, it certainly changes. The corpus endeavors to go far beyond just duplication of Time content, it actually creates additional tools and offers new functions that bolster the original content, and allows anyone to use the website as a resource for studying the evolution of words in the English language.