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2021 A.M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar Announced

Barton and her book cover

November 30, 2020

Karen Barton, Ph.D., a professor of Geography in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado, has been chosen as the 2021 Winchester Distinguished Scholar by UNC's Faculty Research and Publications Board.

The award, which recognizes demonstrated continued excellence in scholarly activity at UNC for at least five years, comes with a $2,000 monetary award and the designation as an A.M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Professor for the rest of the honoree’s time at UNC.

Barton’s research focuses on humanitarian disasters, sustainability and community resilience in the wake of environmental change, primarily south of the Sahara in Africa.

Her most recent project examines the Joola, which was a government-owned Senegalese ferry that capsized in a storm off the coast of The Gambia that killed 1,863 people; this tragedy caused more human loss than the RMS Titanic. Barton’s book, “Africa's Joola Shipwreck,” unravels the forces that led to this humanitarian disaster and defined its aftermath. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Council for American Overseas Research, her project highlights how the Sufi tenet of optimism (rafet njort) inspired Senegal’s call for justice in the wake of the tragedy.

Barton’s other research efforts in Brazil, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Senegal, Myanmar and Nepal have been funded by the U.S. State Department and Department of Education. In 2018, she collaborated with Kathmandu’s Institute for Crisis Management to map vulnerability in the aftermath of the 2015 Gorkha earthquake. This joint collaboration was supported by both Fulbright and the Swiss Red Cross as well as involved a team of UNC student researchers who traveled as part of the Kavre-Palanchok field expedition.

Barton currently serves as vice-president of the Colorado Fulbright chapter and is president-elect for the Society for Women Geographers. She is also fellow of the Explorers Club and Royal Geographical Society where she is working to engage young people in exploration and field science.