Students studying outside the library

A good map is hard to find

Wofford students update rare map of the world

Map 382
2017-03-14

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford College junior Jake Brice, an international affairs and economics double major from Greenville, S.C., is taking a class this semester on “Russia and its neighbors.” The large world map on the wall of his classroom was printed in 1989 at a time before the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics split into “Russia and its neighbors.” Brice decided to find a replacement, but discovered that a good map can be hard to find.

"The map is the largest single piece world map every produced, and only 50 of them were made," says Brice.

After calling the maker of the original map in Germany, Brice discovered that the company closed the large map division in 2014 because of decreased demand. The company, however, still had two maps printed in 2014 available. Brice convinced the company to ship the map from Germany to Virginia and drafted a proposal to Campus Union to fund the $800 expense.

Now, thanks to Brice's initiative and Wofford student government funding, a new map hangs in Daniel Building 203.

“The old map was historically accurate but contemporarily inaccurate," says Dr. Rachel Vanderhill, assistant professor of government and international affairs who teaches the class. "The map was relevant for the first few weeks of the class when we study the Soviet Union, but when we move on to study the current era and look at Kazakhstan, Ukraine or Belarus, none of these countries were on the old map because they were formerly in the Soviet Union. So it was problematic because the map was not representative of the world today."

Dr. William DeMars, professor and chair of government and international affairs, arrived at Wofford to teach international affairs in 2001. He found the map valuable but outdated and tried, with the help of students, to find a comparable replacement.

“In 1991 there had been so much change – Germany had reunified, Czechoslovakia broke up, Yugoslavia broke up, Ethiopia and Eritrea – but I loved having the big world map on the wall when I was teaching,” he says. “It makes a difference being able to see how close or how far away countries are from each other. For wars, border disputes, refugees, the movement of disease, trade and communication — all these things are affected by geography.”

DeMars says he is encouraged by what this initiative says about his students.

"The encouraging surprise is that students today — in an age of instantaneous information and images — recognize the value of learning world politics in a small classroom with 20 students, one professor and a large physical world map," he says. "I am glad that I left the map up all these years so that a generation of students could learn from it, and so Jake and his friends could come along in 2017 and find an updated version."

by Sarah Madden, Wofford Class of 2017