Under Rita’s leadership the Society has undergone a period of substantial development: growing and diversifying our audiences, acting as a persuasive advocate for geography, enhancing access to our Collections, improving the building and its facilities, and becoming a professional body.
Around £34m has been raised since 1996 to fund new developments and our activities now engage over 3.5 million people every year across a wide range of members, specialist interest groups, professional and public audiences. The Society is widely regarded as one of the leading and most innovative of the learned societies and professional bodies in the UK.
Rita serves on a number of national and international committees, including as Non-Executive Director of the British Antarctic Survey; Member of the BIS Working Group on Open Access to Scholarly Publishing (Finch Review Group); Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences Working Group on Open Access Publishing; Chair of the Steering Committee for the International Benchmarking Review of UK Human Geography; Senior Advisor to the British Council; Chair of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group; Secretary General of the European Association of Geographical Societies. She was appointed non-political advisor for Geography to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, 2006-2010, and continues to be closely involved with the Department for Education on geography curriculum matters.
Prior to joining the Society, Rita had an academic career as a geographer in London University at Kings College (1979-1994) and then as Reader and Head of Environmental Science at Queen Mary College (1994-1996). She has authored and edited four books, and numerous scientific articles. She has led and participated in major international field research programmes studying environmental change, most notably as director of the DfiD funded (£500,000) Soil Erosion and Conservation Project in the Middle Hills of Nepal (1990-1997); and has advised Channel 4, BBC1 and BBC2 television producers. She was educated at University College London (BSc Geography, First Class Honours, 1976) and the University of Oxford (D Phil, 1981). Her doctoral thesis was on environmental change in South India and for this she spent a year in the field studying the geomorphology of coastal Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. She is the holder of the Busk Medal in recognition of her academic work.
Rita was awarded a CBE for ‘Services to Geography’ in 2003. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Gloucestershire and Southampton, and an Honorary Fellowship of Queen Mary College London.
Dr Rita Gardner CBE
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