Photo Courtesy of Shu Yu Lin

Students and other attendees explore the Middle East Map Walk.


May 9, 2016

Map Walk educates students about Middle East cultures

Stephen Cory, Ph.D., a professor in History and Comparative Religion departments of Cleveland State University held a Middle East Map Walk April 28 to educate participants about the culture and geography of the Middle East.

Each year Cory carefully lays out more than 500 tactical pilotage charts, which make up a world map the size of basketball court. A tactical pilotage chart provides cartographic detail about an area of land that is fit to scale.

He started this tradition for his courses on the Middle East, realizing that many students did not have basic geographic knowledge of the area.

“I have been presenting the map walk at least once (sometimes twice) per year since Spring semester of 2007,” Cory said.

“I began the map walk with a focus upon the Middle East because that is the region I teach about in the History and Religious Studies departments, and because I believe that most American students are not aware enough of critical facts about this important region of the world.”

The map walk helps bring this into focus by allowing visitors to grasp the relative sizes of different countries and the interconnected nature of the Middle East with surrounding regions.

“Over the years, I have expanded the map walk to other regions of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe,” Cory said.

“I cannot cover all those regions when I do the ‘small map walk’ in the Student Center atrium.” he added. “However, I like to use that location periodically because it attracts more attention from passersby than the ‘large map walk’ does, which is normally held at Woodling Gym.”

Cory uses tactical pilotage charts, created by the U.S, Dept. of Defense (Defense Mapping Agency) in collaboration with the Defense Dept. of the United Kingdom.

Each map is at a scale of 1:500,000 (eight miles to the inch) and measuring approximately three and a half by fivefeet. They show cities and towns as well as principal roads, railroads, pipelines, power lines, and distinctive landmarks. The terrain representation includes spot elevations, contours, and elevation tints, as well as stream-drainage patterns.

“The maps are laminated and spread over the floor in the campus gymnasium or student center atrium, so that students can walk over them and gain a better sense of the geographical layout of the European and non-Western world,” Cory said.

“My main goal is to increase student familiarity with the non-Western world, which most Americans are far too ignorant about,” he added.

“I have found that looking at large maps such as these helps students gain a broader perspective on the relative size and scale of different locations in the non-Western world.”

According to Cory, besides Cleveland State students, attendees at the map walk include students from other universities, community members, first and second grade students from the Campus International School, and a local church group.

“Attendance from the larger community has helped draw attention to CSU’s Middle East Studies and other international studies programs,” he said. “Many attendees have told me that their experience at the map walk has helped them to see the world in a new way.”

Cory is planning a larger map walk for the fall at the Woodling Gym.

“I will need to work with the Physical Activities Department to set a date when two of the courts are available for use throughout the day,” he said.

For more information, contact Cory at or 216-687-6883.


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