Department celebrates achievements at annual Recognition Reception

recognition reception
Monday, May 2, 2016 - 12:17pm

Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the Department of Geography gathered on Friday, April 29, 2016 in Walker Building for the annual Recognition Reception to give awards and honor achievements for the year.

View or download a PDF of the program booklet.

Socializing and refreshments took place in room 319 Walker Building as participants had the opportunity to  examine research posters prepared by the completing master's degree students.  Then everyone moved to 112 Walker Building for the awards presentation.


John Dzwonczyk and daughter Aurora, stand by his research poster.

Photo: John Dzwonczyk and daughter Aurora stand by his research poster.

Head of Department Cynthia Brewer served as the master of ceremonies, sharing the lectern with Donna Peuquet, undergraduate program officer, and Alexender Klippel, graduate program officer, to recognize students, faculty, and staff who won awards this year.

For the first time, the awards ceremony was webcast live via Mediasite, and can be viewed here:

In her opening remarks, Brewer acknowledged special guests, including College of Earth and Mineral Sciences representatives, and then introduced the Gockley Family.

Gwen McCauley presented the Jeff Gockley Memorial Award. The award was established in 2005 to honor the memory of her brother, alumnus Jeff Gockley (B.S. '97). It is awarded to top graduating senior(s) in the GIS option. This year’s recipient was John Swab. Swab could not attend the Recognition Reception because he is currently studying at the University of Oxford.

"It is a true privilege and honor to be selected as the 2016 winner of the Jeff Gockley Memorial Award. Ever since I discovered geography as an academic discipline in high school, I have been enamored with it. Penn State has allowed me to both further my knowledge of geographic principles while providing the necessary GIS skills to visualize data," Swab said.

Swab is currently studying abroad at St Catherine's College, Oxford, studying both geography and history. "This past term I had a tutorial on transportation geography and one on the Regionalism of the New Deal. This term I'll be taking one on the rebuilding of Europe post-World War II and another on different geographical research methods. Oxford has six weeks breaks in between terms, so I spent that time traveling and was lucky enough to visit Morocco, Spain, Poland, Greece, Romania, and Denmark. I've also joined the Royal Geographical Society to hear some of their London lectures. Other than that, I am spending time getting acquainted with British culture and am having a wonderful time! As much as I miss Penn State, part of me doesn't want to come home!"

Peuquet presented the departmental undergraduate student awards and acknowledged a few other awards that graduate students had received this year.
Balmat Family Scholarship in Geography:
Christopher D. Mertz and Doran A. Tucker

Balmat Family Fund for Honors Scholars:
William Coughlin, Ryan Gallagher, and Sonia Kaufman

G.D. Richardson and Kathy LaSauce Undergraduate Scholarship in Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences:
Matthew Diaz, Ruiqi Guo, Quincy Morgan, McQuillan Murphy, Sophia Najjar, Yuying Ren, and Grant Smith

Geography Alumni Scholars (Outstanding Undergraduate Student) Award:
Adrienne Cooke, William Coughlin, Aaron Dennis, Ryan Gallagher, and Blake Naito


UGAlumni Scholars at RR16

Photo: (left to right) Blake Naito, Adrienne Cooke, Aaron Dennis, and William Coughlin are  four of the five recipients of this year's Geography Alumni Scholars Award.

Jodi Vender presented the inaugural Peter R. Gould Center for Geography Education and Outreach Student Engagement Award to Marissa Defratti, Margaret Norton, and Patrick Stephens.

Klippel presented the departmental graduate student awards and acknowledged a few other awards that graduate students had received this year.

E. Willard Miller Award in Geography:
PhD paper, first place: Paulo Raposo
PhD paper, second place: Carolyn Fish
PhD cartography/software, first place: Morteza Karimzadeh
PhD proposal, first place: Nari Senanayake
PhD proposal, second place: Adrienne Tucker
MS paper, first place: Elizabeth Dzwonczyk
MS paper, second place: John Dzwonczyk


Miller paper awardees

Photo: E. Willard Miller awardees Paulo Raposo (left) and Morteza Karimzadeh show their globes and certificates.


Ruby S. Miller Endowment for Geographic Excellence:
Yanni Cao, Li-Sang Hung, Morteza Karimzadeh, Audrey Lumley-Sapanski, Mario Machado, Azita Ranjbar, Ramzi Tubbeh
Geography Outstanding Research Assistant Award: Audrey Lumley-Sapanski

James T. Meyer Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award: Sara Cavallo

Brewer presented the faculty and staff awards. In introducing the Staff Outstanding Service Award, Brewer said "We've been working on curriculum revisions and our undergraduate academic adviser Jodi guides us through all the details of that. In addition,  the University is implementing new systems for course scheduling: Lionpath, Talisma, College Net, and it's been a big year and a lot of hard work."

Department of Geography, Staff Outstanding Service Award: Jodi Vender
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Gladys Snyder Education Grant:
Justine Blanford and Fritz Kessler
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Faculty Mentoring Award: Lorraine Bowler
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Wilson Award for Outstanding Service: Brent Yarnal
After the awards were presented, department graduates were recognized. Undergraduate geography degrees were earned by 36 students in summer 2015, fall 2015, and spring 2016. Also during the 2015–16 academic year, there were 52 MGIS degrees, 8 master of science degrees, and 6 doctor of philosophy degrees awarded. There were 29 students who completed the Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Analytics; 193 students who completed the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems; and 14 students who completed the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Applications.

Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) officers conducted an induction ceremony for new members of the international honor society in geography. Vender and GTU officers Marissa Defratti, Allyson Ditizio, and Bill Limpisathian inducted the new members.

GTU induction

Photo: Gamma Theta Upsilon officers, at right, induct new members, at left)

In her concluding remarks, Brewer said she wished all graduating students would be "uniformly adventurous, seeking out new experiences; uniformly creative and can puzzle your way out of a jam; uniformly seeking new prespectives and can smile when you make a mistake"—referring an April Fool's prank she played this year announcing that school uniforms would be adopted in the department. [They won't.]