Meet Our New Faculty!

Submitted by Lindsay Cael on
Mia Bennett
Sam Kay
Gunwha Oh

The Department of Geography is pleased to introduce three faculty members starting in fall 2021.  They have wonderfully diverse backgrounds and experience, plus a wealth of teaching expertise and passion for the field.  Meet them all!

Mia Bennett

Mia Bennett joins us as our new assistant professor this year.  Among other courses, she will teach GEOG 317 Geographic Information and Spatial Analysis in winter quarter.

Bennett received her Ph.D. in Geography from UCLA and was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. She received an M.Phil. in Polar Studies as a Gates Cambridge Fellow from the University of Cambridge and her B.A. in Political Science and European Studies from UCLA.

Bennett most recently worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Hong Kong.  Her research interests include infrastructure development in the Arctic, geopolitics, Indigenous land rights and land use, and remote sensing. Sarah Elwood-Faustino, geography chair, knows what an impact Mia will have, saying “Mia’s research and teaching are establishing the ground floor of an urgent and creative ‘critical remote sensing’ research agenda at the intersections of spatial technologies and political geographies. We are so excited that she is continuing her career in our department!” 

Bennett already has an extensive research portfolio and you can find her work in journals such as Marine Policy, Political Geography, Remote Sensing, World Development, Polar Geography and many more. She is also involved in two major research projects investigating the future of Arctic development and how to ensure it is carried out in a just and equitable manner, with respective funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the EU Horizon 2020 Programme. 

Mia is enthusiastic about working “within a diverse group of scholars” and “to be a part of a department that is committed to pursuing environmental and social justice, and to be closer to communities in Alaska and the Arctic.”

To top off this impressive background, she also speaks French, Russian and Swedish, runs trails and completed a 100K ultramarathon in Hong Kong last year!  

Sam Kay

Sam Kay joins us as our new acting assistant professor of Human Geography and will teach a range of  courses this academic year, including GEOG 277 Geography of Cities in fall 2021.

Kay received his Ph.D. in Geography from The Ohio State University with a dissertation titled Uprooting people, planting trees: Environmental scarcity politics and urban greening in Beijing.  He received an M.A. in Geography from The Ohio State University and a B.A. in International Studies and Geography from Miami University.  He recently worked at University of Minnesota Duluth where he was a member of the Duluth Stand Up for Racial Justice Mobilization Committee and at Tsinghua University prior. Elwood-Faustino shares, “We are all so excited to see Sam bringing his community-engaged urban environmental pedagogies to Seattle and to geography majors this year!”

Kay recently presented Radical Pedagogies of Food Sovereignty: Experiential Learning to Reshape Public Greenspaces for More Than Recreational Uses at the Dimensions of Political Ecology Conference and Green Urban Territoriality and Management of the More-Than-Human at the AAG Political Geography Speciality Group.

Upon Kay’s first visit in Smith Hall, he mentions being “immediately drawn to the Animals of Geography’ board.”  He says he wants to meet “all the furry (and winged, and scaly) friends, and the humans who go with them! I am also looking forward to learning about everyone's interests--personal and professional--and thinking together about ways to meaningfully bridge our collective research, classroom and advocacy activities.” 

Kay just moved from Minnesota, so make sure to share must-do Seattle area activities with him!  In fact, he shared that he is “eager for recommendations for community groups, nearby hikes and international grocery stores.  Please come visit me in [Smith Hall] 424!”  Kay also noted that while he doesn’t have a dog yet, he “will gladly and shamelessly take any opportunity to meet yours.”

Gunwha Oh

Gunwha Oh is our new acting assistant professor of GIS and will teach a range of GIS and digital geographies courses with our department this academic year, including GEOG 458 Advanced Digital Geographies and GEOG 482 GIS Data Management in fall 2021.  Many of you probably recognize Dr. Oh’s name as she has taught for the Department of Geography as a temporary part-time lecturer prior to this role. “We are thrilled to be able to welcome Gunwha into this full-time role with our students, building on her creativity and success in our curriculum as a part-time instructor for several years, including pioneering some brand-new directions in several courses,” says Elwood-Faustino. 

Oh received her Ph.D. in Geography from State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) with a dissertation titled Identifying Social Exclusion in Children’s After School Activities Limited by Mobility.  She received her M.A. in Geography from SUNY Buffalo and her B.A. in Urban Engineering from Pusan National University.  She brings a wealth of expertise in teaching, previously having worked with our Department, University of Washington Bothell, Seattle University, Pusan National University and University of North Dakota.  In fact, last year, UW geography undergraduates recognized Gunwha’s teaching capabilities by awarding her with the Undergraduate Major’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching.  

In addition to Oh’s teaching prowess, she brings significant skill to her classes in the way of advanced GIS software techniques, database management, programming, analytical software and design skills. 

Oh mentions feeling a larger sense of belonging to the community in this role and shares that she is “so happy to continue to work with the wonderful faculties, staffs, and the students.”  A fun thing to know about Oh is she loves sweets and colorful things and, perhaps most importantly, she says, “You are welcome to visit me.  I will share my candy.”

Please help us extend a warm welcome to these three accomplished faculty members that we are lucky to have!