Spring 2019

Hello from the Department of Geography!

Recently, faculty, staff, students, families and friends gathered for the department’s largest-ever Convocation & Recognition Ceremony. We recognized 131 Bachelor’s degrees and 5 doctoral degrees, with 14 MGIS degrees to be awarded later this summer. Looking back at this school year, I am delighted to share some highlights with all of you.

Geography students have been involved in a wide range of important research and leadership activities. Undergraduate Sean Harding interned as a legislative reporter in Olympia, writing “…the faith I saw in our democratic process across the political spectrum was inspiring and beautiful.” Sophia Nelson spent winter and spring quarters analyzing equity impacts of transit planning projects with King County Metro Transit. Jody Nguyen Tran served as president of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), building leadership pathways for womxn students and creating connections with VSAs nationwide. At our Undergraduate Research Symposium on June 7, over fifty students presented their research on landslide susceptibility, relational health geographies, participatory mapping, and much more. On that day, we also celebrated publication of the latest edition of Plenum, our undergraduate journal of geography. Congratulations and thank you to the Plenum editorial team that included students Racquel West, Jackson Baker Ryan, Sarah Liu, Daniel Byington, Kuo Hong, Thai Nguyen, and Nirmalya Ghosh!

Our new cohort of M.A. students are engaged in some fascinating projects, too! Amelia Schwartz received funding from the UW Center for Human Rights for summer research on indigenous water rights for Coast Salish Nations while Alex Ramiller and his co-investigators in the UW Eviction Project are doing critical analysis of the ongoing eviction crisis affecting communities of color across the state.

In faculty news, Megan Ybarra’s book Green Wars: Conservation and Decolonization in the Maya Forest won the Critical and Political Ecology Best Publication Award at the 2019 American Association of Geographers meeting. In May, we celebrated Jonathan Mayer’s career of more than 40 years in our department as he transitions into his new role as Professor Emeritus. Michael Brown and Suzanne Withers launched “Historical and Population Geography: Grasping Genealogy,” a new course in which students learn digital methods for studying historical geographies via public genealogy platforms. Kim England, with Ph.D. students Samantha Thompson and Caitlin Alcorn, organized Taking Care: A Conference for Engaging the Politics, Processes, and Ethics of Care Work, a two-day gathering at which scholars from around the Pacific Northwest and Canada presented their research.

We are proud of the high impact work of our alumni around the world. Jay Lund, M.A. in geography and now Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC-Davis, was recently inducted into the National Academy of Engineers. Melissa Espinoza, B.A. in geography, is doing crucial analysis of racial equity in local homelessness policy as part of her doctoral work at the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research in Scotland. You can read more about each of these highlights below.

As friends and alumni, you play a crucial role in supporting these accomplishments. We are so grateful for your gifts, your involvement in department events and programs, and your efforts to champion geography in your professional and personal communities. This autumn, we look forward to offering a brand-new course for our undergraduates to explore career opportunities together with local alumni mentorship. If you would like to volunteer as an alumni mentor, or to share updates, please keep in touch as we are always happy to hear from you!

Warm wishes,

Sarah Elwood-Faustino
Professor and Chair