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The AAG Harm J. de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geography Teaching

Deadline: December 31, annually

This annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching undergraduate Geography including the use of innovative teaching methods. The recipients are instructors for whom undergraduate teaching is a primary responsibility.  The award consists of $2,500 in prize money and an additional $500 in travel expenses to attend the AAG Annual Meeting, where the award will be conveyed. This award is generously funded by John Wiley & Sons in memory of their long-standing collaboration with the late Harm de Blij on his seminal Geography textbooks.

Eligibility: Individual faculty or instructors for whom teaching Geography is a primary responsibility are eligible. The recipient(s) must be a current member of the AAG. Nominations from a wide spectrum of junior and senior colleagues in the geography community are encouraged.

Criteria: The award will be presented to those faculty or instructors who have demonstrated excellence in the teaching of Geography at the undergraduate level. This may be based on original curriculum design, the use of innovative or new teaching methods, demonstrating the applicability of geographic and geospatial concepts to other subject areas, and more. Nominees will be persons who have a demonstrated record of excellence in teaching Geography.

Nominations: Current members of the AAG may submit nominations for the Harm de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geography Teaching. Please include the name, affiliation and address of the nominee(s), their curriculum vitae, and a concise (500 words maximum) yet specific description of the accomplishments that warrant selection according to the above criteria. Supporting letters from other individuals may also be submitted. The deadline for receipt of nominations is December 31 of each year.

The AAG Harm de Blij Award Committee will review all eligible nominations received from current AAG members, and will select a recipient from among them. Nomination files will be kept for five years and can be considered in future award cycles. Previous awardees are not eligible to receive this Award again.

Submissions: Please gather all required supporting documents before completing the online Application Form at this link. The Application Form will require you to upload all supporting documents before being able to complete your submission. You cannot save a partially completed form and return to it later, so it is important to have all materials ready before accessing the online Application Form. For questions or difficulties, please contact or call the AAG at 202-234-1450. Alternately, nominations can be sent in hard copy to: Association of American Geographers. Attn: AAG Harm J. de Blij Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award, 1710 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009-3198.


Fenda Akiwumi, Associate Professor of Geography at the University of South Florida has already been recognized with an Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award from USF and a  Higher Education Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education. Dr. Akiwumi, who has taken students to Ghana and Guyana, also teaches at USF's Honors College, where she has directed a number of undergraduate theses. The Assistant Dean of the Honors College notes that Dr. Akiwumi is, "...the rare faculty member who views teaching, service, and research not as discreet categories, but as threads woven into a larger vocation." Students have described Akiwumi as passionate, inspiring and relatable. One former student writes, "Professors like her open the door to knowledge and not simply information. I could not think of an educator more worthy of this award."


Ronald (Ron) Kalafsky
, of the University of Tennessee, has established himself as an exceptionally effective teacher of geography. He has the distinction of being one of the most popular and effective instructors within the Department of Geography. His students praise his energy, enthusiasm and interactivity, as well as inquiry- and case-study based methodologies. Kalafsky regularly challenges his students to apply spatial reasoning to their daily lives, and emphasizes the important role of geography for understandingh and addressing the contemporary issues and environmental challenges of the 21st century.


Donald J. ZeiglerDonald J. Zeigler has taught geography to undergraduate students at Old Dominion University, Virginia Beach, Virginia, for the past 36 years. During that period, he has taught nearly 200 sections of geography courses representing more than 25 geographical topics. He attended to the ever changing student population and course dynamics by using a variety of pedagogical methods, beginning initially with chalk and talk in 1980 and employing video streaming and virtual reality in 2016. His teaching repertoire includes standard lecture classes (serving small to very large course sections), field-based and study abroad courses, problem based learning, and web-based and televised distance learning courses. Zeigler’s commitment to excellence in teaching has led him to design and teach courses fulfilling key university missions, including writing intensive and service learning courses, each with a geographical perspective.