The American Association of Geographers congratulates the individuals and entities named to receive an AAG Award. The awardees represent outstanding contributions to and accomplishments in the geographic field. Formal recognition of the awardees will occur at the 2018 AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans during the AAG Awards Luncheon on Saturday, April 14, 2018.

2018 AAG Harm de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

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.

Dr. Fenda Akiwumi, University of South Florida

Fenda Akiwumi is an Associate Professor of Geography at the University of South Florida with affiliations with Africana Studies, the Honor’s College, and the Patel College of Global Sustainability. Her teaching 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, both received in 2017.

Dr. Akiwumi teaches a variety of undergraduate courses, including World Regional Geography, Global Conservation, Sustainability and Development, and Environmental Conservation and Policy. In addition, she has taken students to Ghana and Guyana, and she teaches at USF’s Honors College, where she has directed a number of undergraduate theses. The Assistant Dean of the Honors College, Shawn Bingham, 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. Her courses link the classroom to the community and the local to the global. She teaches students in their very first semester of college who have in some cases never travelled outside of our Tampa area.”

Students have described Akiwumi as passionate, inspiring and relatable. Former student, Ivana Kajtezovic, writes, “I am confident Professor Akiwumi has impacted many students’ lives, just as she has impacted mine. It is professors like her that make the university experience memorable. It is professors like her that shape young minds and inspire them. It is professors like her who open the door to knowledge and not simply information. I could not think of an educator more worthy of this award.”

Dr. Lawrence Estaville, who nominated her for this award, echoes these sentiments, describing Dr. Akiwumi as, “…a dynamic, articulate teacher who deeply and sincerely cares that her students do well and, at the same time, that they are intellectually challenged.”

2018 AAG E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Award

This annual award recognizes members of the Association who have made truly outstanding contributions to the geographic field due to their special competence in teaching or research. Funding for the award comes from the estate of Ruby S. Miller. More than one award may be awarded each year. Each award includes $1,000 and a commemorative plaque.

Judith A. Tyner, California State University, Long Beach

The AAG Awards Committee selected Professor Emerita Judith A. Tyner from the Department of Geography, California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) for the 2018 AAG E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Award. The award recognizes members of the Association who have made truly outstanding contributions to the geographic field due to their special competence in teaching and/or research.

Tyner’s career has been as long as it has been distinguished, and as far-reaching as it has been pioneering. Over nearly five decades, she has made significant contributions to the fields of map design, historical cartography, women in cartography, textile maps, persuasive cartography and lunar cartography. She has made particularly important contributions to the development and teaching of GIS at CSULB, and has been a champion for women in both geography and, more specifically, cartography. Moreover, Tyner’s research into women cartographers during World War II engages directly with the work of Ruby Miller in the Office of Strategic Services during the American war effort. Such parallelism makes her a uniquely deserving recipient of the Miller Award.

Tyner has written and edited seven books, has published 39 journal articles and book chapters, and delivered 86 conference presentations. She has also contributed 36 invited reviews on cartography and GIS. Of particular note are her textbooks, The World of Maps and Mapping and Principles of Map Design, which have provided key texts for the teaching of cartography since the early 1970s. Her published outputs are all the more remarkable given the heavy teaching commitments of the California State University system.

Tyner’s ground-breaking research, excellent teaching record and overarching professionalism render her a clear and deserving winner of the 2018 AAG E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Award.

2018 Wilbanks Award for Transformational Research in Geography

The AAG Wilbanks Award for Transformational Research in Geography will honor researchers from the public, private, or academic sectors who have made transformative contributions to the fields of Geography or GIScience. Provided there is sufficient availability of funds, the Wilbanks Award will consist of a cash prize of $2,000 and include a memento with the name of the Award and the recipient.

Douglas Richardson, American Association of Geographers

Dr. Douglas Richardson, Executive Director of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), is the inaugural recipient of the AAG Wilbanks Award for Transformational Research in Geography.

His selection is based on his outstanding and far-reaching research contributions to Geography, GIScience, and geographic technologies, which have impacted and transformed nearly every aspect of the discipline of geography, as well as science and society more broadly. Dr. Richardson was Founder and President of GeoResearch, Inc., which invented, developed and patented the first real-time interactive GPS/GIS mapping and data collection technology in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This breakthrough innovation enabled for the first time ever, the continuous and mobile creation of highly accurate real-time geospatial location, attribute, and temporal data, and its simultaneous integration with GIS for interactive real-time use for innumerable applications as the user moves through various environments. This technology is also central to the explosive and pervasive growth and availability of new spatio-temporal data, now generally referred to as Big Data.

As part of his leadership at the AAG, Dr. Richardson has developed the ability to undertake major strategic research programs that advance the discipline broadly, for example, in areas such as Geography and Health Research, Geographic Technologies and Sustainable Development, Space-Time Integration in GIScience, and on the interactions between Geography and the Humanities. Dr. Richardson also has very successfully promoted geospatial approaches to health research and opened up pathways for health research and discovery, and has created new opportunities for geographers and GIScientists to play a major role in health and medical research. Dr. Richardson published these results as the lead-author in an article entitled “Spatial turn in health research” in Science in 2013.

Doug Richardson embodies the ideals of Tom Wilbanks’ own research, which also spanned the public, private, and academic spheres. For all these reasons Dr. Richardson is an ideal and exemplary inaugural awardee for the AAG Wilbanks Award for Transformational Research in Geography.

2018 Glenda Laws Award

The Glenda Laws Award is administered by the American Association of Geographers and endorsed by members of the Institute of Australian Geographers, the Canadian Association of Geographers, and the Institute of British Geographers. The annual award and honorarium recognize outstanding contributions to geographic research on social issues. This award is named in memory of Glenda Laws—a geographer who brought energy and enthusiasm to her work on issues of social justice and social policy.

Sharlene Mollett, University of Toronto Scarborough

Dr. Sharlene Mollett of the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Department of Human Geography and Centre for Critical Development Studies is being recognized with the AAG 2018 Glenda Laws Award, as she is an outstanding critical social geographer, who has made a significant impact on feminist political ecologies. She has been influential in establishing the study of postcolonial intersectionality through her work on Latin America.

Dr. Mollett’s work has always been critical and cutting edge. She began her career studying race, gender and property rights in Honduras. In doing so, her work brought critical race theory into discussion with political ecology, something few scholars were considering at the time. She draws from postcolonial political geographies, historical geographies of race, as well as policy documents to reveal how modern day ex-patriot tourism development reinforces historically-produced racial regimes in the region. More recently, Dr. Mollett has turned her attention to space, power, rights and development. Specifically, she is exploring how power-laden historical geographies shape present day land claims and citizen rights. She argues that development discourses continue to dehumanize Afro-descendants and Indigenous peoples in Latin America, particularly women. Notably, Dr. Mollett was invited to speak about this work as the plenary speaker for the Jan Monk Distinguished Lecture at the 2016 AAG Annual Meeting.

With her work, Dr. Mollett intends to inspire justice-oriented debates in geography and contribute to on-the ground change in development practice. Importantly, she is increasingly bringing her research and writing to audiences beyond academia, through media publications and policy documents. Overall, her work has made significant contributions to discussions of race and gender in geography. Dr. Sharlene Mollett is a most deserving recipient of the AAG 2018 Glenda Laws Award.

2018 AAG Award for BA/BS Program Excellence  

This annual award and cash prize honors Geography departments and Geography programs within blended departments that have significantly enhanced the prominence and reputation of Geography as a discipline and demonstrated the characteristics of a strong and engaged academic unit. The award honors non-PhD granting Geography programs at both the baccalaureate and master levels.

Department of Geography SUNY – Geneseo

Founded in 1967 and currently celebrating its 50th anniversary as a degree-granting Bachelors program, SUNY-Geneseo is committed to curricular innovation, active student organizations and alumni relations, faculty research, and disciplinary engagement both on and off campus, regionally and nationally. The SUNY-Geneseo program has grown robustly over the past fifteen years, from less than thirty undergraduate majors in 2002-2003, to over a hundred majors in the fall  of 2017. This increase in student interest in geography has been generated by an exciting curriculum that blends human and physical geography and offers undergraduates study abroad experiences to Canada, Argentina, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

On campus, SUNY-Geneseo offers both GIS and physical geography laboratories, field courses, and institutional support to invest in facilities such as a ‘wet lab’ with flumes and other hydrological simulation features. The Department also offers minors in Geography, Environmental Studies, and Urban Studies, alongside a concentration designed specifically to support the institution’s Education degree.

With eight tenure-track faculty, the Department hosted the 2017 meeting of the AAG’s Middle States Division and has a strong track record of encouraging undergraduate students to present their own scholarship at this conference and others.  The AAG Program Excellence Award Committee applauded the Department’s social media efforts through its active Facebook page, and the manner in which it has reached out on campus to augment curricula offered by programs ranging from Africana Studies and Conflict Studies to International Relations.

Off campus, SUNY-Geneseo offers students opportunities to develop their research at the nearby Letchworth State Park; to work with organizations like YouthMappers and the local chapter of Friends of Recreation, Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship; and to pursue service-learning and internships in the Rochester-Geneseo area of upstate New York. Also notable is the Department’s commitment to supporting faculty research, faculty co-authoring with students, and successful applications for external grants and research awards that have enabled faculty to fund undergraduate student research assistantships. The Committee was particularly impressed by SUNY-Geneseo’s engagement with its alumni, bringing them back to campus annually to meet current undergraduate students, and raising funds to support fieldwork and other departmental extra-curricular activities.

In sum, SUNY-Geneseo is a Department where collaboration between faculty, students, and the local community delivers an exemplary learning experience for undergraduate geographers.

Honorable Mention

Department of Geography, Macalester College

The AAG recognizes Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota with an honorable mention for the quality of its Bachelors program, which delivers to undergraduate students a curriculum centered on civic engagement, and a faculty that is active in numerous research endeavors and in service to the discipline.

2018 AAG Dissertation Research Grants

The AAG provides support for doctoral dissertation research in the form of small grants of up to $1000 to PhD candidates of any geographic specialty.

Nerve Macaspac, UCLA

Maegen Rochner, University of Tennessee

Mayra Roman-Rivera, University of South Carolina

Dara Seidl, San Diego State University

Md Azmeary Ferdoush, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Mark Rhodes, Kent State University

Kevin Mwenda, University of California at Santa Barbara

2018 AAG Research Grant

AAG Research Grants are competitively awarded to provide direct expenses of research or fieldwork that address questions of major importance to the discipline excluding master’s or doctoral dissertation research.

Nathan Gill, Clark University

2018 AAG Community College Travel Grants

Provides financial support for students from community colleges, junior colleges, city colleges, of two-year educational institutions to attend the Annual Meeting and enjoy a complimentary year of AAG membership.

Cameron Arceneaux, Lone Star College-Kingwood, Texas

Perla Veloz, Rio Hondo College, California

2018 AAG Darrel Hess Community College Geography Scholarships

Outstanding students from community colleges, junior colleges, city colleges, or two-year educational institutions who will be transferring as geography majors to four-year universities receive support and recognition from this scholarship program, including $1,500 for educational expenses.  The scholarship has been generously provided by Darrel Hess of the City College of San Francisco to 31 students since 2006.

Julie Burcham transferring from Grossmont Community College to San Diego State University

Jacob Gagnon transferring from Sinclair Community College to the University of Cincinnati

Mario Perez and Tony Vo transferring from Montgomery College to the University of Maryland