2016-2017 Annual Geography Department Awards

2016-2017 Annual Geography Awards

The following is the transcript used by Geography Professor Dan Montello  while presenting during the annual awards Colloquium on May 25, 2017. Jose Saleta‘s speech is also featured in the body of the text when he presents the Jose Saleta Award for Outstanding Contributions to Geography.

Jose Saleta Award for Outstanding Contributions to Geography:

To being, we would like to acknowledge one of our favorite long-time staff members who worked tirelessly and competently for us, Mr. Jose Saleta. Jose accepted a position outside the University a few years ago, but while he was in Geography, he was an assistant to Reg Golledge and then served as our Graduate Program Assistant. In fact, before all that, he was a graduate student in our department during the early 90s. Whatever he did, he did competently with fine manners and a cheerful disposition, with elegance one might say. So it truly thrills me to introduce the man himself, who is here to personally announce the Jose Saleta Award for Outstanding Contributions to Geography. This year’s award goes to Dylan Parenti.

Jose Saleta (left) and Dylan Parenti (right), winner of the Jose Saleta Award for Outstanding Contributions to Geography

Transcript of Jose Saleta’s award presentation: “I was honored last year to receive this award that is named after me and I am really glad to give it this year to a staff member that actually deserves it. During the time in which I was the graduate assistant, all the staff did a personality test, and this person and I were the only ones in our group. It was the ‘I am not happy until you are happy’ group, so I must have answered a couple of questions wrong, but he was in the right group for sure. This person is the only one who can’t take a break when the computers go down. It is my privilege and honor to give the Jose Saleta Award to Dylan Parenti.”

Graduate Awards

The award recipients for 2016-2017:

Erica Goto, winner of the Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship Award

Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship Award was established to award an undergraduate or graduate scholar in natural or social sciences for conducting outstanding field research. Dr. Mertes was a professor in our department during the 1990s who specialized in river geomorphology. The scholarship is awarded to talented and deserving students enrolled in any UCSB department where fieldwork is an integral component of research training. For the purpose of this scholarship, “field work” is defined as studying, sampling, observing, and/or measuring natural or human phenomena in the environments in which they normally exist. The funds support both the scholarly activities and expenses associated with the fieldwork (for example: stipends, travel expenses, research supplies, research preparation costs). This year, the Leal Ann Kerry Mertes Scholarship goes to Erica Goto (from the Department of Geography) in the amount of $2,200.

The annual Department of Geography Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a graduate student who has an outstanding teaching and TAing track record, in terms of both quality and quantity. This award is made annually to a graduate student who has a record of doing a lot of TAing and instructing for us, receiving outstanding course evaluations, outstanding written comments from students, outstanding evaluations of their TA work by the course instructor and/or outstanding design of courses, sections or lab syllabi or activities. This year’s award, including a $500 prize, goes to Kevin Mwenda.

Kevin Mwenda (left) winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award, Erin Wetherley (middle) winner of the Jack Estes Memorial Award, and Sara Lafia (right) winner of the Jack and Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship

The Jack Estes Memorial Award was established in memory of Jack Estes, Professor of Geography at UCSB from 1969 to 2001. Jack was Director of the Geography Remote Sensing Unit. His primary research interests involved the use of remote sensing and geographic information systems technology for analysis of earth researches. He conducted or supervised research for NASA on land-use change, crop identification, and advanced soil moisture conditions; for the U.S. Forest Service on fire fuels monitoring and modeling; and for the Environmental Protecting Agency on pollution detection and modeling, and resources management. The award is given for outstanding research achievement working in the area of remote sensing. This year’s award, including a $1,000 prize, goes to Erin Wetherley.

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship is awarded to an outstanding graduate student in Geography studying within the area of Geographic Information Science. The recipient will hold the title “The Jack and Laura Dangermond Fellow” in residence for 2017-2018 and will receive a stipend of $5,000, allowing its holder to devote more time to imaginative and creative research. Jack and Laura Dangermond are the co-founders, and President and Executive Vice President, respectively, of Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI). ESRI is a major industrial supplier of software in the field of GIS. This year, the Jack and Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship is awarded to Sara Lafia.

Undergraduate Awards

Elizabeth Sculz, winner of the Jack and Laura Dangermond Undergraduate Fellowship

Now, we have three Undergraduate awards we would like to present. Undergraduate awards are normally handed out during our Geography Graduation ceremony in Buchanan quad, which will be on Saturday, June 17th this year, but these three award winners are continuing students and will not be attending that ceremony, so we celebrate their accomplishments today.


The Jack and Laura Dangermond Undergraduate Fellowship– Jack and Laura Dangermond have also established a fellowship award for a promising undergraduate geography student, chosen for their outstanding academic achievement in the GIS series of classes. This year’s Dangermond Fellowship Award, including a $2,000 stipend, goes to Elizabeth Szulc.


Jonathan Trautman, winner of the Akella Famiy Scholarship in Geography


Akella Family Scholarship in Geography – The Akella Family Scholarship supports undergraduate students with high academic achievement and compelling family/personal circumstances, such as re-entry/non-traditional students, extended family responsibilities, and the like. The award is available to all Geography majors at any time during their academic career. This year’s award, including a $1,000 prize, goes to Jonathan Trautman.


Lauren Enright, winner of the Nicholas Bourdakis Memorial Award



The Nicholas Bourdakis Memorial Award – The Bourdakis Fund was established after the tragic death of Nicolas in February 2001, struck by a car while walking in Isla Vista. He had just declared Geography as his major. This fund helps keep Nick’s memory alive by supporting future generations of outstanding undergraduate Geography students at UCSB. This year’s award, including a $1,000 prize, goes to Lauren Enright.


Congratulations to all our awardees!