End of Spring Term Graduate and Undergraduate Awards


Five major Geography graduate awards and five undergraduate awards were handed out on May 22, 2014, just prior to the Geography Colloquium presentation, “Farming the Rock: Biogeochemical Controls on Intensive Agriculture in Polynesia,” by Professor Oliver Chadwick. Our Vice Chair, Professor Phaedon Kyriakidis, presented the graduate awards for Excellence in Teaching, Excellence in Research, the Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship Awards, and the Jack & Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship, as well as the undergraduate Samantha C. Ying Gamma Theta Upsilon Scholarship and the Chair’s Distinguished Service Awards.

  • The Geography Excellence in Teaching award is given to the graduate student who has shown exceptional ability as a teacher, as demonstrated through course evaluations, written comments from students, and/or outstanding course and activity design. This year’s winner of the annual award was Sarah Harris.
  • The Geography Excellence in Research award is given annually to the graduate student who has shown exceptional ability in the field of research, as demonstrated by outstanding presentations at national meetings, important publications, significant research results, or outstanding performance in lab or field experiments. The recipient of the award was Song Gao.
  • The Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship Award was established to honor former Geography Professor Leal Mertes by supporting UCSB students (graduate or undergraduate) who are planning or are engaged in field research. The Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship is awarded to talented and deserving UCSB students enrolled in any UCSB department where scientific fieldwork is conducted. For the purposes of this scholarship, “field work” is defined as any off-campus activity devoted to studying, observing, sampling, investigating or measuring natural or human phenomena. Leal Mertes was a Geography faculty member who investigated rivers, wetlands and floodplains globally. Her interests spanned the dynamics of river channel, floodplain and wetlands interactions; the remote sensing of wetland environments; and the long term evolution of large river systems. She also devoted a great deal of effort to educational issues, including curriculum design and assessment. The two recipients of this year’s Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship were graduate students Alexander Neely (Earth Science) and Nina Bingham (Geography). Akexander’s research proposal was titled Reading Landscapes and Characterizing Faults from a Digital Elevation Model, Santa Cruz Island, California, and Nina’s proposal was titled Understanding the cow-terracette link in a Mediterranean Climate.
  • The Jack & Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship is awarded to a promising graduate geography student in geographic information science (GIS) in the department of Geography. The recipient will hold the title “The Jack and Laura Dangermond Fellow” in residence and receives a stipend, allowing its holder to devote more time to imaginative and creative research. This year’s recipient of the Jack & Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship was Song Gao.
  • The Samantha C. Ying Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) Scholarship is made possible by Killian and Joan Ying who created the award in honor of their daughter Samantha upon the occasion of completing her PhD. The Samantha C. Ying GTU Scholarship will be used to support undergraduate students based on the criteria of academic achievement and compelling family/personal circumstances. Highest consideration will be given to those students who are active or contributing members of the UCSB Geography Club (the Theta Nu Chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon), and the award is available to all declared Geography majors (including freshmen) who meet the above criteria. This year’s recipient of the Samantha C. Ying GTU Scholarship was Andre Arellano.
  • The Chair’s Distinguished Service Award is presented to one or more undergraduate students who do service to the department that is above and beyond their call of duty. This year’s recipients are John Solly, Scott Yehl, Lisa Aleksyuk, and Mladen Popovic, all of whom have made generous contributions of their time and talents to the department.
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Sarah Harris receiving The Geography Excellence in Teaching award

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Song Gao scored a double by earning The Geography Excellence in Research Award as welll as The Jack & Laura Dangermond Graduate Fellowship

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The Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship Award was awarded to Geography grad student Nina Bingham

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Alexander Neely, Earth Science, shared the Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Schlolarship Award

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Andre Arellano received The Samantha C. Ying Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) Scholarship

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Lisa Aleksyuk was one of four talented undergrads to receive The Chair’s Distinguished Service Award

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Mladen Popovic receiving The Chair’s Distinguished Service Award

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John Solly also earned The Chair’s Distinguished Service Award

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Scott Yehl rounded out the elite group of undergraduate recipients of The Chair’s Distinguished Service Award