Recognition Reception highlights annual achievements

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 1:12pm

Students, faculty, staff, and friends of the Department of Geography gathered on Friday, May 1, 2015 at The Nittany Lion Inn for the annual Recognition Reception to give awards and honor achievements for the year.

View or download a PDF of the program booklet.


The event began with socializing over punch and hors d'oeuvres as participants viewed posters by the completing master’s degree students. Cindy Brewer served as the master of ceremonies, sharing the lectern with Donna Peuquet, undergraduate program officer, and Alex Klippel, graduate program officer, to recognize students, faculty, and staff who won awards this year.


“I am grateful to the Gockley and Balmat families for their longterm commitment to supporting our students with their endowments,” reflected Cindy Brewer, head of the Department of Geography.


Gockleys,Brewer,winners at RR2015

Pictured (left to right): Cindy Brewer, William Coughlin,
Blake Naito, Marianne Gockley, and Fred Gockley.


Fred and Marianne Gockley presented the Jeff Gockley Memorial Award. The award was established in 2005 to honor the memory of alumnus Jeff Gockley (B.S. '97). It is awarded to top graduating senior(s) in the GIS option. This year’s recipients were William Coughlin and Blake Naito.


William Coughlin comes from Waldorf, Maryland. He double-majoring in Geography and International Relations, with a minor in Middle East Studies. He is vice-president of UnderDoGS, the geography student club, and has presented research at the past two annual meetings of the Association of American Geographers. Coughlin has interned with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and will work there again this summer.


Blake Naito hails from Littleton, Colorado. He comes from a family of geographers: his mother and older brother are Penn State Geography alumni, and his father is a cartographer. Naito is minoring in trombone performance, and he plays baritone with the Penn State Blue Band. He is president of the GIS Coalition and has worked as a research assistant on three different projects.


Bruce and Ruth Balmat presented the Balmat Family Scholarship in Geography to Matthew Diaz and Grant Smith.


Matthew Diaz is a junior in the Bachelor of Arts, General Geography option. He is a returning adult student from western Pennsylvania who came to geography after earning an associate degree in Letters, Arts, and Science from Penn State. He is the first in his family to attend college.


Grant Smith is a sophomore from Allison Park, Pennsylvania. He is pursuing minors in forestry and GIS, and is working as a research assistant with Alan Taylor's Vegetation Dynamics Lab.


The Balmats also recognized the recipients of the Balmat Family Fund in Geography for Honors Scholars: Marina Burka, William Coughlin, Aaron Dennis, Ryan Gallagher, Michelle Lenze, Britta Schumacher, Patrick Stephens, and John Swab.


"It has been a really great year for all of us in geography—as shown by the large number of awards earned by our undergraduate and graduate students. I'm proud of our large class of graduating students, and the positive impact they have made on Penn State during their time here," Brewer said.


Highlights of additional awards presented and acknowledged


Undergraduate student awards

  • G. D. Richardson and Kathy LaSauce Undergraduate Scholarship in Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences: Adrienne Cooke, Marissa Defratti, Aaron Dennis, Elisabeth Hickey, Michael Materia, Quincy Morgan, Patrick Stephens
  • Geography Alumni Scholars (Outstanding Student) Award: Marina Burka, Michelle Lenze, Antoinette Mastropieri, Gregory Milbourne, Britta Schumacher, Everleigh Stokes
  • E. Willard Miller Award in Geography:
    Aaron Dennis, first place, undergraduate paper
    Chris Sternberge, first place, undergraduate cartography


Department of Geography students were recognized for College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and University awards, as well. Courtney Jackson, Antoinette Mastropieri, Britta Schumacher, Jake Simon, and Everleigh Stokes are EMSAGE Laureates. The Earth and Mineral Sciences Academy for Global Experience, or EMSAGE, was formed in 2009 as a vehicle to foster our students’ global competence and to promote a spirit of integrity, service, and leadership. Laureate status is reserved for those students who have demonstrated a substantially higher level of achievement than the majority of students at Penn State in Scholarship, Experiential Learning and Global Literacy, and Service.


Marina Burka and Gregory Milbourne received the University Evan Pugh Scholar Award. The Evan Pugh scholars are those juniors and seniors who are in the upper 0.5 percent of their respective classes at the end of the fall semester of the academic year the award is given. The Evan Pugh Scholar Awards began in 1933 and were given to the top five persons in both the junior and senior classes. The award is named for Evan Pugh, Penn State's first president (1859-1864). In addition, Milbourne is the 2015 College Marshal, and Burka is the 2015 Department Marshal. The designation as marshal recognizes that they have earned the highest GPA in the college and in the department, respectively.


Everleigh Stokes won the University Craig Millar Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement by a senior who holds a leadership position in a group or club on campus and who has attained a minimum 3.3 GPA.


Graduate student awards

  • E. Willard Miller Award in Geography:
    Jase Bernhardt, second place, doctoral paper
    Nathan Frey, first place, doctoral proposal
    Lucas Harris, first place, master's paper
    Mario Machado, first place, master's proposal
    Emma Gaalaas Mullaney, first place doctoral paper
    Jonathan Nelson, second place, cartography
    Sterling Quinn, first place, cartography
    Samuel Stehle, second place, doctoral proposal
    Adrienne Tucke, second place, master's paper
  • Geography Alumni Scholars (Outstanding Student) Award: Amanda Young
  • Geography Outstanding Research Assistant Award: Brian Swedberg
  • James T. Meyer Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award: Peter Koby


Faculty and staff awards

  • Staff Outstanding Service Award: Jessica Perks
  • Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching: Brian King
  • E. Willard and Ruby S. Miller Faculty Fellow: Kirby Calvert
  • Wilson Research Initiation Grant: Clio Andris


After the awards were presented, department graduates were recognized. Undergraduate geography degrees were earned by 38 students in summer 2014, fall 2014, and spring 2015. Also during the 2014–2015 academic year, there were 44 MGIS degrees, 14 master of science degrees, and 8 doctor of philosophy degrees awarded. There were 39 students who completed the Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Analytics; 219 students who completed the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems; and 5 students who completed the Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence Applications.


Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) officers conducted an induction ceremony for 10 new members of the international honor society in geography.


In her concluding remarks, Brewer noted,"When I got up this morning and was trying to decide what to wear today,  I noticed this suit in my closet. This is the suit I bought and wore for my academic job interview at Penn State in 1994, more than 20 years ago.  So—see these wide shoulders and high-waisted, pleated pants?— my advice to you is to think long-term, but stay up-to-date and take good care of yourselves.”