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Undergraduate Student Highlights

Undergraduate Honors Awards Ceremony

This past April, ten junior and senior undergraduates in the Department of Geography received honors for their academic excellence, departmental citizenship, and leadership in the community during their undergraduate years.

Junior Awards

Merle C. Prunty, Jr. Undergraduate Scholarship

Killian McSweeney

Killian McSweeney
This award goes to the top third-year student based on exceptional academic performance. Killian is currently pursuing a dual degree in Geography and Atmospheric Sciences.

In addition to excelling in his coursework, Killian had also won the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Holling's Scholar award last year, which presented him with the opportunity to intern with a NOAA scientist, help to conduct a fully realized research project, and see what research is like as a career. "I’m a big fan of challenging myself and pushing myself to do and be better," Killian notes. "I completed an undergraduate thesis course under UGA professor Dr. Gabriel Kooperman’s advisement, where my undergraduate thesis focused on projecting changes to permafrost distribution throughout the Arctic region. This project showed me, on a smaller scale, how to go about conducting climate research using models and how to contextualize your work within the research literature at large. Learning how to use and interpret the output from large scale climate models has been challenging but equally rewarding, and will be a crucial skill if I pursue a research career."

 

 

Atlas Award for Academic Excellence

Jada Smith

Jada Smith
This award goes to two third-year students with strong academic performance. Jada is currently pursuing a degree in Atmospheric Sciences, and has also been selected for the DeVorsey Travel Fund Award which she intends to use for future conference travel during undergrad.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Jada also serves as an undergraduate researcher and has worked with UGA Professor Dr. John Knox to present their Bounce House research project at the American Meteorological Society 2022 Conference and at the Southern Appalachian Weather and Climate Workshop. "After working on [the project] with Dr. Knox for over a year," Jada notes, "being able to get it submitted to BAMS and to present it AMS was amazing as I was able to assist in informing the public that bounce house incidents do happen from weather and that we should be aware and vigilant."

Jada also completed an internship at WRBL News 3 in Columbus, GA and learned what it is like to forecast, produce a show, communicate weather to the public, and how to communicate with the public during severe weather. She also participates in communicating severe weather to the public through AthensGaWeather and North Georgia Weather Authority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claudia White

Claudia White
This award goes to two third-year students with strong academic performance. Claudia is currently pursuing a dual degree in Geography and Anthropology.

Claudia has been challenged to continually ask questions and rethink her approach to assignments and the world. In a service-learning course with UGA Professor Dr. Hilda Kurtz, she gained confidence in expressing her thoughts in academic spaces and completed her first community-based, collaborative project with the Athens Eats Together Initiative. "This achievement has been invaluable as it taught me the value of group work and how to carry out community-based research," Claudia mentions. "Since then, I have sought out courses and opportunities that allow me to carry out participatory work."

Claudia has worked as part of the Community Mapping Lab as a UGA Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities researcher and initiated a citizen science research project with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA to map the distribution and frequency of milkweed populations throughout Georgia to aid the conservation programs of the garden. She has also interned with the Georgia Museum of Natural History’s Herbarium to georeference the locations of collected plant specimens in rural Southwest GA near her hometown, Thomasville. Most recently, she began an internship with a nonprofit called Native Future, where she is responsible for maintaining territorial forest cover change and fire alerts maps for an Indigenous community in Panama that are used for environmental litigation.

 

Senior Awards

NCGE/AAG Outstanding Senior Award

Nikita White

Nikita White
This award goes to two graduating students who have excelled in their academic courses in Geography. Nikita graduated this past May with her bachelor's in Geography and Atmospheric Sciences.

In addition to excelling in her academics, Nikita participated in a virtual internship program at Peachtree City, GA, and has been involved with assisting in AthensGaWeather and North Georgia Weather Authority with forecast broadcasting. Additionally, she was a member of the American Meteorological Society and Chi Epsilon Pi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amanda Sinning

Amanda Sinning
This award goes to two graduating students who have excelled in their academic courses in Geography. Amanda graduated this past May with her bachelor's in Geography and Atmospheric Sciences.

In addition to excelling in her academics, Amanda has been involved in the American Meteorological Society and served as the President of the Chi Epsilon Pi atmospheric science honors society. She was also an ambassador for the UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP). While serving in these roles, she had organized three community outreach events to local elementary schools to talk to students about the job of a meteorologist and how to "be ready for bad weather". Additionally, she collaborated with the OEP to organize campus-wide severe weather workshops for the greater community. She also had the great opportunity to participate in research with the National Weather Service on tropical cyclone tornadoes, and presented this research at a conference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Awards

Morgan Alexander

Morgan Alexander
This award goes to three graduating students with outstanding departmental citizenship. Morgan graduated this past May with her bachelor's in Geography and Atmospheric Sciences.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Morgan challenged herself outside of the classroom by participating in three internships and research projects, serving as a campus safety ambassador through the UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness, and serving as the Treasurer and President of the American Meteorological Society chapter at UGA.

"I have made it my goal," Morgan states, "to immerse myself in as many opportunities as possible during my undergraduate studies; not only seeking to find my path, but also trying to fully understand, apply, and share the knowledge I gain along the way. Whether it was seeking the best approach to communicate Georgia’s extreme weather and climate events to the public, discovering methods of water purification for rural towns in Haiti during a NSF REU, or creating and analyzing climate normals for islands in the Pacific Ocean while interning for NOAA: NWS WSO Pago Pago at the Pacific Region Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii, my participation in these summer research projects allowed me to recognize how much I relish investigating and solving a vast array of problems, as well as participating in environmental advocacy."

 

Rachael Glenn

Rachael Glenn
This award goes to three graduating students with outstanding departmental citizenship. Rachael graduated this past May with her bachelor's in Geography and International Affairs from the School of Public and International Affairs.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Rachael was the President of the Geography Undergraduate Student Organization (GUSTO) at UGA. She also interned with "Mercado Global", a non-profit organization that supports Indigenous women in Central America. "Taking the Geography of Human Rights course sparked one of my passions for gender equity and led me to the internship," Rachael states. "I worked on their development and fundraising team for over a year, which has persuaded me to continue a career in non-profit work after I graduate."

Rachael also served as a research assistant under a SPIA professor studying Urban Politics and cleavages in local governments. Before graduating, she was a development/corporate relations intern for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. One of the things she enjoyed the most was her involvement outside of work and academics, mainly through clubs and events. Rachael was the secretary for a dance club called Pamoja Dance Company under the Multicultural Services and Programs (MSP). "Pamoja was one of the first black cultural groups on UGA's campus after desegregation," Rachael mentions, "so it has been an honor to continue the legacy that former students left for us."

 

 

Eli Vinson

Eli Vinson
This award goes to three graduating students with outstanding departmental citizenship. Eli will be graduating this Summer with his bachelor's in Geography.

In addition to excelling in his coursework, Eli completed a study abroad program at Cambridge University in the summer of 2019. "While the program was through Warnell," Eli explains, "the Geography class - Field Studies in Natural Resources - was offered. As a rising sophomore, still somewhat undecided about my major, the class gave me everything I needed to make me a Geography major. I gained an important international viewpoint about progress and sustainability. I learned how to communicate like a geographer; creating a video essay about the effects of food waste on the climate, and steps we can take to mitigate it. The knowledge I gained on this program is still as fresh as the day I got it, and I believe it taught me what it means to be a Geographer."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Engagement and Community Outreach Award

Autumn Lafferty

Autumn Lafferty
This award goes to two Geography students who have shown a clear commitment to scholarship that engages communities outside the university for the purposes of education and/or social action. Autumn graduated this past May with her A.B. and B.S. in Geography.

Autumn was selected by the Geography Undergraduate Student Organization for this award.

In addition to excelling in her studies, Autumn interned with Concrete Jungle Athens to map fruit trees and understand urban food insecurity in order to provide fresh and nutritious produce to the local community of Athens. Before graduating, Autumn worked on a project called Vision Zero which aims to have zero traffic related deaths in a year, and she plans to intern with the Athens Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Safety department and apply her GIS and data science knowledge in this role. Outside of her coursework, Autumn volunteered to maintain the green roof on the Geography-Geology building, and she is a member of the Gamma Theta Upsilon - International Geographical Honor Society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will O'Neil

Will O'Neil
This award goes to two Geography students who have shown a clear commitment to scholarship that engages communities outside the university for the purposes of education and/or social action. Will graduated this past May with his bachelor's in Geography and Atmospheric Sciences.

Will was selected by the American Meteorological Society for this award.

In addition to excelling in his coursework, Will interned with the UGA Broadcast/Digital Meteorology last summer where he worked to create new opportunities for students that work with the Broadcast Meteorology seminar class in the department of Geography. He also helped develop the ngwaweather.com website, as well as create new and improved graphics that debuted in the Fall of 2021 on both the AthensGaWeather and North Georgia Weather Authority Facebook pages.

Outside of coursework, Will has been elected Vice President of the UGA chapter of the American Meteorological Society, and he also covers severe weather live for AthensGaWeather, keeping the people of North Georgia informed and safe. One of these events was the Newnan EF4 tornado where his coverage was seen by a family that took cover because of the livestream, and their lives were saved because of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Undergraduate Graduation Celebration

This past May, the Geography Department also welcomed a new class of graduates from the department as the future leading geographers of our world. Watch the graduation celebration below!

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