2021 Geography Department Newsletter

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Kudos
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Chair

Greetings Geography Alumni,

The 2020-2021 academic year has been challenging for our GW Geography community, and no doubt for all of you. The campus has been quiet with access closed. Students and faculty have spent the entire academic year apart from each other, and I have missed our lively community. The pandemic has made all of us more aware about the importance of geography in understanding the diffusion of disease. COVID-19 is a truly global pandemic and is affecting hundreds of millions of people across the world at both deeply personal and professional levels. It has highlighted pervasive inequalities around the world and at many scales—within neighborhoods, within cities and within and among countries.

The larger social conversation around racial discrimination demands that our Geography community remain engaged, vigilant and a catalyst for positive change. This conversation has inspired us to pledge to be a place where diverse faculty, staff and students feel welcome and supported.

Despite these ongoing challenges, there have been accomplishments to celebrate! Faculty dedicated the summer of 2020 to adapting new remote-learning technologies and strategies. While there were some glitches from time-to-time, they taught with compassion, care, flexibility and creativity. Several were recognized for their teaching excellence, and nominated for teaching awards including Dr. Ginger Allington, Dr. David Rain and Dr. Melissa Keeley. Two new faculty joined us this year, Dr. Aman Luthra and Dr. Moses Kansanga. Geography faculty published more than 50 research articles this year, and received more than $1.18 million in external grants. Dr. Ryan Engstrom’s research was featured in the Economist; Dr. Allington’s research on Mongolia was featured on NASA’s website; and Dr. Dmitry Streletskiy’s expertise on climate change and permafrost was featured in numerous media outlets including The New York Times and NPR.

Our students, too, have excelled. Our master’s students completed impressive thesis and capstone research projects, despite the absence of in-person mentoring and advising. Our undergraduates worked closely with faculty to conduct research on migration, Arctic climate change and numerous other projects. For example, geography and environmental studies major Grace Donovan worked with a group of fellow undergraduate students to research food waste recovery practices in the United States. Our student-led Humanitarian Mapping Society has continued to hold virtual Mapathons. Their work mapping vulnerable communities and enabling international and local organizations to improve their response to crises has been vital during this pandemic.

I am buoyed by positive signs that include expanded vaccine production and distribution, and improved transmission rates locally and nationally, which have made me cautiously optimistic that we will be in person this fall, and once again be able to engage with our vibrant Geography community of faculty, students and alumni.

Warm wishes to all of you in difficult times and may you, your family, and loved ones stay healthy and safe.

Lisa Benton-Short
Department Chair

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Department Spotlights

Welcome New Faculty!

Professor Moses Kansanga (left) and Professor Aman Luthra (right)

The Geography Department is excited to welcome two new faculty members to our team: Dr. Moses Kansanga and Dr. Aman Luthra. Dr. Kansanga is an assistant professor of geography and international affairs, and Dr. Luthra is an assistant professor in human geography, teaching Political Ecology, Geography of South Asia, Theories of Development and Introduction to Human Geography. Read more about Drs. Kansanga and Luthra's accomplishments.


Geography Class Uncovers Hometown Histories

Professor David Rain (left) rides a tandem bicycle with his wife Anna Rain. Since the pandemic started, they’ve made finding time to get outside a priority.

Professor David Rain asked his geography students to explore the environmental history of their hometowns. They took a closer look at the relationship between society and the physical environment, starting in their own backyards. Their virtual learning project was profiled in GW Today.


Researchers Follow Social Distancing’s Path

Associate Professor of Geography Michael Mann

Geography Professor Michael Mann is among the CCAS faculty members working on research that trace the progress and limits of social distancing. He is using GPS data to create a block-by-block map of the Washington, D.C., region, pinpointing social distancing behavior. His work was featured along with other Columbian College research in the CCAS Spotlight newsmagazine.

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Department Kudos

Professor Ryan Engstrom and Adane Bedada, MS ’19, were referenced in The Economist for a growing area of research that leverages remote-sensing data and small-area estimation techniques to improve the accuracy and precision of survey-based poverty estimates.

Professor Ginger Allington was featured in the NASA blog Destination: Mongolia – Understanding the Plateau Rangeland Ecosystem.

Professor Dmitry Streletskiy was quoted on WAMU 88.5 American University Radio.

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Class Notes

Chris Coclin, BA ’19, works at Bigbelly Smart Waste and Recycling, consulting with municipalities, higher education and private sector firms to help improve their waste operations, sustainability initiatives and beatification goals.

Lisa Colson, MA ’12, is a geographer with USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. She advises on GADAS development and other aspects of their remote sensing and GIS activities, creating trade maps and supporting training activities.

Raynell Cooper, BA ’15, lives in beautiful San Francisco, Calif., and is the residential parking policy manager for the city's Municipal Transportation Agency.

Damon Coppola, BS ’96, MEM ’03, authored International Disaster Management, 4th ed. (Elsevier, 2020), Emergency Management, 7th ed. (Elsevier, 2020), and Homeland Security, 6th ed. (Elsevier, 2020), texts that support several GW graduate courses.

Joëlle Etienne, BA ’03, received her MS in sustainability in 2012 after 10 years in the language business. She lives in Pau, France, where she teaches history, geography and English literature in a high school and is a freelance translator and conference interpreter.

Stefanie Garry, BA ’07, is stationed in Geneva, Switzerland, as an economic affairs officer in the Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Jonelle Gingrich, BA ’08, has moved to Denver after eight years of serving the Department of Defense in Europe and Central Asia. She and her husband, David, are eager to settle into life back in the U.S. and start their family.

Samuel Guilford, MS ’18, got married in October 2020 to his partner of 12 years, Carolyn. Their dog, Olive, was the ring bearer.

Krista Jacobsen, BA ’11, has been working for various nonprofits and schools in their development offices since graduating from GW. She has focused on raising critical funds for each organizations' annual giving.

Tony Kehlhofer, BA ’87, retired in May 2021 after 34 years of working primarily in the field of Analytics for EDS, HP, Microsoft and Amazon. He continues to run his Maps4Kids.com site (founded in 2006) to help K-8 children understand their greater world through geography.

Chloe King, BA ’19, is currently at the University of Edinburgh, where she is studying to obtain an MSc in Marine Systems and Policies as a Marshall Scholar. She also works as a project manager for solimar international, a sustainable tourism consulting firm.

Phoebe Lind, BA ’21, is a clean transportation specialist at ICF. Previously, she worked as a U.S. climate policy intern at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Mikaela Moschella, BA ’17, is a project manager on the population health team for healthcare software giant Epic.

Analise Rivero, BA ’13, is the policy associate at California Trout, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting California's watersheds, rivers and fish.

Nicole Russo, BA ’96, resides near San Francisco, Calif., educating people about the world for an award-winning travel company. Her specialty is Africa, with expertise born 25 years ago while spending a semester in Kenya as a wildlife biology student.

Roman Velazquez, BA ’20, is back at George Washington University working on his MA in geography.

Maianna Voge, MA ’12, is the mapping and drawing supervisor at UC Berkeley, managing spatial data for the campus' built environment. She lives in the Bay Area with her partner and two boys.

R. David Wert, MA ’69, is in his 58th year as an active cartographer for the CIA.

Anna Zhu, BA, BS ’19, is finishing her MS in geography and GIS Certificate at GW and will enroll at Clark University this fall for a PhD in geography.

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Donor Recognition

The Geography Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the generous donors who made a gift to the department from January 1, 2020 – December 30, 2020.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend

Schwab Charitable Fund

Kirsten Berg, BA ’95

Katherine Cann, BA ’16, MS ’18

Samantha Carter, BA ’08

Sarah Cassius, BA ’19

Dr. Catherine Cooper, MA ’99 +

Charles Corbett, III, BA ’12

Lara Crampe, BA ’98, MA ’01

Eleanor Davis, BA ’16 +

Joseph Dymond +

Ms. Dorothy Erny *

Sarah Fuller, BA ’98

Marietta Gelfort, BA ’15, GCert ’17

Richard Groves, BA ’04

Anna Guiseppe, BA ’19

Gretchen Hasse, BA ’70

Michele Heacox *

Robert Heacox *

Jarrod Hendricks, BA ’19

Frederick Hoeschler, BA ’95

Thomas Hutchinson *

Benjamin Hyman, BA ’10

Jhovae Irving, BA ’20

Jacob Kania, BA ’19

Murray Lee, AA ’49, BA ’51

Alexi Lefevre, BA ’05

Anthony Licari +

Antonia Magalhaes, BBA ’19

Sarah Noyes, BA ’20

Deirdre O'Leary, BA ’91

Bernard Peters, BA ’68, MA ’73

Michael Riccio, BA ’08

Eleanor Rubin ~

Emma Spath, BA ’16

Dr. Karen Young #

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