UMW’s Department of Geography received high marks at the annual Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers (SEDAAG) conference. The event, held last month in Starkville, Mississippi, showcases research from across the region.
Professor of Geography Stephen Hanna won the Research Honors Award for his work in critical and cultural geography. Junior Darby Libka took second place in the World Geography Bowl competition. And senior Alistair Andrulis claimed the award for best physical geography poster with his representation of stream drainage traits at Crow’s Nest.
Hanna’s work in critical cartography centers around the idea that maps’ meanings are influenced by the contexts in which they are used. His research in cultural geography explores how our shared pasts are represented in commemorative landscapes, such as monuments and museums.
“I’m grateful to my students, both those with whom I have collaborated over the years and those who nominated me for the award,” Hanna said. “I was touched to learn that a colleague stated that I have enabled others to accomplish their own goals.”
Among his many projects – accomplished with the help of students and fellow scholars – are using a geographic information system (GIS) to explore the extent to which Fredericksburg’s historical markers speak to slavery and emancipation; and a review of plantation museums in Louisiana, South Carolina and Virginia to understand how they tell the story of slavery and enslaved people. A three-year grant from the National Science Foundation and a UMW Waple Professorship have helped fund his work.
Libka, who took second place in the Geography Bowl, finished first among both undergraduate and female competitors, and was invited to represent SEDAAG at the Association of American Geographers annual conference in New Orleans in April. Three UMW students finished among the top 10 competitors with the highest averages, and Mary Washington students were part of the Virginia team, which took second place overall.
Department Chair and Professor Jackie Gallagher; Professors Caitie Finlayson, Joe Nicholas and Dawn Bowen; and students Katie Boston, Eli McCleary and and Hallie Heinzen also presented. The trip included a tour of the Mississippi Delta, with visits to the Tunica Cotton Gin and the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale.
“I am incredibly proud of the students who attended SEDAAG this year,” Gallagher said. “We always take great students but this group stood out.”