Celebrating Our Community: Second Annual CGA Awards

On March 4, the Center for Geospatial Analytics celebrated its second Awards Ceremony, this year virtually on Zoom, honoring 2020 achievements by our exceptional students, faculty and staff. Check out the event program!

At the virtual event, the second round of CGA Awards were presented. These awards, established in 2019, honor members of the Center for Geospatial Analytics community whose efforts exemplify Center ideals of collaboration, inclusion and excellence in research, teaching and service. Center students and faculty/staff were nominated by other Center members for the awards, and winners were selected by the Awards Committee.

Advocate Award

Given to one student and one faculty/staff member who demonstrates a commitment to equity and inclusion within the Center for Geospatial Analytics, on the NC State campus and/or in their community.

  • Student awardee: Josh Randall. Randall is a Ph.D. student in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and affiliated with the Center through his advisor, Faculty Fellow Bethany Cutts. His nomination explained that Randall “has taken his commitment to environmental justice and energy poverty to the next level, committing to deep interrogation of methods for data feminism and its application to problems of energy justice. He is a generous scholar, finding ways to support and lift up junior members of the labs that he is a part of.”
  • Faculty awardee: Bethany Cutts. Cutts is a Faculty Fellow at the Center and received a record five nominations. One of her colleagues wrote that “Dr. Cutts works tirelessly advocating for graduate students of color. She strives to knock down systemic problems in our policies, programs and culture.” Another said, “She’s brought important speakers to campus, helped initiate an environmental justice minor and been recognized by the CGA students who launched the Race and Place seminar series.”

Beacon Award

Given to one student, one faculty/staff member and one alum who shines a light on the Center for Geospatial Analytics in the wider scientific community through their research, partnerships and/or involvement in professional organizations.

  • Student awardee: Ian McGregor. McGregor is a Ph.D. student in the Geospatial Analytics program and advised by Faculty Fellow Josh Gray. McGregor’s nomination praised the connections he has made with numerous other labs and the leadership position he has taken in the International Society of Tropical Foresters. McGregor excels at communicating his science to the public and was recently invited to do so by RTI. In addition, he works hard to make sure that his fellow students are aware of opportunities outside of the Center.
  • Staff awardee: Chris Jones. Jones is a Research Scholar in the Center and the lead developer for the Pest or Pathogen Spread (PoPS) model. He has attracted funding from multiple external sources. The first official version of PoPS was released in October, and it is accessible for stakeholders in a variety of fields, from forestry to entomology to epidemiology. Jones has opened the door for many exciting collaborations for the Center.
  • Alum awardee (new category, to recognize an alum who continues to shine a light on the Center after graduating): Christen McNamara Watts. McNamara Watts is a 2015 alum of the Graduate Certificate in GIS and Master in Geospatial Information Science & Technology (MGIST) program and is the GIS Manager for the City of Asheville. According to her nomination, “She graciously sat for an alumni interview in 2016 with DELTA communications and became the ‘face’ of the MGIST program in several of our digital and print marketing materials. She also recently collaborated with one of our most recent MGIST graduates on their capstone project as a community partner.”

Collaboration & Innovation Award

Given to a research team who collaborates across disciplinary boundaries to address environmental and societal challenges.

  • Team awardee: the team behind GAPS (Geospatial Applications for Problem Solving) for High Tech Teens. The team was led by Eric Money, the Center’s Associate Director of Professional Education and included Kyle Bunds (associate professor, Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management), Soonhye Park (professor, College of Education), Research Software Engineer Anna Petrasova, Associate Director of Geovisualization Helena Mitasova, Betsey McFarland (Wade Edwards Learning Lab), Jamie Cajka (RTI International), MGIST student Jaimie Nevins, MGIST student Laurel Krynock, Research Associate Justyna Jeziorska, Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student Garrett Millar, MGIST student Jack Cummings, Chad Kibbe (undergraduate, College of Natural Resources), Summer Thompson (undergraduate, College of Education) and Matt Reynolds (Ph.D. student, College of Education); additional assistance was provided by Research Associate Justin Shedd, Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student Kellyn Montgomery, Faculty Fellow Perver Baran, Faculty Fellow Laura Tateosian, Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student Payam Tabrizian, Research Software Engineer Vashek Petras and Geospatial Analytics Ph.D. student Nikki Inglis. Launched in Spring 2018, the GAPS program aimed to introduce high school students to geospatial science and advanced technologies through an innovative after-school STEM learning experience, with a particular focus on reaching students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM. It expanded in Summer 2019 to help teachers incorporate geospatial technologies in their classrooms. GAPS ended in Spring 2020, having provided free mentoring and hands-on mapping experience for more than 100 students in Wake County; the program also trained twelve middle and high school teachers from Durham County.

Creativity in Teaching Award

Given to one student and one faculty/staff member who creates an innovative learning environment (online and/or in a classroom) that engages diverse learners in the study of geospatial data science.

  • Student awardee: Gardner Pierson. Pierson is an MGIST student advised by Faculty Fellow Perver Baran and received multiple nominations. His nominations praised his enthusiasm and dedication to improving the learning experience for students through creative help sessions and other ways. According to one nomination, “His presence in the forums is remarkable. He does not hesitate to try replicating student problems in every possible way or to review outside sources to provide the best support to students, ultimately contributing to the overall learning environment.”
  • Faculty awardee: Laura Tateosian. Faculty Fellow Tateosian is a key faculty member for all of the Center’s academic programs. Her nomination said, “Laura contributes so much to the education of students in both the MGIST and Ph.D. programs. Her Python course, GIS 540, challenges students and equips them to be leaders in the professional world. Her active learning approach allows students to try, fail and learn from their mistakes.”

Interdisciplinary Advancement Award

New award, given to one student not enrolled in a Center degree program who applies principles of geospatial analysis to address grand challenges requiring an interdisciplinary approach.

  • Awardee: Melinda Martinez. Martinez is a Ph.D. student in Forestry and Environmental Resources and advised by Associate Professor Marcelo Ardon. Martinez innovatively combines traditional field observations with remote sensing in her work on ghost forests. She also finds creative ways to share her science with others, from podcasts to painting.

Gladys West Award

Gladys West was one of science’s “hidden figures,” her contributions to GPS technology going unrecognized for decades. The Gladys West Award is given to “hidden figures” at the Center––one student and one faculty/staff member who consistently serves as a role model, helps others and exceeds expectations and who does not often receive recognition and/or does not hold a leadership position.

  • Student awardee: Byron Ifediora. Ifediora is a Ph.D. student in the Geospatial Analytics program and advised by Faculty Fellow Bethany Cutts. According to his nomination, “He is an invaluable friend/mentor committed to not just blazing a trail but sticking around to make sure that trail stays clear for future students.” His nomination also praised the challenging research that Ifediora is doing in the areas of nonprofit theory and disaster recovery policy, as well as his efforts in coordinating the Geospatial Forum with Julian Agyeman.
  • Staff awardee: Megan Skrip. Skrip is the Center’s Science Communicator. Her nomination stated, “Megan is quite literally a ‘hidden figure’––mostly working remotely [from Illinois since 2017], her geographic distance seems to be no obstacle to her. While her goal is lifting up others’ work, Megan deserves recognition for her tireless efforts. Megan’s kind, supportive nature and unparalleled attention to detail make her indispensable to CGA.”

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