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The American Association of Geographers congratulates the individuals and entities named to receive an AAG Award. The awardees represent outstanding contributions to and accomplishments in the geographic field.

2021 Glenda Laws Award

The Glenda Laws Award is administered by the American Association of Geographers and endorsed by members of the Institute of Australian Geographers, the Canadian Association of Geographers, and the Institute of British Geographers. The annual award and honorarium recognize outstanding contributions to geographic research on social issues. This award is named in memory of Glenda Laws—a geographer who brought energy and enthusiasm to her work on issues of social justice and social policy.

Jen Jack GiesekingJen Jack Gieseking, University of Kentucky

Jen Jack Gieseking is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky whose scholarship combines critical urban theory, GIS, and digital humanities to study queer, feminist, and trans geographies.

Having received his PhD in 2012, Dr. Gieseking has amassed an impressive research record including nearly two dozen peer-reviewed articles in high-impact outlets (many of them open- access) and a defining, cross-disciplinary reference text: A Queer New York: Geographies of Lesbians, Dykes, and Queers. Dr. Gieseking’s scholarship extends beyond publications to include leadership of ACME: International Journal of Critical Geographies, where his recommenders hail the inclusive culture he fosters among editorial staff and contributors. He actively mentors junior scholars and pioneers innovative teaching strategies drawn from critical roots. Furthermore, Dr. Gieseking’s LBGTQ Heritage Initiative Theme Study for the National Parks Service demonstrates the broader societal impacts of his scholarship.

Overall, the AAG Diversity & Inclusion Committee was excited to highlight the work of a queer, feminist, and trans geographer whose work fervently promotes the visibility of LBGTQ+ individuals, spaces, and place histories.

Pavithra VasudevanPavithra Vasudevan, University of Texas at Austin

Pavithra Vasudevan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her feminist-inspired, participatory action research calls attention to environmental racism in Black communities in rural North Carolina. Despite only being in her second year on the tenure track, Dr. Vasudevan’s scholarly record includes peer-reviewed publications in Antipode, Area, and Environment and Planning C, several edited chapters, and a book manuscript in progress based on her field research: Toxic Alchemy: Black Life and Death in Industrial Capitalism.

Dr. Vasudevan engages creatively with community members, community organizations, and students, fusing ethnographic methods and performance arts (e.g., theater, music, and visual arts) with social science. Her recommenders include previous advisors, students, and colleagues who all testify to the extraordinary intellectual and emotional labor she invests in her activist research.

The AAG Diversity & Inclusion Committee felt strongly that Dr. Vasudevan’s research efforts not only exceeded the criteria of the Glenda Laws award, but that her inspirational pedagogy embodied the spirit of Glenda Laws’ own approaches to research, teaching, and advocacy.

2021 AAG Harold M. Rose Award for Anti-Racism Research and Practice

The Rose Award was created to honor Harold M. Rose, who was a pioneer in conducting research on the condition faced by African Americans. The award honors geographers who have a demonstrated record of this type of research and active contributions to society, and is awarded to individuals who have served to advance the discipline through their research, and who have also had an impact on anti-racist practice.

John FrazierJohn Frazier, Binghamton University

Dr. John Frazier has made crucial contributions to anti-racist knowledge and praxis in geography in his nearly four-decade long career. His leadership as the founder of the Race, Ethnicity, and Place (REP) Conference is a hallmark of his contributions to challenge racism in the discipline and beyond. REP, geography’s most diverse conference now in its second decade, features research across the discipline and provides unmatched opportunities for networking and mentoring. Frazier has been instrumental in bringing this conference to a wide range of universities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to expose geography to more diverse audiences and students. He has also served as a stalwart leader in the AAG Ethnic Geography Specialty Group. Frazier has dedicated his academic life to advancing the research and careers of geographers of color, having long lasting effects on the discipline through this conference and the professional network he has fostered.

Frazier’s research has addressed core issues in contemporary racial and ethnic geography and immigrant experiences. His publications have become key resources for researchers and instructors. Notably, he has co-edited three editions of Race, Ethnicity and Place in a Changing America, The African Diaspora in The U. S. and Canada at the Dawn of the 21st Century, and Multicultural Geographies of the United States, and co-authored Race and Place: Equity Issues in Urban America. Widely used in teaching, Frazier’s work has paved a pathway into the discipline for generations of geographers.

Overall, John Frazier has played a significant role in institutionalizing a critical study of race, equity, and inclusion within geography and making anti-racism part of the official, programmatic life of geographers—as found in its conferences, knowledge communities, publications, and pedagogy.

2021 AAG Harm de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching

This annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in teaching undergraduate Geography including the use of innovative teaching methods. The recipients are instructors for whom undergraduate teaching is a primary responsibility.  The award consists of $2,500 in prize money and an additional $500 in travel expenses to attend the AAG Annual Meeting, where the award will be conveyed. This award is generously funded by John Wiley & Sons in memory of their long-standing collaboration with the late Harm de Blij on his seminal Geography textbooks.

Heather BedihHeather Bedi, Dickinson College

Dr. Heather Bedi is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Dickinson College where her teaching and research focus on peoples, places, and environments and the many connections between them. Students and faculty colleagues recognize her passion for teaching and her dynamic approach. She not only creates fresh ways for students to engage with course material in the classroom, but also provides opportunities for them to actively contribute to the local community using tools and knowledge obtained in the numerous courses she has developed.

Dr. Bedi’s teaching and community outreach are well-informed by her research into relationships among civil society, socio-environmental movements, and natural resource and landscape modifications. Moreover, she successfully obtains teaching related grants and student-faculty-community collaboration grants to advance the work.

Dr. Bedi is already making a strong mark on geography teaching and is poised to make an even more distinguished impact into the future.

2020 Wilbanks Prize for Transformational Research in Geography

The AAG Wilbanks Prize for Transformational Research in Geography will honor researchers from the public, private, or academic sectors who have made transformative contributions to the fields of Geography or GIScience. Provided there is sufficient availability of funds, the Wilbanks Prize will consist of a cash prize of $2,000 and include a memento with the name of the Prize and the recipient.

Mei-Po Kwan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Mei-Po Kwan has had transformational impacts on how transportation specialists and geographic information scientists think about accessibility and activity-travel patterns analysis; how feminist geographers understand quantification and GIS; how geographers and geographic information scientists integrate quantitative and qualitative methods and insights from different theoretical traditions; and how health geographers, public health researchers, and scholars in other disciplines think about environmental exposure and the significance of the neighborhood.

Employing feminist perspectives, Dr. Kwan has dramatically altered geo-visualization, the inclusion of qualitative data through geo-narratives, and she has broadened geographic information science beyond a narrow “objective” standard to more humanistic standards that include perceptions, emotions, and behavior as core concerns. She has also advanced conceptualization of concepts like uncertainty and bias by promoting more dynamic perspectives that examine spatial contexts as rooted in everyday behaviors and experiences rather than as containers fixed in space and time.

Both the significant substance and impact of Dr. Kwan’s work have transformed the discipline of geography and geographic information science and infused the broader community of researchers and practitioners with more robust geospatial understanding, thereby making her a highly deserving recipient of the Wilbanks Prize.

The 2021 AAG-Kauffman Awards for Best Paper and Best Student Paper in Geography & Entrepreneurship

This award identifies innovative research in business, applied or community geography that is relevant to questions related to entrepreneurs and their firms as well as to practitioners and policymakers. Award winners and runners up will be invited to present their research in a session highlighting geography and entrepreneurship at the AAG Annual Meeting on Thursday, April 9, 2020.

2021 Best Paper Award

Qingfang Wang, University of California Riverside – Fostering Art and Cultural Entrepreneurship in Underserved Communities: A Case of Newark, NJ

2021 Best Paper Award Runner-Up

Örjan Sölvell, Stockholm School of Economics – The dark side of agglomeration, sustained wealth and transposition of trading institutions—the case of Bordeaux in the 18th and 19th centuries

2021 Best Student Paper Award

Nicole Bignall, University of North Carolina at Greensboro –
Self-Employment by US County: Key Predictors

2021 Best Student Paper Award Runner-Up

Elina Shepard (Sukaryavichute), University of North Carolina at Charlotte – Opportunities and Challenges for Small Businesses in New Transit Neighborhoods

2021 AAG Award for BA/BS Program Excellence  

This annual award and cash prize honors Geography departments and Geography programs within blended departments that have significantly enhanced the prominence and reputation of Geography as a discipline and demonstrated the characteristics of a strong and engaged academic unit. The award honors non-PhD granting Geography programs at the community college, baccalaureate, and master levels.

The AAG Program Excellence Award Committee has chosen to honor two geography programs with the 2021 AAG Award for Bachelors Program Excellence: James Madison University and Kennesaw State University.

James Madison University LogoJames Madison University

The Geographic Science Program at James Madison University (JMU) is housed in the College of Integrated Science and Engineering. The program has 9.5 full-time tenure-track faculty and offers B.A. and B.S. degrees as well as a Minor in Geographic Science. The program has shown remarkable growth over the last nine years, increasing from 156 to 240 majors. The Committee was impressed by the organization and thoroughness of JMU’s dossier. JMU has a strong commitment to quality instruction and employs a number of high impact teaching practices to engage their undergraduate students. This includes field experiences in water resources, advanced cultural geography, and biogeography; community engagement and service learning opportunities in which students solve problems for real clients both locally and abroad (e.g., Haiti); and project-based instruction (e.g., in cooperation with Shenandoah National Park). Many of these activities have resulted in strong relationships with community members, which reflects well on the program and engages the community with geography. Through the dossier and the included letters, the Committee also perceived a strong sense of community and collegiality within the program as well as a strong connection between the program and its alumni. The letters of support came from a variety of sources and showed thoughtful reflections on the impact that this program has had on students and the community. The Geographic Science Program at JMU is strong and vibrant.

Kennesaw State University LogoKennesaw State University

The Department of Geography and Anthropology at Kennesaw State University (KSU) is housed in the Norman J. Radow College of Humanities and Social Sciences. The geography program has 15 full-time faculty, 4 limited term full-time faculty, and 9 part-time faculty and offers a Geospatial Sciences B.S., a Geography B.A., a Geography Minor, an Environmental Studies Minor, a Certificate in Geographic Information Sciences, and a Certificate in Land Surveying. The geography program serves approximately 7,000 students per year and grown significantly in recent years (e.g., 35% faculty increase in the last 5 years). The Committee was impressed by KSU’s diverse and unique degree offerings and its commitment to tailor coursework for students based on their educational interests and career goals. KSU’s geography program is also remarkably innovative with respect to pedagogy, emphasizing experiential learning, professional experiences, high-impact practices, community engagement, internships and co-ops, teaching assistantships, and study abroad opportunities. For example, KSU students may participate in a Geography of Beer program in Belgium, Ireland, and the Netherlands and assist with local city and school projects relates to issues such as walkability. The Committee was also impressed by KSU’s lab facilities, faculty and undergraduate student research productivity, and efforts to support a diverse student body. The geography program at KSU is relatively young (started in 1997), but extraordinary in its promotion of geography on and off campus.