Friday, April 29, 2011

Graduate Student Awards for Academic Year 2010–2011; Department of Geography, University of Tennessee at Knoxville (part 4)

Graduate Teaching Associate Award
Grant Harley
Grant’s numerical scores and written comments demonstrate that he has a wonderful relationship with his students, providing a learning environment that goes far beyond simple textbook lessons and rote memory. Grant showed that he is a caring and approachable teacher, earning very high scores (4.0 to 4.4 out of 5.0) in the important categories of “Instructor’s Contribution to the Course, “ “Instructor’s Effectiveness,” “Course Organization,” and “Explanations by Instructor.” The written comments by his students affirm his effectiveness and ability to instill the thrill of learning: “Grant taught new information to me rather than repetitive facts as in some courses, and this made the class much more intriguing” – “I now know what is going on with the Weather Channel. And blizzards, too.” – The instructor presented material in a way that allowed for questions and discussion, prompting a better understanding of the material.” – “The class took into consideration understanding the material rather than memorizing it.” – “Grant made it exciting and fun to attend class and learn the material.” – “Grant had a passion for the subject.” – “Great class! Grant rocks. Give him a raise.” Grant is very deserving of the Outstanding Teaching Associate Award in our department!

The Robert G. Long Outstanding Graduate Student Award: M.S.
Rusty Kirby

Rusty has shown high scholarly potential and he is an outstanding departmental citizen. Rusty's Master thesis on motorcycle guides in Vietnam provides insights into Vietnam's transition to a market economy, and it investigates the ways in which motorcycle guides create a tourism product. His findings contribute to our understanding of the role of small-scale entrepreneurs in the current economic transition in Vietnam. He conducted two months of fieldwork research in Vietnam in Summer 2010 to interview motorcycle guides, and he traveled extensively in Vietnam. Rusty presented his research findings in a poster at the SEDAAG conference in Birmingham, AL in Fall 2010, and he will give an oral presentation at the AAG meeting in Seattle next week. Rusty plans to submit an article to a tourism journal this summer. Rusty has been an outstanding departmental citizen, and his efforts set a strong example for future generations of graduate students in our department. Rusty has created a culture of sharing among human geography graduate students, and he is always willing to help other students. Rusty shared his thesis proposal and IRB application with several graduate students. He also showed his poster design to Scott Basford, an undergraduate student who prepared a poster for the Eureca conference. When Scott was working on his poster in BGB 206, Rusty provided helpful suggestions for the design. Scott remarked about Rusty that "he is very helpful and always approachable.“ Rusty volunteered for Geography Awareness Week twice. Last fall, Scott and Rusty were paired for Geography Awareness Week. The first day, Rusty explained the activities to Scott in detail, and he showed Scott what to do. Scott observed Rusty's performance on the first day to learn how to lead the activities. Rusty's explanations and leadership were so clear that Scott was able to lead a class session the next day. Rusty also provided refreshments for our colloquium series last Fall, and he prepared home-made food. Based on the observations above I highly recommend Rusty Kirby for a Robert G. Long Outstanding Graduate Award.

The Robert G. Long Outstanding Graduate Student Award: Ph.D.
Maria Caffrey
Maria entered our program in Fall 2007, and is on track to complete her Ph.D. this semester. Her Ph.D. project concerns evidence of climate and environmental change preserved in lake sediments from Hispaniola. The project grew from work Ken Orvis and I began with National Geographic funding and for which we later obtained an NSF award that has supported Maria for a bit more than two years. Maria added several components to the project that were not part of the original grant project, including field work with ground-penetrating radar and additional limnological sampling for which she applied for and received a $12,000 NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant. She also carried out in-depth studies of diatom assemblages in sediments that were not a part of the original project.
While at UT, Maria has made six presentations as first author at annual meetings of the Association of American Geographers, the Geological Society of America, the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists, and the American Society for Limnology and Oceanography. She has been co-author on several other presentations. In 2009, her poster at the AAG meeting won “best poster award” from both the Paleoenvironmental Change Specialty Groups and the Biogeography Specialty Group. A manuscript on her M.S. thesis research is in press in the Journal of Latin American Geography, and she has also published in the George Wright Forum and in the Encyclopedia of Geography. Her dissertation is written as a series of papers intended for publication, and she will be able to submit these this coming summer.
Maria has been very active in applying for grants, and has enjoyed considerable success. In addition to her $12,000 NSF DDRI award, Maria received a student scholarship award from the American Association of Stratigraphic Palynologists ($2000), a grant-in-aid (value ca. $7000) from the NSF Arizona Radiocarbon Lab, and a grant from Sigma-Xi ($1000). To help fund last year’s visit by science journalist David Quammen, which Maria spearheaded, she wrote successful proposals to raise $9000 from the University of Tennessee Issues Committee and $2000 from the University of Tennessee Cultural Affairs Board. She coordinated events during David Quammen’s visit, and was recognized by several faculty across campus for her professionalism in making these arrangements and seeking contributions from individual departments. The great success of the Quammen visit depended also on other graduate students, but a large share of the credit for the success goes to Maria.
Maria has served as a research assistant on two funded projects, and as a laboratory teaching assistant for our pollen analysis course (partial funding from outside of our GTA budget, and some volunteer work). Her work in these capacities has been excellent, and she has twice received a departmental Exceptional Professional Accomplishment award. In the Laboratory of Paleoenvironmental Research she has mentored an undergraduate student, and has helped several graduate students learn laboratory procedures and data analysis. Within the department she was also active in the creation of GARG (Graduate Association of Research Geographers), and has helped coordinate a successful team for Wednesday night Trivia at Mellow Mushroom. (Watch for study suggestions from Maria the night before competitions!)
For her academic and research excellence, laboratory teaching and mentoring, overall professionalism, and important contributions to the department, I am pleased to recommend Maria for the Robert G. Long Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

Ling Yin
Ling is on track to complete her Ph.D. degree this semester. During her graduate study in our department, Ling served as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) for a total of three years on three different externally funded projects. She was a GRA of my NSF grant working on time geography, human activities in physical and virtual spaces, and space-time GIS. Ling also worked as a GRA on another NSF grant related to spatial optimization and high performance computing. In addition, Ling worked as a GRA on Dr. Ralston’s Department of Justice’s project. Ling delivered high quality GRA work and produced two refereed journal articles in highly regarded journals (Journal of Transport Geography and International Journal of Geographical Information Science). In both articles, Ling is the first author. In addition, Ling gave a total of nine (9) presentations at professional meetings such as AAG meeting, SEDAAG meeting, Crime MAPPING Research Conference, Computational Science for Natural Resource Managers Workshop, and International Workshop of GIS for Transportation.
In 2009, Ling’s research paper was selected as one of the five finalists for the AAG GIS Specialty Group Student Paper Competition and received a $500 travel award. In 2010, she was chosen from a competitive process to participate in an Advanced Spatial Workshop at the University of California at Santa Barbara that was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Ling also did outstanding work as a GTA in our department. For example, the SAIS student evaluation scores of her work as a GTA for Geography 415 in Spring 2010 are very impressive (see the Tennessee 101 website). These evaluation scores are hard to achieve and Ling did it.
Beyond research and teaching, Ling also actively served our Department and participated in other professional service activities. In our Department, she served as a Web Assistant to help maintain our department’s web site, a guest lecturer for the Geography and Educational Technology Workshop organized by the Tennessee Geographic Alliance, a graduate student representative on our transportation geography faculty search committee, and a volunteer during the Geography Awareness Week in various years. Outside of our department, Ling was elected to a student representative on the Board of Directors of the AAG Transportation Geography Specialty Group (2007-2009) and was selected as a student assistant at the 2010 ESRI User Conference. She also served as a liaison of the Newsletter Editorial Committee for the Association of Chinese Professionals in Geographic Information Systems and a mentor for the Transportation Academy sponsored by the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Tennessee. Overall, Ling has demonstrated strong research, teaching, and service achievements as a Ph.D. student.

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