Geography major Michael A. Gregorio (’06) of Chelmsford, Mass. showed off his world view – from Indo-European languages and natural disasters to Canadian oil sands – at last week’s World Geography Bowl, a contest sponsored by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) that measures the geographical expertise of student teams from around the country. Gregorio, who won fourth place in individual scores (an average of 14.5 points per round), was the only undergraduate student who ranked in the bowl’s top 10. For his outstanding performance among undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students, he was named Undergraduate MVP.
PSU’s geography department, led by geography bowl team advisor Dr. Bryon Middlekauff and geography professors Patrick May and Kurt Schroeder, sent four undergraduate students to this year’s AAG conference, held at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Three students, geography major Gregorio, meteorology major Anthony Fusco (’06) of Portland, Maine and geography major Ashley Satinsky (’07) of Littleton, competed in the World Geography Bowl as part of the New England – St. Lawrence Valley (NESTVAL) regional team, one of eight regional teams comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from around the country. Chris Skulski (’09), an environmental planning major from Georgetown, Mass., was the team’s alternate.
During an almost four hour quiz bowl-style tournament, students answered questions from the entire spectrum of geographical study, from landforms, languages and culture to weather and regional geography. A few questions hit close to home: During the tournament, Fusco correctly answered two questions about New Hampshire, including one about the Old Man of the Mountain and another about Mount Washington.
During the bowl, the NESTVAL team – comprised entirely of undergraduate students – won one out of seven matches. Their opposing regional teams included a majority of master’s and doctoral level students. However, the NESTVAL team was competitive in every round. Gregorio said he knew he had performed well during the bowl, but he had not been aware how many of his competitors in the top 10 were graduate students.
“I was actually surprised, because I saw a few students who were buzzing away one question after another, but it wasn’t until they announced the scores when I realized that most of these students were graduate students in their 20s or 30s,” Gregorio said.
In addition to his MVP honor, Gregorio was one of the only undergraduate students in attendance to present a paper at the conference. Gregorio’s paper, entitled “A Geographic Analysis of the Great Indian Ocean Tsunami,” focused on the tectonic forces and geomorphic changes seen during last year’s devastating tsunami. Gregorio used satellite imagery of land and coastline before and after the tsunami to supplement his presentation.
According to May, who has accompanied students to the AAG conference for several years running, Gregorio’s success is an honor, especially at a conference where the majority of the 7,000 attendees are professors, professionals and graduate-level students. For undergraduates from Plymouth, the conference has provided plenty of opportunities.
“It’s a great way for students to get an understanding of the field of geography, as they attend paper sessions and meet with faculty at graduate programs where they might apply,” said May.
In fact, at last year’s conference in Denver, Gregorio met with graduate professors from Ohio University, a school he hoped to attend after his graduation from Plymouth. This year, in Chicago, Gregorio experienced another pleasant surprise when he received the news that he had been accepted with a full assistantship to Ohio’s graduate program, where he will begin his study of fluvial geomorphology and flood hazard mapping next year.
Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.