On Friday, October 24, a team of 6 undergraduate UMass Amherst geography majors came home with the championship trophy from the 2014 NESTVAL (Association of American Geographer’s New England-St Lawrence Valley Division) World Geography Bowl.
The team members (Steve Bailey, Will Kostick, Ronan Lucey, Tyler Maren, Vitya Romanov and Spencer Weinstein), are all working toward the Geography BA, BA-Environmental Geography, or Geography BS degree, and are all members of the UMass Geography Club.
Although a number of the teams at the WGB combine undergraduate and graduate students, UMass sent an all-undergraduate team to the competition this year. Geography club president Dan Riecker, though unable to attend, was instrumental in organizing the team and running practice sessions.
This year’s competition, held at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH, involved 11 teams from universities such as the University of Connecticut, Clark University, the University of Maine and the University of New Hampshire. UMass entered the final round against Plymouth State University after winning four of six preliminary rounds. The UMass team swept the final round with correct answers to questions on topics — from erosion to ebola, Mars missions to migration — which demonstrated their command of the breadth of the field of geography as it spans from the natural sciences to the social sciences.
The World Geography Bowl began in 1987 in North Carolina, and became a fully-developed national competition in 1993. Unlike primary and secondary school “geography bees,” which emphasize individual proficiency, the college-level World Geography Bowl emphasizes team competitions. Half of the questions are answered through collaborations between all team members. In 2006, the competition was revised to include not only verbally-read questions, but also visual questions involving satellite images and photographs.
The top six individual-scoring students from the 2014 NESTVAL competition will join together to form the NESTVAL team at the national World Geography Bowl, to be held in Chicago at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in April. The Association of American Geographers has 9 regional divisions, each of which sends a team to the national championship competition.
The UMass Geography program, which offers BA-Geography, BA-Environmental Geography, BS-Geography, MS-Geography and PhD-Geosciences degrees, is housed in the Department of Geosciences, College of Natural Sciences.