Geography & Environmental Studies


We are thrilled to add two new full-time faculty members to GES in the past two years. Dr. Cerian Gibbes joined the department in fall 2011 as an Assistant Professor. Cerian graduated from the University of Florida with a Ph.D. in Geography, where her dissertation focused on land use and land cover changes in southern Africa. She brings a wealth of knowledge to courses in remote sensing and image processing, is adept at mixed methodologies, and has an array of field experience in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In addition to her geospatial courses, Cerian is teaching a new course in Urban Ecology, May 20-May 31, 2013. For alumni and students in the Pikes Peak region, you can learn more about some of Cerian’s research on March 11 at 6:30 pm when she is the featured speaker for the popular monthly series, Science on Tap, held at Jack Quinn’s Pub in downtown Colorado Springs. Her topic is “Environmental Change and Land Use in Southern Africa.” Find more information online.

In fall 2012, long-time lecturer Eric Billmeyer joined the GES Department full-time as an Instructor. Eric earned his B.A. and M.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies at UCCS, and was formerly the Executive Director and Research Director for Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI). In 2012 he was named Outstanding Lecturer in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences at UCCS. Eric and Senior Instructor George Bolling will be the mainstays of a new minor in Geology that was approved starting with the 2012-2013 academic year. Learn more about the minor online.

Edwin Mellen Press recently (2012)
published Associate Professor Emily Skop’s book, The Immigration and Settlement of Asian Indians in Phoenix, Arizona 1965-2011: Ethnic Pride vs. Racial Discrimination in the Suburbs. She is already deep into a new manuscript focusing on the cultural geography of Austin, Texas. Emily is currently serving as the GES Director of Graduate Studies, so any current students or alumni interested in our M.A. program should contact her for deadlines and more information.

Professor Tom Huber published a book recently as well: An American Provence (University Press of Colorado, 2011). He, too, has another manuscript on the brink of release, this one a photographic revisitation of the landscapes of the 1871 Hayden Geological Survey of the U.S. West. In 2012 Tom was awarded the Thomas Jefferson award, one of the highest honors granted each year by the University of Colorado system to faculty, staff, or students who demonstrate excellence in their academic role while contributing outstanding service to the broader community. Tom and Senior Instructor Carole Huber are currently collaborating as co-editors of a UCCS Field Guide that is due for release as the official publication of the 50th Anniversary of the campus in 2015.

Senior Instructor Mike Larkin has been reaching into the community with several of his recent courses. In Fall 2012, Larkin and historian Barb Headle connected students with the Friends of Fountain Fairview Cemetery to raise money to repair vandalism at the historic graveyard. The community-based project included a “cemetery crawl” and mapping project (see photo). It has since continued into a class project (and more community connections) in their spring 2013 Historical Geography course. Larkin’s Geographic Education class, also in fall 2012, worked with the fifth grade classes at Queen Palmer Elementary school, building a connection that continues as Mike returns to the classes every week to teach historical geography. Mike will be reaching out to a somewhat different community during spring break 2013 when he teaches his Napa, California, field course for the fourth year.  If any Wines and Vines Alumni are interested, contact Mike about the prospect of taking a trip with him to Napa through the Alumni Association.

Assistant Professor Brandon Vogt is currently focusing on two research projects.  The first uses historical cloud-to-ground lightning activity as a proxy to understand the influences of Colorado's mountainous terrain on warm season thunderstorm patterns.  The second project uses centimeter to sub-centimeter spatial resolution digital surface model data collected with a terrestrial 3D laser scanner (TLS) to characterize weathered sandstone surfaces. Dr Vogt, along with colleagues Dr. Gibbes, Dr. Jennings, and Eric Billmeyer, recently applied for a National Geographic Explorers grant that, if awarded, will fund a long-term project that uses rock glacier dynamics as a means to monitor climate change in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. 

Associate Professor Steve Jennings is teaching a course, “Plant Communities of the Western United States” this semester (spring 2013) using the manuscript of his book, Plant Communities of the Western United States. With Assistant Professor Adjoint Rebecca Theobald, Steve also continues to coordinate the Colorado Geographic Alliance (COGA).

Assistant Professor Paddington Hodza was recently awarded (with UCCS colleague Cerian Gibbes) a $100,000 grant from the GIS software firm, ESRI. Dr. Hodza and Dr. Gibbes will fuse satellite data sources to detect and geovisualize vegetation changes after the Waldo Canyon fire event within a loosely-couple GIS and image-processing environment. Paddington also has successfully developed a GIS certificate that UCCS students can now earn as part of their undergraduate work. Since its approval in 2011, approximately thirty students have already completed the GIS certificate and many more are underway.

Department chair Dr. John Harner was promoted to full professor in 2011, and in 2012 he completed a sabbatical at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum where he is developing an historical geography of Colorado Springs. Wiley and Sons just published the 6th edition of Human Geography in Action (2013, co-authored by Michael Kuby, John Harner, and Patricia Gober).

Assistant Professor David Havlick organized a workshop in 2012 on History and Values in Ecological Restoration, part of an on-going collaboration with Dr. Marion Hourdequin (Philosophy, Colorado College) that is supported by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. He was recently awarded the American Geographic Society’s McColl Family Fellowship for 2013 to support travel for a new research project studying the Iron Curtain Trail along the former Cold War borderlands of eastern and western Europe.

Associate Professor Curt Holder recently finished field and laboratory work relating to a National Science Foundation-supported project that examines the extent to which leaf hydrophobicity influences canopy storage capacity in common species of the semi-arid Western United States. The project enhances understanding of hydrologic fluxes within watersheds and has enlisted nearly a dozen undergraduate and graduate students for the field data collection.

Senior Instructor Carole Huber continues to serve as the faculty representative for the Students for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability (SEAS) club, as well as the UCCS Green Action Fund. Both groups deserve a lion’s share of credit for an array of sustainability initiatives that continue to reshape how UCCS operates and how students engage with their surroundings and their impacts. Significant recent accomplishments include the creation of a campus vegetable garden at the Heller Center (see photo), a ban on bottled water sales on campus, and the installation of (reusable) water bottle filling stations in campus buildings. The campus garden extended its reach onto campus weekly during summer 2012 with a campus farm market, which proved to be quite successful and will return in 2013 (see photo).

Rebecca Theobald, Assistant Professor Adjoint and one of the coordinators of the Colorado Geographic Alliance, has two chapters in the February 2013 book, Coming From Abroad (Palgrave Macmillan), which explore issues of foreign-born faculty teaching in geography departments in the United States. Her work in education extends to elementary and secondary schools, as she continues to examine school choice options in Colorado, and the effects of academic standards and assessments on teachers in the classroom. 

GES Program Updates

The Geography and Environmental Studies program is thriving, with more than 250 undergraduate majors currently declared and an M.A. program that recently marked its 10th anniversary. Since its 2002 inception, UCCS has now graduated 44 M.A. students in geography. With the 2012-2013 academic year, we have also added a Geology minor, designed with a soft rock emphasis that takes advantage of the Pikes Peak region’s local geology. We have developed three new upper level courses dedicated to the minor.

In fall 2012 we welcomed a new GES program administrative assistant, Monica Beltran, as we bid farewell to our award-winning, Mary McGill, who moved down the hall to work in the LAS Dean’s Office. Monica comes to UCCS with an array of experiences, most recently as an administrative assistant for summer enrollment for the District-20 schools in Colorado Springs. She hails from southern California’s high desert country and outside of work likes to hike, cook, and read.

GES will host the 5th Annual Higher Education Summit at UCCS on Friday, March 22, 2013. The event brings together geospatial educators and users from across Colorado for a day of events and information sharing. Lead organizers include our own Paddington Hodza, Brandon Vogt, and Rebecca Theobald.

The Geography Club, under the guidance of faculty sponsor Curt Holder, remains active. One recent highlight, from fall 2012, was a Geo Quiz night held on campus at Clyde’s in celebration of Geographic Awareness Week.

Since 2008, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs has been the host institution for the Colorado Geographic Alliance, part of a network of fifty Geographic Alliances across the country, founded in 1989 by the National Geographic Society and geographers in Colorado. Partners in the past year have included the National Park Service, Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education, History Colorado, and school districts across the state.  If you know of a school or district that would appreciate support in geography education, or if you know an organization that you think would make a great partner with COGA be sure to let us know. There is no shortage of ways to get in contact with COGA:,, and Facebook. From July 30-August 4, 2013, COGA will be hosting the Annual Conference of the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) in Denver. We are looking for help with field trips, hospitality, and general meeting support. If you would like to volunteer or participate, please contact Steve Jennings or Rebecca Theobald.

The Jacquelyn Beyer Women in Geography Fellowship continues to provide support in GES to encourage outstanding undergraduate and graduate women students with declared majors in Geography and Environmental Studies, or in scholarship that emphasizes women's studies or lesbian studies. Recent recipients of this endowed fund include:

Fall 2012
  • Ella Ahlers
  • Valerie Beyer
  • Jessica Nichols
  • Kelli Smith
  • Sara Santa Cruz
Spring 2012
  • Marta Blanco-Castaño
  • Deanna Gerweck
  • Melissa Greenleaf
Fall 2011
  • Andrea Hassler
  • Deanna Gerweck
  • Melissa Greenleaf
  • Kami McFall
  • Paxton Neubert
Spring 2011
  • Andrea Hassler
  • Kelly Firing
  • Giovanny Franco-Diaz
  • Emily Freeh

Upcoming Talks and Presentations

Cerian Gibbes, Science on Tap, “Environmental Change and Land Use in Southern Africa.” March 11, 6:30 pm at Jack Quinn’s Pub. Find more information online

Mike Larkin will be giving a lecture for the GOCA "Chit-Chat" series March 13, 2013 on “Magical Geography.” He’ll be paired with a magician. Learn more online.

GES Spring Colloquium (co-sponsored by The Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, and the Women’s and Ethnic Studies Program): Tricial Hazeleger, “Community Fire Recovery and Resilience: How is Gender Relevant?” Tuesday, March 19, 4:30-5:30 pm, UC 302.

UCCS faculty members scheduled to present at the annual 2013 AAG annual meeting in Los Angeles this April 9-14 include Paddington Hodza, with a paper titled, “Experiential GIS and (the return to) knowledge construction in geography;” Curt Holder, with a poster titled, “Effects of leaf hydrophobicity and water droplet retention on rainfall interception;” and David Havlick with a paper on “Geographies of sacrifice: ecology, culture, and meaning at former military sites.” M.A. student Josh Hendrickson will present an illustrated paper (with co-author Cerian Gibbes), “Implementation of a multi-scalar analysis of vegetation diversity within an urban landscape.”
Quick links

Geography & Environmental Studies Website

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Alumni & Friends Association Website

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Alumni Updates

Several Spring 2012 GES graduates have contacted us with news of their gainful employment: Matt Sidor is GIS technician at Sanborn, where his responsibilities include data translation, cartographic editing, data validation, and LiDAR collection and manipulation. Lisa Howell is a GIS analyst intern with the geospatial consultancy Critigen, and Brandon Zimmerman is working as a GIS technician at Garmin International. Another recent graduate, Tyler Duffy, is in the geography MA program at the University of Oregon. James Law is in Washington, D.C., working as an intern at the National Geographic Society. He recently made waves there as one of ten staffers (including interns) to move on to the National Geographic Staff Geography Bee finals, to be held March 13. The winner of the competition, which will be moderated by Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, wins a trip to the Galapagos Islands. Go James!

M.A. graduate (2008) Frank Kinder was recently named by the Colorado Springs Business Journal as one of thirty rising stars in the Colorado Springs area aged 40 or younger. Frank works as a senior conservation specialist for the Colorado Springs Utilities, where he crosses paths with fellow GES M.A. graduate Scott Winters (2012), who is a lead water conservation specialist.

John (JD) Davis (M.A. 2011, B.A. 2009) is a doctoral student in geography at the University of Denver, where he is a graduate teaching assistant. JD is also holding down a job as a biological science technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife north of Denver.

Sarah Martin
(M.A. 2012) continues to work on sustainability issues in Colorado Springs, where she is the Clean Cities Coordinator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southern Colorado Clean Cities Coalition.

Right here on campus, Kevin Gilford (M.A. 2011) is the Assistant Director of the UCCS Office of Sustainability, where he reports to Linda Kogan (M.A. 2005), who is the UCCS Sustainability Director.

Wendi Clouse
(M.A. 2008) completed her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership at UCCS and graduated in fall 2012. We also see Cedar League (M.A. 2009) around campus now and then, as she is a research assistant in the Trauma, Health and Hazards Center at UCCS.

M.A. graduate (2007) Kevin Knapp is the owner of a web-based GIS service company Tierra Plan.

Another business owner, Mark Hesse (M.A. 2010) runs Wildscapes Planning and Design and was recently appointed to serve on the Bureau of Land Management’s Front Range Resource Advisory Council representing dispersed recreational interests.

Joe Lavorini
helps provide for some of these recreational interests in his role as Program Coordinator for Rocky Mountain Field Institute, a Colorado Springs-based non-profit dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in the Southern Rockies.

In Memoriam

It is tempting to focus only on the department’s activities and many accomplishments, but we also want to take time to mention our deep condolences for the passing of several GES students and recent graduates. Getting to know our students is one of the great joys of teaching at UCCS, but our connection to students makes it that much more painful when we lose someone. 2011, 2012, and 2013 found us mourning – and, yes, celebrating the contributions and lives of – too many. We remember well and wish all the best for the families and loved ones of Kate Banzhaf; Dane Vogel; Will Mason; Mark Allan Parr; and Susan Lyn Morrison Giani.


Department of Geography & Environmental Studies | P: 719-255-4054
1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway
Colorado Springs, CO 80918