Published: May 10, 2021
Emily Yeh

Greetings to the CU Boulder Geography community, near and far! I’m writing to you at the end of an exhausting academic year. This spring our students, staff, and faculty have navigated the ongoing COVID19 pandemic and its associated consequences of isolation, uncertainty, and financial stress. We have also faced a tense and turbulent national situation, marked among other things by an insurrection, police violence especially against black people, a surge in anti-Asian hate crimes, and locally, a mass shooting that led to ten deaths in a grocery store frequented by many members of this department.  

Despite these often-overwhelming circumstances, our students, staff, and faculty have persevered with learning, teaching, research, and work. We offer a tremendous congratulations to our graduates – and all family members and friends who have supported them along the way. Although we have not been able to hold in-person commencement ceremonies since the start of the pandemic, we expect campus restrictions to be lifted soon, and would be very happy for our alumni, whether recent and from long ago, to return to visit us.        

Indeed, you’ll see that we’re highlighting alumni in this edition of our newsletter. Our students are very interested in learning more about how alumni have made careers whether in the non-profit sector, private sector, government, and academia. In fact, a number of our current graduate students would be particularly interested in connecting with alumni. If you are open to mentoring undergraduates or graduates, announcing job postings, providing career advice, or otherwise would like to connect with students, please fill out this quick webform or join our “geog-alumni-connect” listserve. Join by sending an email to "". Leave the "Subject" field blank. The body of your email should contain only "SUBSCRIBE geog-alumni-connect Your Name". For example: SUBSCRIBE geog-alumni-connect John Doe. After you send, an email response will be sent to you notifying you of your inclusion in the list. Your email can be mostly composed for you by using this link. If you have any questions, please contact current doctoral student Xiaoling Chen. Of course, you can also contact me directly, and we always welcome your news, input and involvement!

Though this newsletter focuses on alumni, students and faculty have been as busy as ever.  In addition to undergraduates completing their degrees with honors and with distinction, several of our undergraduate majors received UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) awards this spring. Seven graduate students successfully completed their MAs and PhDs this spring, despite obstacles to research presented by the pandemic. Among faculty, Professor Holly Barnard and Professor Morteza Karimzadeh were both recently awarded Seed Grants from CU Boulder’s Research & Innovation Office for their projects on diagnosing forest water stress with videos of tree motion, and studying neighborhood geographic disparities in post-pandemic consumer and business behavior, respectively. Faculty members continue to be sought after for their expertise, whether it is Waleed Abdalati delivering testimony to Congress about climate change, Noah Molotch discussing increased winter snowmelt in the US west with news organizations, Jennifer Balch speaking on the radio about the consequences of climate change on wildfires, John O’Loughlin writing in the Washington Post on the attitudes in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, or myself, speaking on a podcast about the cultural and political dimensions of climate change in Tibet.

Finally, I’ve been serving as interim chair this year, after an earlier stint in this position (2014-2018). I’m delighted to announce that Professor Jennifer Fluri will become Chair of the department this July. As I step out of that role, I’ll be stepping into the position of president of the American Association of Geographers, after having served as its vice-president this year.