Student Achievements

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 2017 Program Awards

Director's Award for Service to the Program

Aleece Rose, BA Sustainable Urban Development (2017)

Aleece plans to work for a company and use her talents to make a visible impact on the world.  Earning a masters degree may be in her future. In 2016-17, she was a student rep on the UWT Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Sustainability, Transportation Advisory Committee and was behind the campus effort for the Green for Green campaign.  She is also involved in many community groups including MOPS Leadership Team, Charity Bus Rides, Military Spouse Community Event Team.  

Jacob Cohen, BA Urban Studies (2018)

Jacob has been involved in Civitas since Autumn 2015 and has served as the secretary this academic year.  He was involved in the Husky Halloween and attended the Vancouver Urban Excursion 2017. He recently joined Project Earth. Jacob is interested in pursuing an internship that will help him find a niche in the field. He has a strong interest in urban design and wants to pursue a masters in a related field. He plans to graduate in Spring 2018 with a major in Urban Studies, GIS Certificate, and a minor in sustainability.

Director's Award for Service to the Community 

Ben Fincher, MA Community Planning (2018)

Ben is currently a graduate student in the Urban Studies’ Community Planning program, a GIS certificate recipient from UWT, and has a BA in International/Latin American Studies from Abilene Christian University in his home state of Texas. He is also a Federal Way Public Schools AmeriCorps alum, where he worked as an academic tutor for Sunnycrest Elementary, helping students gain beginning mathematics competency, and giving ancillary support with reading and writing in English and Spanish.

He is a member of the Safe Streets Campaign team, a social service nonprofit located here in Tacoma. As a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Intern, his work plays an integral part in how Safe Streets is involved in empowering active participation from community members in the planning and design process. His work is comprised of several roles for this organization. From quantitative data gathering for Safe Streets’ neighborhoods and the South Sound region, to facilitating community-driven mapping projects, the compilation of his work at this organization is constructed around bringing social equity to diverse neighborhoods.

Ben hopes to transition his academic studies at UW Tacoma and his community work at Safe Streets into pursuing a PhD in the field of Geography or Planning. His current interest is focusing on community empowerment through the implementation of counter-mapping to exhibit ways vulnerable, disenfranchised population’s experience space.

Mattie Wheeler, MS in Geospatial Technologies (2017)

Mattie is graduating in summer 2017 with a Master of Science in Geospatial Technologies. Upon Graduation, Mattie plans to work within the community to propel environmental awareness, social equity, and recreation through the deployment of Geospatial Technologies.  Her community activities can be characterized by her efforts to bring together a community of MS students and engagement with the broader community. 

Her MS project, Shelter Services Applications: Spatial tools for increased social service efficiency, itself is a direct engagement with a perceived need. Homelessness is a serious issue within Washington state (and nationally). Mattie's project looks at leveraging spatial technologies to ease the burden on homeless shelter workers and, in so doing, to increase the services available to those in need.

Director's Award for Outstanding Research or Project

Tim Barnes, GIS Certificate Program (2017)

Project: Analysis of Risk Associated with Hazardous Materials Shipments-by-Rail in Washington State.  Tim will be attending the UW Tacoma Masters of Science in Geospatial Technologies 2017-2018 cohort. 

Chris Suh, BA in Sustainable Urban Development (2017)

Currently working on an Independent Research Project that is a combination of developing interviewing techniques within the topic of grocery store availability in the Downtown Tacoma area. He is currently working for the Minority Business Development Agency (federal agency working with City of Tacoma Community and Economic Development Department) as a Program Technician.

Chad Chambers, MS in Geospatial Technologies (2017)

Chad is a current student in the MS in Geospatial Technologies program and is graduating in summer 2017.  After graduation, he plans to continue his career at the Department of State. He is also considering pursing a PhD.    Academic research: He is studying the negative implications of night light and non-permanent housing settlements in McKenzie and Williams County. These counties are located inside the Williston Basin of North Dakota and are known by many as a place where unsustainable hydraulic fracking occurs to extract oil.  In this research, he argues that nature is being exploited by the inherent flaws of profit driven imperatives superimposing land as a commodifiable object, not a fixed a precious component of the social-ecological system. 

Garrett Stone, MA in Community Planning (2018)

Garrett is a current student in the MA in Community Planning program and plans to graduate in 2018.  After graduation, he is interested in pursuing a Doctorate degree within the Geography discipline and exploring options.  He is currently contemplating on the existence of boundaries and speculating in the interactions that occur at those physical and social edges.

Director's Award for Academic Excellence

Kristine Coman, BA in Urban Studies (2017)

Kristine is a current Urban Studies major with a formal option in Community Development and Planning and is in the UW Tacoma Global Honors Program.  In the fall, she plans to attend grad school full time in the Urban Studies Community Planning program.  This year, she received several academic scholarships including the Urban Studies General Scholarship $2,500, Global Honors $750, and Fuchs Foundation Scholarship $2,500. Last Summer, under the guidance of Professor Ishem, Kristine completed a research paper titled Development and Displacement in conjunction with Chris and Kenji LLC.  With research parameters determined by the Tacoma Housing Authority, this report was intended to establish a Hilltop history timeline as well as provide development without displacement options for the Hilltop Subarea Plan.

Her academics have gone beyond the classroom as well.  S e was one of the first members of the Tacoma Mall Neighborhood Steering Committee and planned its first block party.  She also presented her Loop Road Art Plan for a Tacoma Mall Subarea Plan Stakeholder’s Meeting, which was part of a Community Development class project. Her plan emphasized that the addition of art to the Loop Road would increase human, social and political capital for the community. Lastly, she started an organic garden for her neighborhood friends and family on an empty plot next to where she lives. The plan is to have fruit trees, berries and year-round produce.   She hopes to spread whole food awareness and the joy of gardening while feeding people who live around her.

Leslie Kirk, BA in Sustainable Urban Development (2018)

Leslie is a current student in the Sustainable Urban Development major.  Given her plans to graduate in 2018, she is taking advantage of the time to explore her options for the future.  Her immediate goal is to begin the GIS Certificate program in the fall of 2017.   At the completion of her degree and GIS Certificate, she would like to have a job and/or begin a Masters’ Degree either in GIS or in Public Administration   As an older student and single mother, she accepts that learning is a process and may come across a class or program that will alter these notions.  She am always open to new opportunities!

In the coming year, Leslie plans to become more involved and was recently selected to an officer position in Civitas as a Community Outreach Coordinator. 

Anneka Olson, MA in Community Planning (2018)

Anneka is a current student in the Master of Arts in Community Planning program and plans to graduate in spring 2018.  She is an intern with the City of Tacoma's Office of Historic Preservation, working on the Prairie Line Trail Interpretive Project. She is thrilled to be a member of the inaugural student cohort in the Masters of Community Planning at UW Tacoma, and looks forward to her remaining year in the program!  After graduation, she hopes to utilize the MA program's toolbox of new skills in the nonprofit, philanthropic, or public sector to maximize community self-determination.  She is especially passionate about place-based storytelling, innovative community engagement, and strategic communications work with organizations mobilizing for social change

Past work as an active transportation advocate and bicycle educator in New Orleans, Seattle, and Tacoma.  Member of the Active Transportation Community of Interest of the Puyallup Watershed Initiative.

Member of Social Justice Fund Northwest, a foundation that engages donor-advocates to work towards more democratic grant-making and fund innovative community organizing work. 

Washington Trust for Historic Preservation - PreserveWA 2017 Fellow. 

Christina Chelf, MS in Geospatial Technologies (2017)

Christina is a current student in the MS in Geospatial Technologies program and plans to graduate in summer 2017. She will be continuing her job at GeoEngineers here in Tacoma as a GIS Analyst but will keep a lookout for jobs that will utilize more of the geospatial technologies that I have learned over the past year. She hope to become a GIS Developer who creates web and mobile applications for clients.

This year, she took first place in both the Metro Parks Tacoma 2017 Hackathon and the Dick Thomas Student Presentation and Competition.  She is a member of Washington Women in GIS and Technology monthly meetup, and member of Social Events and Booklet Conference Committees for The Washington State Chapter of The Urban & Regional Information Systems Association (WAURISA)Lastly, she is involved with the Skills that Shine Mentorship program put on by the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

Catalyst Award

Rebecca Dever, BA Sustainable Urban Development (2018)

Rebecca Dever is a current student in the Sustainable Urban Development major.  Her goals include going to graduate school and to work toward ending homelessness and making the world a safer and more equitable place for generations to come. She is raising two boys, Christopher (3 year old) and Zachary (1 year old). Christopher enjoys painting flowers while Rebecca volunteers in the giving garden. 

Akeyla Jimerson, BA Urban Studies (2017)

Akeyla is a current student in the Urban Studies program and plans to graduate in 2017. Her plan after graduation is to work in community development and planning in transportation. Her long-term goal is to start her own non-profit to support urban communities.  She is part of the Children Alliance organization. The Children Alliance is an organization that helps low-income families with pre School opportunities, medical assistance, and other resources.

University Awards


2017 UW Tacoma President's Medal

Taylor Jones, BA Sustainable Urban Development, & Communication (2017)

Each year the UW Tacoma President’s Medalist is selected from graduating seniors with the most distinguished academic record. The medalist is recognized during the Commencement Ceremony in on June 14.  Candidates, one from each UW campus, must be in the top 2% of the graduating class in their academic program and have either graduated (in autumn or winter quarter) or submitted a graduation application to graduate (in spring or summer quarter) during the respective academic year. This year, the 2017 President’s Medalist is Taylor Jones. Taylor will receive a B.A. with a double-major in Sustainable Urban Development and Communication, and a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. She transferred to UW Tacoma from Evergreen State College. While at UWT, she led several student organizations, participated in the revitalization of the campus community garden, served on the campus sustainability committee, and helped the City of Tacoma develop a report of manufacturing trends and an inventory of industrial lands. Read the full Tacoma Weekly article here.

Husky 100: A Tri-Campus Award

Ricky Clousing, BA in Sustainable Urban Development (2016)

The Husky 100 recognizes 100 UW undergraduate and graduate students from Bothell, Seattle and Tacoma in all areas of study who are making the most of their time at the UW. Excelling both inside and outside the classroom at UW Tacoma, Ricky has demonstrated a discovery mindset and capacity for leadership that has not gone unnoticed. A multiple dean’s list recipient and officer of CIVITAS and Project Earth, he has remained active on campus while raising a family. He is interested in how ecological design can influence urban planning and as a student traveled to Portland, Detroit and New York City to learn how cities are leading the way in climate action. Learn more about the Husky 100.


NSF I-Corps grant winner

Korey Padilla, BA Urban Studies (2016)

Padilla and his team received the grant for their mobile app. The program based functions as a kind of photo-based review system. Users will be able to view and save geotagged pictures of business cards and use a map to see which is closest. "Receiving this grant is really exciting.  It means a group of people at CoMotion, the Buerk Entrepreneurial Center [ part of UW Seattle's Foster School of Business], and NSF thought we had a pretty good idea and that it was worth investing some resources for customer research and development," said Padilla.  Read the full article.

2015 GIS-PRO Student Competition Winner

Matt Seto, UW Tacoma Urban Studies, GIS Certificate graduate (2015) and UW Tacoma Computer Science major

Matt's GIS Certificate research project was chosen as the top undergraduate GIS project of the year at the annual Washington Urban and Regional Information Systems Association  (WAURISA) conference held in Spokane, WA in October 2015.

View presentation Risk Areas in Western Washington State YouTube

2015 Udall Scholar

Faith Ramos (Sustainable Urban Development, BA ’16)

UW Tacoma's first ever Udall Scholar has been awarded to Faith Ramos.  She’s one of only 50 students nationally to receive this honor. Faith worked for fifteen years in arts and other non-profits before coming to UW Tacoma, including for National Parks programs that bring economically disadvantaged youth to the parks.  She also has a strong background in filmmaking and singlehandedly produced, shot, edited, and narrated the documentary “Heart & Sold,” which addresses gentrification in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.

She is currently an Urban Forestry intern for the City of Seattle and hopes to work on environmental justice issues long-term. As an undergraduate researcher, Faith is examining the links between urban forests and human health. Her research is guided by Drs. Matthew Kelley and Linda Ishem.


The Udall Scholarship awards 50 scholarships to sophomore and junior level college students committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care.  The Udall Foundation seeks future leaders across a wide spectrum of environmental fields, including policy, engineering, science, education, urban planning and renewal, business, health, justice, and economics.  (April 2015)

2015 Bonderman Fellow

Kevin Bogue (Sustainable Urban Development, BA ‘15)

Kevin has a strong interest in the construction, environmental stewardship, and continued development of urban centers. As a Bonderman Fellow, he plans to explore an array of urban environments throughout Southeast Asia, Turkey, as well as Southern and Eastern Europe.

He hopes to return from his excursion with new and exciting ideas about how to better serve his community’s social, economic, and environmental needs through more sustainable approaches to urban planning and development.


The Bonderman Travel Fellowship provides $20,000 to fourteen UW students every year for eight months of solo travel to at least six different countries in two main world regions. Visit the Bonderman website or contact Cindy Schaarschmidt, Director, Student Fellowships & Awards for more information. (April 2015)

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