Class of 2020 Celebration

A Letter to Our Graduates


Dear Geography Class of 2020:

It is hard to imagine how much your lives have changed over the past two and a half months. In late February, you were attending classes. You were likely counting down the days to Spring Break, when you could catch up on some sleep and maybe also some work. For those of you with family in China, you were no doubt already concerned about the novel coronavirus pandemic that would soon sweep through so many countries, including this one. And indeed, the week before your much-deserved break, we held our last in-person classes in the Department of Geography as New York State went into lockdown.

Over the course of the subsequent seven weeks of the semester, faculty, students and staff have all had to adjust to this strange new normal. Most of you will have become very familiar with various remote platforms and adapted to endless hours at the computer receiving instruction and working on assignments. We know that it has not been easy. Finishing a degree is always a challenge, but you should be incredibly proud of yourselves for completing your degree under these extraordinary circumstances.

We are disappointed that we cannot celebrate your achievements in person this year. Please accept our warmest wishes and heartiest congratulations on the completion of your degree. You have worked hard to earn it! We wish you all the best in the future. The world at the moment is full of uncertainty, novel challenges, and long-standing injustices. Whether you have become an expert in International Trade, Geographic Information Science, Earth Systems Science, or Urban and Regional Analysis, you have much to offer the world. We hope that the knowledge and training that you have acquired during your geography training will help you to understand and navigate the road ahead.

Finally, please stay in touch with the Department, Faculty and Staff. We very much appreciate hearing from our graduates, learning about your experiences and victories, and receiving updates on major life events.


Dr. Chris Larsen, Department Chair

Dr. Jared Aldstadt, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Dr. Marion Werner, Director of Graduate Studies

College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Ceremonies

Friday, May 14
1:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 16
Arts, Natural Sciences, Math and Interdisciplinary Programs: 9:30 a.m.
Humanities and Social Sciences: 3:00 p.m.

Ceremony Details

Share in the celebration!

Post on social media using #UBclassof2021

Student Awards

Congratulations to the following students on their academic achievements!

Graduate Awards

Hugh W. Calkins Applied GIS Award

sara-perterson .
Sara Peterson

Charles H.V. Ebert Physical Geography Scholarship

Gregory Bream
Jonathan Townsend

Dr. L. Michael Trapasso Award for Weather and Climate Impacts

Xiangyu Jiang.
Xiangyu Jiang

Abrahams-Woldenberg Field Scholarship

sara-perterson .
Sara Peterson

Other awards

Marissa Bell

-Society of Woman Geographers (SWG) Evelyn L. Pruitt National Fellowship for Dissertation Research

- CAS Dissertation Fellowship, University at Buffalo

-Pre-Doctoral Research Fellowship, International Institute for Science and Technology Policy, George Washington University

Jessica Gilbert

-New York Humanities: Public Humanities Fellowship

Lu Ying

-Student Honors Paper Competition Award in the Remote Sensing Specialty Group of Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in 2020

sara-perterson .
Sara Peterson

-AAG Energy and Environment Specialty Group Dissertation Field Work Award

Chenyang Wei

-Outstanding Student Present Award, NASA Terrestrial Ecology (TE) Science Team Meeting

-(renewed) NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF)

Dameng Yin

-Celebration of Academic Excellence, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

-UB Excellence in Research Scholarship and Creativity Awards 

-UB Sigma Xi "Companions in Zealous Research" Award

Undergraduate Awards

2020 Outstanding Senior

Sean Colby



Charles H.V. Ebert Physical Geography Scholarship

Matthew Morris



McConnell-MacPherson Award in International Trade

Jacob Lewis.
Jacob Lewis



Messages From Our Faculty

Jared Aldstadt.
Jared Aldstadt

“Congratulations Class of 2020 and to all the family and friends that helped along the way!  The pandemic has brought uncertainty, but it has also demonstrated the importance of the connections between people, places, and the environment.  Geographical thinking will serve you well in whatever path you choose. I wish you all the best of luck.”

Ling Bian.
Ling Bian

“Quoting a guest speaker in one of my classes, also a UB alum: ‘Great opportunities are out there for young talents in the new normal following Covid-19. Take the opportunities, own your own growth, and be mindful of your long-term goals.’ ”

Abigail Cooke.
Abigail Cooke

“Class of 2020, congratulations! I have truly enjoyed getting to know so many of you in my courses, working with you on thesis projects or presentations, supervising your internships, and talking with you in office hours. Finishing a degree takes a lot of effort and determination; it is a hard thing to do. Currently we are – collectively, globally -- facing both new challenges and acute amplifications of existing challenges; addressing these is a huge set of hard problems to solve. I hope you will put your energy and determination towards that end. With your degree in hand, you now have a concrete reminder that you can do hard things!“

Stuart Evans.
Stuart Evans

"Congratulations, Class of 2020!  I’ve seen the curiosity with which you’ve approached your studies and the hard work you’ve put in to get here, and I hope you take these traits with you out into the world.  Be well, do good, and I look forward to seeing what you do next."

Trina Hamilton.
Trina Hamilton

“We are really missing celebrating you in person, but please accept this virtual congratulations - you did it! You never know how you will put the knowledge you have gained inside and outside the classroom to use, so stay open to the possibilities. ​It is hard to go out into the unknown, but if this pandemic has taught me anything, it is that building strong foundations of community -- however you define and find those communities, in the physical and virtual worlds -- is the best thing you can do. They will provide you with sustenance, inspiration and care, and hopefully they will also be places for you to give back.”

Yingjie Hu.
Yingjie Hu

“Class of 2020, congratulations on finishing your degrees during this difficult time! It is a great achievement! Best wishes and good luck in all your adventures.”

D. Scott Mackay.
D. Scott Mackay

“This has been an unusually stressful and challenging final semester for your degrees, but you met the challenges head-on. Congratulations on what you have achieved so far, and all the best in your future endeavors.”

Sara Metcalf.
Sara Metcalf

“Congratulations, Graduates! All best wishes for your journey ahead.”

Chris Renschler.
Chris Renschler

“Dear Class of 2020! Congratulations for all your efforts and achievements leading to your well-earned graduation. This is especially true under the most challenging, unimaginable conditions of 2020. Your graduation should be always a moment of pride and happiness - a time to take a break, take a deep breath, reflect on the situation and the new challenges ahead. For those that guided you over the past semesters, you will be always considered part of their family. Best wishes, good luck and stay in touch!”

Peter Rogerson.
Peter Rogerson

“Congratulations to all students graduating from the Department of Geography!”


Xin Tao.
Xin Tao

“Congratulations, Class of 2020. Your graduation is a big day. Graduation means a new start. I wish you a path full of joy and happiness as you move into the future. My best wishes.”

Adam Wilson.
Adam Wilson

“Congratulations!  Now more than ever we need people like you who understand the social and environmental complexities of our increasingly global society.  I know it is a difficult time, but with great upheaval comes great opportunity.  I hope you can hold your head high knowing that you have the foundation you need to move forward and make your mark on the world.”

College of Arts and Sciences Virtual Commencement Ceremony

Friday, May 15 1 p.m. 

This virtual ceremony is for graduate students from all departments within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Saturday, May 16 3 p.m.

This virtual ceremony is for undergraduate students from all departments within the College of Arts and Sciences.