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Blugold senior geography student earns top honor from American Association of Geographers

| Denise Olson

Photo caption: Later this spring, learn more about the outstanding research efforts from senior geospatial analytics and technology major Matte Dewitte. He will be one of several seniors highlighted in our May series of graduate feature stories.

A senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was among the geography students and faculty nationwide honored by the American Association of Geographers as its 2022 award recipients for outstanding contributions and accomplishments in the geographic field.

Matthew Dewitte, a geospatial analysis and technology major from Apple Valley, Minnesota, is one of three recipients of the Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Achievement Award in Geographic Science. The other recipients attend the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Dewitte, who has conducted three major collaborative student-faculty research projects in the department of geography and anthropology, is humbled by the award and credits amazing faculty with creating the opportunities for which he earned this honor.

“An honor like this means a lot to me, but what I am most proud of is that the hardworking professors and staff in the UWEC geography department can share in this award with me,” Dewitte says.

“Every single part of my academic journey has been shared with them, and each of my research mentors has always offered me openness and guidance along the way. What makes our department so special is not the curriculum or the technology used, but the people who fill the halls and classrooms.”  

One of those research mentors is Dr. Matthew Haffner, an assistant professor of geography at UW-Eau Claire, who submitted the nomination of Dewitte to the AAG. He describes what makes Dewitte such a deserving candidate for this award.  

“The AAG Marble-Boyle Undergraduate Achievement Award in Geographic Science aims to recognize excellence in academic performance by undergraduate students who are putting forth a strong effort to bridge geographic science and computer science,” Haffner says.

“Matt has done exactly this as evidenced by his coursework choices, undergraduate research and personal projects outside of class. He is one of the most gifted and driven geospatial analysis and technology majors I've seen in my time at UW-Eau Claire.”

Dewitte, who will graduate in May 2022, also has served as a teaching assistant in two introductory level course sections of geographic information systems (GIS) and worked with Haffner to create an application that teaches spatial autocorrelation for GEOG 370: Quantitative Methods in Geography.