Students shine at Geography symposium

UNBC Stories
Two people outside at UNBC's Prince George campus with the Agora courtyard in the background.
Jessica Froese (left) won the Best Master’s Student Research Presentation and Mariah Kashmark won the Best Undergraduate Presentation at the Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers Symposium.

UNBC students came away with three of six awards at the 65th Symposium of the Western Division of the Canadian Association of Geographers in mid-March. A delegation of 25 undergraduate and graduate students and six faculty members participated in the symposium, named Relevance.

Large group of people at the Prince George campus.

Mariah Kashmark was awarded the Best Undergraduate Presentation, Jessica Froese took home honours for the Best Master’s Student Research Presentation, and Saba Asadolah presented the Best PhD Research Poster.

Kashmark, who graduated in December 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Geography specializing in water and is supervised by Geography Senior Lab Instructor Matt McLean, says UNBC participants fared well because of the strong support system in place initiated by faculty.

“We were offered practice sessions ahead of time and received great advice from faculty members,” explains Kashmark. “I have been lucky to build great relationships with my professors and colleagues. They have taught me the importance of networking, effective public speaking, and critical-thinking skills essential for success.”

Froese, who is in the first year of an MA in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (Geography) and is working with Dr. Greg Halseth, echoes Kashmark’s sentiments.

“I love being inspired by other UNBC students who I may not have connected with otherwise,” she says. “The department culture is so supportive and builds your confidence for events like these.”

Each year, the Department of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Geography, Earth, and Environmental Sciences (GEES) Student Club work to fundraise, prepare, and practice for attendance at this regional conference. They rent a bus and make the road trip to host universities such as the University of Lethbridge, University of Victoria, and Okanagan College this year.

A student stands next to their research poster

“Our students always benefit from great preparation, mentorship, practice sessions, and dedicated faculty members who support them from start to finish,” says Dr. Catherine Nolin, the department chair. “We are always so proud of the students’ professionalism as they serve as ambassadors for our department and university.”  

Asadolah (pictured at right) says the learning environment at UNBC has fostered her development as she pursues a PhD in in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (Atmospheric Science), supervised by Dr. Peter Jackson.

“One of the greatest things UNBC has given me is this knack for looking at problems from all angles,” she says. “It's not just about carbon exchanges in our field; it's understanding how everything connects – the environment, society, technology, you name it.”

The delegation attended sessions covering a vast array of topics, from mapping, technological advances and social justice issues to migrations, flood response and housing. These global challenges require local solutions that take an interdisciplinary approach, something Asadolah says is front of mind at UNBC.

“We learn how to mesh different ideas and perspectives together. This didn't just help with my research; it totally changed how I present and talk about my work,” she says. “It's like having a toolbox where every tool is from a different discipline, making the research stronger and more relatable. It’s a game changer.”