Department of Geography News — Fall 2023
Message from the Chair
Would you recognize campus if you were to visit today? Four new dorms opened in August. Longstreet Theater is undergoing a major renovation currently. Much the same can be said for the city of Columbia as a whole: growth and change. But there is a constant. A vibrant and productive Department of Geography! Quality teaching, sound mentorship, and student involvement in research remain our primary focus.
We have two new faculty profiled below, and share the accomplishments of two of our undergraduate and graduate alumni. We would love to hear from you to be able to broadcast your successes, too. Emails are always welcome, so drop me a line at email@example.com.
We are sad to share that after two decades of service to the department and university, Kevin Remington has retired as the Campus GIS Coordinator. We are happy to report that he and his family have landed well in Oregon, and we are very fortunate to have his wife, Tara Remington, teaching a number of our GIS courses remotely. You can send retirement well wishes to Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for supporting our mission of great geography teaching and research and taking the time to read about how you can engage further with us.
— Jerry Mitchell, professor & department chair
Undergraduate Alumni Spotlight — Finn Hagerty
Finn Hagerty is a 2021 graduate with a BS in Geography and a minor in Informatics. At USC, his focus was in geographic information systems. Interested in geospatial analytics, Finn performed undergraduate research at the Geoinformation and Big Data Lab, with a specific interest in human migration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finn is a data driven individual who also loves cartography, so he feels right at home working as a GIS professional.
Finn has worked for two state agencies in South Carolina; as a GIS Intern at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (State Climatology Office) and a GIS Analyst at the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Whether it was creating operations dashboards for Highway Patrol during emergency events, or creating weekly drought status maps for farmers, Finn enjoys creating products to help the local community. Working for the Department of Public Safety, he was able to further expand his GIS knowledge in many ways. This includes creating scripts to automate data for collision and fatality dashboards, managing GIS servers, and conducting statistical research projects for the Office of Highway Safety Justice.
Currently, he works for Hudson County, New Jersey as a GIS Specialist. Hudson County is a heavily urbanized county outside of New York City. As a result, Finn's GIS projects have entered new paths, including creating mass-transit and local election maps, as well creating maps for grant applications to facilitate funding for urban planning projects. Finn credits the University of South Carolina Geography Department for the opportunity to learn several different GIS software, as well providing students with the opportunity to work with local agencies.
Graduate Alumni Spotlight — Sarah Jackson
Sarah Jackson (Ph.D. Geography, 2023) attended the University of South Carolina from 2019 to 2023. Originally from Southwestern Illinois, Sarah worked as a Geospatial Analyst in the St. Louis area and as a Geography Instructor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville before starting her Ph.D. While at USC, she assisted in research at the Hazards Vulnerability and Resilience Institute (HVRI). She also served in the USC Geography Graduate Student Association’s leadership.
Throughout the Ph.D. program, Sarah received several accolades including the Rhude Patterson Fellowship from the USC Graduate School Trustees and the John Fraser Hart Award for best Ph.D. paper from the Southeastern Division of the Association of American Geographers. Her dissertation research project investigated the role of local geographic contextual elements on tornado risk perceptions and protective actions. The study applied a novel social science conceptualization of tornado risk to help inform emergency management and community-based planning strategies. Sarah’s scholarship as a human-environmental geographer focuses on social vulnerability, risk perceptions, and community capacities to prepare, respond, recover, and mitigate environmental hazards. Her research has analyzed the spatial disparities of COVID-19 outcomes in the U.S., incorporating resilience, vulnerability, and pandemic mitigation measures.
In Fall 2023, Sarah began as an Assistant Professor in the Emergency and Disaster Management Program at Western Carolina University. She teaches undergraduate courses on risk and vulnerability assessments, weather-related disaster mitigation, GIS in emergency planning, and environmental justice. She and her husband spend their free time exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and hiking to the countless waterfalls across Western North Carolina.
Faculty Spotlight — Yuhao Kang
Yuhao Kang is an assistant professor in GIScience, leading the GISense Lab. His research mainly focuses on Human-centered Geospatial Data Science to understand human experience at place and to develop ethical and responsible geospatial artificial intelligence (GeoAI) approaches. In particular, by using large-scale street view images, social media data, human mobility data, and advanced GeoAI approaches, he measured and analyzed human subjective perceptions (e.g., whether a neighborhood is perceived as a safe, lively, and beautiful place), and emotions (e.g., happiness) at places. He further examined geographic factors that contribute to these subjective experiences to advance our knowledge of human-environment relationships. Also, his work paid attention to geoethical issues such as monitoring perception and model bias and protecting geoprivacy.
Yuhao teaches GIS-based modeling, WebGIS, and quantitative geography. His courses are designed to provide content along with hands-on labs using GIS software and programming scripts for geographic problem-solving. By exposing students to cutting-edge geospatial technologies, Yuhao’s courses provide students opportunities for their future careers in geospatial technology.
Faculty Spotlight — Sicheng Wang
Sicheng Wang researches and teaches in GIScience. Specifically, Sicheng’s research topics include urban, regional, and community planning, transportation, infrastructure, and emerging technologies. His recent teaching efforts have been focused on various GISciences courses, including Cartography, the Digital Earth, Advanced GIS, and GIS in Transportation.
Sicheng’s research focuses on two streams: (1) the social, economic, and environmental impact of emerging technologies, including autonomous vehicles, ridesourcing services, and other shared mobilities based on artificial intelligence algorithms and the Internet; and (2) equity, social inclusion, and well-being related to transportation and other infrastructures. He applies advanced GIS and cartographic technologies to analyze big spatiotemporal data. He worked on an NSF project “Prepare Future Workforce for the Era of Automated Vehicles” as a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University, and was an urban planner for several years before pursuing his academic career.
Support Our Mission
USC’s Department of Geography is successful in part due to the generous support of our alumni and friends. Your donations fund scholarships, student research travel, and the incoming graduate student field experience among others. If you’d like to help support our geography students and programs, you can visit our Giving page.
College of Arts and Sciences
As an alum of the Department of Geography, you are also part of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. To connect with the College and other departments, visit the college’s home page or read the college’s latest news.