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UNCP’s Bruns tops Geography Bowl competitors

October 13, 2004

Jenny Bruns of Fayetteville won the most valuable undergraduate award in statewide competition of the 2004 Geography Bowl held at UNC Greensboro on October 1.

 geo bowl team

UNCP’s Geography Bowl team - From left: Rocky Bilotta, Leslie Liszcz , Jenny Bruns, Eric Williamson and David Parks

This is the third consecutive year that the undergraduate MVP has been a student from UNCP. Bruns’ performance earned her an invitation to participate with the North Carolina all-star team at the Southeastern division of the Association of American Geographers at Biloxi, Miss., in November.

UNCP’s Eric Williamson also will join the North Carolina team for the regional Geography Bowl competition.

Overall, the UNCP geography team finished third of six teams. In total points scored, however, UNCP was second. Team members were: Rocky Bilotta, a history major, Jenny Bruns, mass communications, Leslie Liszcz, chemistry, David Parks, biology, and Eric Williamson, religion.

Dr. Thomas Ross, team advisor since 1980, said the lack of a geography major at UNCP makes the team’s accomplishments all the more remarkable.

“We had a lot of fun again this year, and performed exceptionally well,” Dr. Ross said. “We compete against far larger universities with geography majors and graduate programs.”

“I was proud of them, and the entire University has something to be proud of,” he said.

Four of the students, Bruns, Parks, Liszcz, and Williamson, are currently enrolled in Dr. Ross' World Regional Geography course. Bilotta is a geography minor, having transferred to UNCP last year.

Jenny Bruns 

Top undergraduate competitor Jenny Bruns accepts congratulations from Dr. Neal Lineback of Appalachian State University.

Bruns is a native of Canada who resides in Fayetteville. She was previously enrolled at UNCP in 2000, but her husband's military obligations resulted in a transfer. She recently returned to the area and enrolled again.

Eric Williamson, a religion major from Laurinburg, finished seventh in overall scoring and fifth among undergraduates. Bruns, who is a public relations and journalism major, said she joined the team because it sounded like fun.

”There were two reasons I got involved with the geography team: First and foremost, Dr. Ross asked me; and second, I thought it would be fun to meet new people,” Bruns said. “I didn't prepare nearly enough! I studied my atlas and tried to look at the world from new perspectives, such as which countries are associated with which bodies of water, and what surrounds the borders of countries.”

However, Bruns proved a cool customer in the heat of competition.

“I felt absolutely no pressure for exactly that reason, facing geography majors and grad students, because there was no way that our team would have a chance of winning anything so we could just relax and have fun!” she said. “We laughed about it in the van on the way up to Greensboro. We looked at the bowl as a social outing.”

Bruns said the questions were difficult, and she answered some correctly that surprised her.

“A professor from UNCG was surprised that I knew the answer "occidental" to the question asking for the Westerner term, but it was my answer of ‘Faroe Islands’ near the end that surprised me because I knew it was the answer but I couldn't believe that I knew it,” she said. “I even answered it saying, ‘It can't be Faroe Islands.’ I couldn't believe that I was doing so well; the whole day was surreal.”

On a more serious note, Bruns said knowledge of world geography is more important to Americans than ever.

“In this global village, and especially in this salad bowl called the United States, it's important to know and understand different human cultures so we can get along better, and ultimately, maybe one day the world may actually see peace,” she said. “I realize this is probably idealistic thinking, but I hope not.”

For more information about the Geography Bowl or about UNCP geography programs, please contact Dr. Ross at 910.521.6218 or at