UNCP student is MVP of North Carolina's Geography Bowl


 geography bowl

Appalachain State geographer and co-coordinator of the Geography Bowl, Dr. Neal Lineback presents MVP Christina Whittaker with her plaque.

UNC Pembroke's Christina Whittaker was named most valuable undergraduate in the North Carolina Geography Bowl, held October 2 in Greensboro. She is a senior, Social Students Education major from Manassas, Va., who plans to teach high school history after graduation.

Whittaker finished third overall, competing against many graduate students. Teams came from UNC Charlotte, East Carolina University, N.C. Central University, Appalachian State University and UNCP.

Whittaker, who said she poured over maps of all kinds with her father as a youngster, said she was nervous about the competition.

"The graduate students almost made me cry with fear," she said. "They were all working towards specific geography degrees that seemed so important and intelligent. In fact, at one point I looked at my teammate Jen Hillman and told her, 'we're dead.'"

Far from it, as Whittaker's lifelong love of geography and a timely class paid off.

"I did no studying for this competition," she said. "What proved to be very helpful was Professor (Kay) Ehrlich's World Regional Geography class that I took over the past summer."

The senior said Geography Bowl was great fun, but it may prove profitable too, she explained.

"UNC Greensboro pulled me aside and handed me some information on their graduate program," Whittaker said. "I also had dinner with the former head of the department who answered my questions and encouraged me to attend their program."

Whittaker said she is undecided about graduate school, but she has one date on her calendar that she will not miss.

In November, Whittaker will join the North Carolina all-star team, which will compete in regional competition against teams from nine states. The competition will be held at the Association of American Geographers Southeast Division meeting in Charlotte.

UNCP Geography Professor, Dr. Tom Ross, who has led teams into Geography Bowl competition for many years, said Whittaker is one of his best ever.

"Christina is a very bright young student," Dr. Ross said. "She held her own against many students in post graduate geography programs.

"I am very proud of her and our entire team," he said. "The Geography Bowl is always a very positive experience for our students, and they have fun too."

Whittaker agrees. "Everyone is there to have a good time and that is exactly what happened," she said. "I would encourage anyone who would like to attend to come next year because they will have a blast!"

Dr. Martin Farley, Dr. Ehrlich, and Dr. Ross accompanied the team to Greensboro. Dr. Ross and Ehrlich served as judges, and Farley was a moderator.

Whittaker is the daughter of Bill and Helga Whittaker, and she has a younger sister, Kathleen.