Awards & Financial Aid

Awards and Financial Aid for Undergraduate Students

The UCSB Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship should be your first stop when considering financial aid. Such aid can take the form of grants (from the federal government, the UC system, or UCSB itself), scholarships, or loans. The Money Matters guide produced by the UCSB division of Student Affairs is a tool to help you navigate your finances day to day and access emergency help when you need it. It includes sections on sound money management and ways to ensure that your income is adequate to meet your needs. Because unforeseen events and emergencies do happen, the Money Matters guide also offers information on staff contacts, emergency funding, and low-cost services in the local community. Department of Geography Awards: The following awards are made by the Awards and Nominations Committee or the Chair, and the annual number and dollar amount of awards are at the Committee’s discretion.


The Akella Family Scholarship in Geography:  The Akella Family Scholarship is used to support undergraduate students based on compelling family/personal circumstances and academic achievement. Highest consideration is given to students who have unique and challenging obligations, such as re-entry/non-traditional students, extended family responsibilities, etc. The award is available to all declared Geography majors (first year, as well as continuing students). The number and amount of Akella Family Scholarships given are at the discretion of the Awards and Nominations Committee, but they are in the range of $500-$1,000 and are presented at the Geography Department Reception, following the June graduation ceremony.


The Nicolas Bourdakis Memorial Award: The Bourdakis Fund was established after the tragic death of Nicolas, who died in February 2001 when struck by a car in Isla Vista. He had just declared Geography as his major. This fund helps to keep Nick’s memory alive by supporting future generations of outstanding undergraduate students in Geography at UCSB. The $1,000 award is given to a newly declared Geography major with the highest GPA and is presented at the Geography Department Reception, following the June graduation ceremony.


The Jack & Laura Dangermond Undergraduate Fellowship: Jack and Laura Dangermond are the co-founders and President and Executive Vice President respectively of ESRI (Environmental Science Research Institute). The Jack & Laura Dangermond Undergraduate Fellowship is awarded to a promising undergraduate Geography major. These prizes are awarded annually to undergraduates at UCSB based on performance in the Geography 176 sequence and are a significant honor for the very best undergrad student in GIS. Up to $2,000 may be awarded. The awards are presented at the Geography Department Annual Awards Colloquium.


The Jack & Laura Dangermond Travel Scholarship: Thanks to the generosity of Jack and Laura Dangermond, multiple travel expense awards are available to help qualified undergraduate and graduate students present GIS-related work at conferences and workshops. Allowable expenses are the actual cost of transportation (airline ticket or equivalent ground transportation to and from the conference or meeting) lodging, and conference registration costs. Calls for applications for Dangermond Travel Scholarships are usually made in August (Aug. 11–21) for the late Summer/Fall Quarters, November (Nov. 17–27) for the Winter Quarter, and March (Mar. 16–26) for the Spring and early Summer Quarters. A generic application form can be downloaded here. Please submit all applications by email to ( by the appropriate deadline.


The Leal Anne Kerry Mertes Scholarship: Leal Mertes was a Geography faculty member who investigated rivers, wetlands, and floodplains globally. Her interests spanned the dynamics of river channel, floodplain, and wetlands interactions; the remote sensing of wetland environments; and the long term evolution of large river systems. She also devoted a great deal of effort to educational issues, including curriculum design and assessment. This fund was established to honor Leal Mertes by supporting UCSB students (graduate or undergraduate) who are planning or are engaged in field research. The scholarship is awarded to talented and deserving UCSB students enrolled in UCSB departments where fieldwork is an integral component of applied academics. For the purpose of this scholarship, “field work” is defined as a field activity devoted to studying, observing, sampling, investigating, or measuring natural or human phenomena. The funds support both the scholarly activities and the expenses associated with the award (for example: stipends, travel expenses, research supplies, and research preparation costs). Successful applicants must meet the following criteria: Applicants must be in good academic standing at UCSB, applicants must submit a 2-page proposal with a separate budget describing the field work to be accomplished with the support of the Scholarship, and applicants must provide a letter of support from a faculty member or researcher. The Geography Department Nominations and Awards Committee reserves the right to fund none, one, or more proposals in a given year The amount of the award will be based on the individual recipient’s proposal and is anticipated to be in the range of $1,000-$2,500 that will be allotted at the discretion of the Committee. Proposals will be assessed on merit, with allowance for financial need. Awards must be used for the purposes outlined in the proposal or as approved by the student’s advisor. Calls for award applications are made in the Winter Quarter, and the award is presented at the last Colloquium of Spring Quarter.


The Landon Romano Book Scholarship: Landon Romano, a 1999 graduate of the Department of Geography, initially became interested in geography after taking Geography 5. He established the textbook scholarship fund in order to give something back to the department that made such a positive difference to his career. The funds are used to pay for textbooks used by undergrad students in Geography 3A, 3B, or 5, and calls for applications are made at the beginning of each quarter. Applicants are asked to write a short essay of approximately 100 words, describing why they chose a Geography course/major and what interests them most about geography. Successful applicants receive the UCSB Bookstore cost of the applicable textbooks, usually in the range of $100-$150, within the first three weeks of class.


The Samantha C. Ying Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) Scholarship: The Samantha C. Ying GTU Scholarship is made possible by Killian and Joan Ying who created the award in honor of their daughter Samantha upon the occasion of completing her Ph.D.. Samantha Ying had an outstanding undergraduate career at UCSB, graduating with a BS in both Microbiology and Physical Geography in 2004. She won the Robert L. Sinsheimer Award in Molecular Biology, and she received the top honors of Outstanding Achievement, Distinction in the Major, and the Chair’s Award for Excellence in Geography, as well as being awarded Geography’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Undergraduate Fellowship. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth System Science in 2011. The Samantha C. Ying GTU Scholarship will be used to support undergraduate students based on the criteria of academic achievement and compelling family/personal circumstances. Highest consideration should be given to those students who are active or contributing members of the Theta Nu Chapter (The UCSB Geography Club) of Gamma Theta Upsilon. The award is available to all declared Geography majors who meet the above criteria regardless of class standing (freshmen are eligible). Calls for applications for the $1,000 award are made in Winter Quarter, and the award is presented at the last Colloquium of the Spring Quarter.


The Chair’s Award for Excellence in Geography: The Chair’s Award for Excellence in Geography is awarded to the graduating senior who has majored in Geography and has attained the highest overall grade point average. The $200 award is presented at the Geography Department Reception, following the June graduation ceremony. Certificates of Distinction and Outstanding Achievement, both based upon superior academic performance, are also presented at this time.