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  • APCG Distinguished Service Award

Geographer and educator Stephen Cunha is this year's recipient of the Distinguished Service Award of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers.

Steve has a dual bachelor's degree in Geography and in Conservation & Resource Science from UC Berkeley, along with a master's and PhD in Geography from UC Davis. Early in his career, he spent a decade working as a seasonal national park ranger in Yosemite, Glacier Bay, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks. After short-term academic jobs in Malaysia and then Sacramento, California, Steve moved to Humboldt State University, where he was a faculty member between 1996 and 2018. Many of Steve's interests and projects center around mountainous places in the world. His work has included assignments with USAID, United Nations University, World Bank, World Conservation Union, UK Asylum Law Project, Myanmar Ministry of Education, Tajik Socio-Ecological Union for Nature, and National Geographic Society. His publications include a collegiate physical geography textbook, National Geographic's Our Fifty States, and many journal articles and book chapters focused on mountain geography in the APCG region, geography education, and Central Asian protected lands and conservation issues.

Steve is known by many of his students as an incredible teacher. One of his favorite things to do at Humboldt State was to introduce general education students to "the lure of geography" and then continue to guide interested undergraduate students until they were making their own presentations at APCG and other geography conferences. One of his former students said about Steve, "His passion for teaching geography through storytelling is unrivaled in the APCG. He has inspired generations of new geographers on the Pacific Coast and mentored many of them on to professions in the academy and industry for decades."

As a result of his commitment and talents, Steve has been the recipient of many honors, including being awarded the Humboldt State University Scholar of the Year in 2009, the California State University System Outstanding Professor Award in 2007, and the National Council on Geographic [End Page 152] Education Teaching Award in 2001. Steve is now retired and is based in Mammoth Lakes, California, although he sometimes still guides small parties on National Geographic expeditions in Yosemite, Greenland, and the Canadian High Arctic.

Steve has contributed to APCG for more than two decades. The tremendous energy he put into serving as the coordinator for the APCG meeting at Humboldt State University in September 2000 was instrumental to the meeting's success. Steve then served as president of APCG in 2015–16. During his presidency, he wrote in the Pacifica newsletter about transitions happening in the ski industry in the Western U.S. Steve really does love mountains, and his presidential address in 2016 presented amazing photos along with many political and environmental details about land protection of the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan. After serving as president, Steve spent five years working on the APCG Awards Committee. In addition to being active in APCG, Steve has been active for many years in the California Geographical Society.

In recognition of these many contributions to the APCG and the discipline of geography, we are honored to present Steve Cunha the Distinguished Service Award for 2022.


In addition, the APCG is honored to present its inaugural Jan Monk Early Career Faculty Research Award to Sophia Borgias of Boise State University. [End Page 153]