Learning geography helps us understand the past, present and future conditions on Earth. 

The Virginia Geographic Alliance promotes geo-literacy by providing effective professional development programs that enhance the teaching and learning of geography and that demonstrate the value of geographic knowledge and spatial thinking to educators, policy makers, and community members.

Brief History of the Virginia Geographic Alliance

The VGA was founded in 1986 when the proposal to establish the VGA was adopted by the National Geographic Society and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Initial funding in 1988 was $50,000 from National Geographic Society and $50,000 from Virginia as agreed by Gilbert Grosvenor and Governor Gerald Baliles. The Alliances first two summer institutes were conducted at James Madison University in 1988 and 1989.  The Alliance has pursued short to medium range plans to reach goals established in cooperation with by NGS, education agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia and VGA members. The Alliance’s primary mission remains focused on improving geography education and teacher professional development in Virginia. Alliance successes include becoming an effective teacher led organization conducting numerous professional development programs (ranging from one hour workshops to three week field-based institutes) and curriculum development projects (Atlases, Maps, Lesson Plans, Geospatial Activities) and community outreach activities (MWW, GAW, Bee, State Geography Fair, Family Challenge).

In 2001 the VGA established a $1,000,000 Endowment based at the National Geographic Society Education Foundation. Funds for the Endowment came from NGS, the Bloedorn Foundation and the Virginia State Legislature. Many VGA members have received state and national awards for teaching excellence and for geography education leadership. VGA has had stable and renewing leadership with new initiatives (AP Human Geography Academies, Geospatial/GIS Workshops and Lesson Plans, World History and Geography Lessons, Chesapeake Bay Institutes) based on a changing education environment. The 25 member VGA Steering Committee provides planning guidance and decides program and resource allocations. Alliance leadership has been stable and host institutions have included the Virginia Department of Education, Radford University, Virginia Tech, James Madison University, Longwood University and Charlottesville City Schools.

Service as State Coordinators

  • Beverly Thurston                   Virginia Department of Education 1987-1992
  • Perry Massey                        State Council for Higher Education 1987-1990
  • Steven Pontius                      Radford University 1990-1995
  • Susan Woodward                  Radford University 1995-1996
  • Robert Morrill                         Virginia Tech 1992-1995, 1996-2013
  • Joseph Enedy                        James Madison University 1995-2013
  • Anne Evans                           University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab 2014-present
  • Edward Kinman                     Longwood University 2014-2022
  • Chris Bunin                            Albemarle High School and Virginia Community College System 2022-present

All Alliance institutes and workshops have K-12 teachers as leaders serving as NGS Teacher Consultants, teacher mentors and resource advisors.


National Geographic ASGI three-week residential summer institutes

1988 and 1989
James Madison University
Director, Joseph Enedy

1990 and 1991
The College of William and Mary
Director, Brian Blouet

1992 and 1993
Virginia Tech
Directors, L.W. Carstensen and Robert Morrill

National Institute for Advanced Placement Human Geography 1998
James Madison University
Director, Joseph Enedy

Geography for Life Explorers: Landscapes of North America 1998 through 2004. Five Train-Based Summer Institutes

“Geography for Life Explorers”, a cross continent three week field exploration on Amtrak and Via Rail trains (over 100 teacher participants)
Conducted at Virginia Tech and in regions of the USA and Canada
Directors, L.W. Carstensen and Robert Morrill

Atlas of Virginia Training Institute 2003
Conducted at Virginia Tech
Directors, L.W. Carstensen and Robert Morrill

Transect Virginia: Summer Institute 2005
Ten-day teaching field exploration through Virginia for Virginia Studies Teachers
Conducted in Virginia
Directors, Joseph Enedy, Donald Zeigler and Lawrence McLaughlin

World Landscapes: Atlantic Canada 2006 Summer Institute
Conducted at Virginia Tech and in Atlantic Canada
Directors, L.W. Carstensen and Robert Morrill

Jamestown and the Chesapeake Bay 1607-2007:  2007 Summer Institute
Conducted at Christopher Newport University and Chesapeake Region
Director, Brennan Kraxberger

Virginia Ventures: Summer Institute 2008
Ten-day teaching field exploration through Virginia for Virginia Studies Teachers
Conducted in Virginia
Directors, Joseph Enedy, Donald Zeigler and Lawrence McLaughlin

Exploring Ecuador’s Changing Landscapes 2008 Summer Institute
Conducted at Virginia Tech and in Ecuador
Directors, Susan Woodward and Robert Morrill

Cultural Landscapes of England 2008 Summer Institute
Conducted at Virginia Tech and in England
Directors, James Campbell and Lawrence Grossman

Exploring Northeast Brazil’s Changing Landscapes
2010 Summer Institute
Conducted at Virginia Tech and in Brazil
Directors, Susan Woodward and Robert Morrill

Transatlantic Teachers Scholars Program: Exploring Historical Landscapes
2012 Summer Institute
Conducted in Europe (Institute supported in partnership with the British Archives)
Directors, John Bunin and Andrew Mink

Integrating Perspectives on the Chesapeake Bay Through Civic Engagement: An Institute for Teachers  (2012-2013)
Conducted at Longwood University and Chesapeake Bay Region
Directors, Edward Kinman and Anne Evans

Integrating Perspectives on the Chesapeake Bay Through Civic Engagement: An Institute for Teachers (2013-2014)
Conducted at Longwood University and Chesapeake Bay Region
Directors, Edward Kinman and Anne Evans


Virginia in the World (wall maps, classroom maps and lesson plans) 1989
50,000 copies of maps distributed to all school districts in Virginia, Map projects and related lesson plans developed for elementary, middle and high school students.
Funding: Governor’s Foreign Trade Office
Production: Radford University Department of Geography

An Atlas of Virginia: 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries 1989
50,000 copies distributed to all Virginia school districts (with separate maps and lesson plans).
Funding: Governor’s Office and Virginia Department of Education
Production: Radford University Geography Department

An Atlas of Virginia, Second edition
2002 production of 2nd edition of An Atlas of Virginia and accompanying CD with 23 lesson plans, photo gallery and mapping activities. Eleven hundred and fifty classroom sets of the atlases and CD ROMS were distributed to 4th grade classes in Virginia. The atlas, lesson plans and images have since been updated, digitized and shared via the VGA website.
Funding: Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Tech
Production:  Virginia Tech Department of Geography


National Council for Geographic Education Awards:

 K-12 Distinguished Teaching Award

  • 2017  Andrew Dojack,Julie Stavitski
  • 2016   Donna Shifflett
  • 2015   Christine Esposito
  • 2014   Allison Anthony
  • 2012   Shannon Castelo, Stephen Chamberlin
  • 2008   Penny Anderson
  • 2007   Martha Smith
  • 2006   John “Chris” Bunin, Susan Guerin, Valerie Mervine, Judy Speer
  • 2004   Anne Evans, Donna Fontaine, Camille Hodges
  • 1997   Anne Evans
  • 1996   Georgeanne Hribar
  • 1995   Gary Miller, Susan Miller

Higher Education Distinguished Teaching Award

  • 2010   Korine Kolivaras
  • 2003   L.W. “Bill” Carstensen
  • 2002   John Boyer
  • 1987   L.W. “Bill” Carstensen

Distinguished Mentor Award

  • 2016   Bill Carstensen
  • 2015   Robert Morrill
  • 2011   Susan Woodward
  • 2009   Joseph Enedy

Brunn Creativity Award for Geography Education

  • 2017 Chris Bunin, Andrew Dojack, Julie Stavitski

Geographic Excellence in Media Award 

  • 2015   “Jamestown to Appomattox: Mapping US History with GIS”
    by Chris Bunin and Christine Esposito

Outstanding Support for Geographic Education Award

  • 2019   Georgeanne Hribar
  • 2015   Andrew Mink

George Miller Award for Distinguished Service to Geography Education

  • 2017   Donald Zeigler
  • 2007   Robert Morrill

NCGE President

  • 1996  Donald Zeigler
  • 1989  Robert Morrill

Journal of Geography Award

  • 1994   Best College or University Article: Carstensen, Laurence, Edward Fox, Bob Morrill and Clifford Shaffer.“GeoSim: A GIS Based Simulation Laboratory for Introductory Geography.” JOURNAL OF GEOGRAPHY, 92 (5), September-October, 1993

URISA (Urban and Regional Information Systems Association) Award

Leadership Award

  • 2022 Matt Gerike

Association of American Geographers Awards

Harm J. de Blij Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geography Teaching

  • 2016 Donald J. Zeigler

AAG Gilbert Grosvenor Honors for Geographic Education

  • 2012   Robert Morrill
  • 2009   Donald Zeigler

National Geographic Society Awards

National Geographic Grosvenor Teaching Fellows

  • 2007 Anne Evans

Virginia State Geographer

  • 1989-1991 Robert Morrill

Members selected to serve as State Coordinator of the National Geographic Bee

  • Gail Wallace
    Years as Coordinator: 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
    Teacher at Meadowbrook High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools
    Bee hosted at the Science Museum of Virginia
  • Annie Evans
    Years as Coordinator: 1994,1995,1996,1997, 1998
    Teacher at Henrico County Public Schools
    Bee hosted in Richmond at the Science Museum of Virginia
  • Cynthia Lank
    Years as Coordinator: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002
    Teacher at Danville Public Schools
    Bee hosted at Averett University 1 year, 1 year at Radford University, and 2 years at James Madison University
  • Sandra Carter
    Years as Coordinator: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2015
    Teacher at Virginia Beach Public Schools
    Bee hosted in Norfolk at Old Dominion University (2003-2007) and in Farmville at Longwood University (2015)
  • Cindy Boyce
    Years as Coordinator: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
    Teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Vienna
    Bee hosted in Winchester at Shenandoah University
  • Donna Fontaine
    Years as Coordinator: 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
    Teacher at Isle of Wight Public Schools
    Bee hosted in Farmville at Longwood University

ESRI T3G Participants

2014: Donna Shifflet*

2013: Georgeanne Hribar,* Trish McKinstry (Fairfax County Public Schools), Sarah Gerrol* (Salem City Schools), Michael Wagner* (Loudoun County Schools), Fred Hoffman (Roanoke City Schools), Mary Schaelfer (Fairfax County Public Schools)

2012: Jessica Windish* (Virginia Beach City Public Schools)

2011: Judith Painter* (Salem City Shools), Veronica Spradlin (Virginia Western Community College), Tara Meadows* (Luray)

2010: Wendy Stout (NASA), Chris Bunin* (Albemarle County Schools), Patti Winch (Fairfax County Public Schools),

2009: Georgeanne Hribar (Virginia Beach City Public Schools), Paul Rittenhouse (Albemarle County Schools), Diane Harazin (Fairfax County Public Schools)

*Funded by VGA


  • Geographic Alliances in Canada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington DC and West Virginia 
  • Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil
  • Geographic Education National Implementation Project (GENIP)
  • Journey Through Hallowed Ground
  • Learn NC, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill          
  • National Archives, United Kingdom
  • National Council for Geographic Education
  • National Geographic Society
  • National Museum of the Marine Corps
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • National Park Service
  • Office of the Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Stratford Hall Plantation
  • Virginia Clean Waterways
  • Virginia Department of Education
  • Virginia Historical Society                              
  • Virginia Science Museum

Higher Education Faculty Partners:

Christopher Newport University                                  Radford University
College of William and Mary                                      Tidewater Community College
George Mason University                                          University of Mary Washington
James Madison University                                         University of Richmond
John Tyler Community College                                  University of Virginia
Longwood University                                                Virginia Commonwealth University
Northern Virginia Community College                         Virginia Tech
Old Dominion University

 School District Partners:

Albemarle County Public Schools                              Madison County Public Schools
Charlottesville City Public Schools                             Orange County Public Schools
Greene County Public Schools                                  Salem City Public Schools
Isle of Wight County Public Schools                          Virginia Beach Public Schools

Teachers from schools in all regions of Virginia are active participants in VGA professional development workshops, programs and special events.

 This is a working document. Please contact us if you have information to share/contribute!

NOTE: An early draft of this document is available as a pdf.

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