Six students, including three students from The University of Toledo, made up the team that won this year’s World Geography Bowl.The World Geography Bowl is a competition hosted by the Association of American Geographers at its annual meeting, which was held in Tampa this year. Teams of students from nine different regional divisions from across the United States compete in a quiz competition similar to “Jeopardy!” to test their knowledge of geography.
The East Lakes Division won the competition this year, with students from colleges in Ohio and Michigan. Three of these students were from UT, and one of them — Evgeny Panchenko — placed in the top five for individual performance during the competition.
“It was kind of neat to have three members of our university selected for the regional team; we’ve never had that many,” said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, UT professor and chair of geography and planning. “And then to have them go win and have one of our students finish in the top five of all students was fantastic.”
Each region selects team members based on an internal competition; the East Lakes division uses an online quiz to choose the most qualified students for its team. From UT, the team included Panchenko, a master’s graduate student in geography and Fulbright scholar from Russia; David Eichenauer, an undergraduate student in geography; and Michael Chohany, a PhD student going into his third year in the Spatially Integrated Social Science Program.
The team also included Steve Schultze from Michigan State University, Alex Colucci from Kent University and Lisa Dershowitz from Miami University.
“I was nervous because we were up against kids from more esteemed schools,” Chohany said. “But we were a good team, and we balanced each other very well.”
During the competition, students are asked a variety of questions on political boundaries, land formations, climate, weather, historical aspects of geography and more.
“These students need to have a pretty broad understanding of geography,” Lawrence said. “When you put a team together of six people, you hope some students have different strengths in what they’re studying.”
This was the first time the East Lakes Division, which is one of the smaller regions in the national Association of American Geographers organization, won the competition.
“We felt like just a ragtag bunch of kids, but we beat teams that probably trained much harder than we did,” Chohany said.
Aside from bragging rights, the team members received educational materials, including books and mapping software. Panchenko received a plaque for placing in the top five, as well as a high-quality atlas.