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Undergraduate Student

Matthew Cunningham


Expected Graduation Date: May 2015

The outdoors has always been a passion of mine, and my father always tried to get my family outside to learn skills such as fishing and canoeing. We would go on camping trips and enjoy time exploring the world. It took a while, but there came a point when I began to love being out in the wild. Although geography was hardly a concept I cared about in my youth, I developed an affinity for it. I would spend hours poring over the pages of my family’s National Geographic world atlas. I memorized mountain ranges, borders, cities, and oceans. I reveled in the beautiful cartographic wonders those pages held but never imagined that one day I would major in geography.

Like many Virginia Tech freshmen, I thought I wanted to be an engineer when I first arrived on campus. However, it became clear that it was not really my passion. When I talked with the advisors in the Department of Geography, everything made sense. The descriptions of the courses and the potential jobs after graduation sounded like everything I had dreamed about as a kid as I stared at the pages of that atlas. I immediately signed up. Now here I am, in my senior year, and I am enjoying every class and every opportunity I have been given. I feel like I am at home in geography.

I am a member of the Virginia Tech Corp of Cadets and the Highty-Tighties, and I have absolutely loved my time here. The beautiful campus, the football season, and my outstanding professors in geography have made this experience wonderful. However, the greatest part of it is my fellow Hokies who make every day exciting and fun.

Unlike many of the students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, I will be commissioning into the U.S. Air Force upon graduation. My hope is to be a pilot, and while I may not be involved directly in a natural resources field, my long-term career aspirations are very much rooted in natural resources. I would love the opportunity to use aviation to get involved in remote sensing, which has become a staple of modern geography. It would also be very appropriate to become involved in geographic or sustainability initiatives during my time in the service. However, I am currently just excited to get the chance to serve in our great armed forces as I await graduation.

Wherever my career takes me, Virginia Tech has had a significant effect on my life and has inspired my love of geography. I hope to have the same effect on others. Maybe my work will inspire the next generation of young geographers who are currently transfixed by the beautiful maps in an atlas.

Area of Speciality

  • Geospatial and Environmental Analysis

Honors and Awards

  • Gamma Theta Upsilon International Geographic Honor Society
  • Three-Year AFROTC Scholarship 
  • Dean’s List, five semesters

25th Anniversary

Celebrating 25 Years

    1992 through 2017, 25 years

Join us Sept. 15-16 to visit campus and reconnect with alumni, faculty, staff, and friends.

Celebrate with Us

Read the Summer Newsmagazine

    CNRE Newsmagazine Spring 2017

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