Alumnus wins award for top geography dissertation in the nation

ASU geography program recognized for 3rd time in past 4 years, showcasing successful research environment

May 17, 2021

Ziqi Li, an Arizona State University alumnus with a PhD in geography from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, was awarded the 2021 American Association of Geographers J. Warren Nystrom Award for his paper "Computational Improvements to Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression.” 

The Nystrom Award recognizes the best paper based upon a recent PhD dissertation in geography based on originality of ideas, potential contribution to the advancement of knowledge in particular subfields of the discipline, and clarity and effectiveness of written style. ASU geography alumnus Ziqi Li won the J. Warren Nystrom Award.

Li's winning paper is from his dissertation "Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression (MGWR): Computation, Inference, and Application," in which he advances the field by enabling large-scale, fine-resolution statistical analysis of multiscale, spatially varying processes for both physical and social systems.

“Each element of his dissertation was first class and there are thousands of researchers already using the developments described in his thesis,” said Stewart Fotheringham, Regents Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and PhD adviser to Li. “Consequently, Ziqi is a highly deserving recipient of this award — he was a fantastic graduate student.” 

The competition held and presented at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting attracts recent graduates from the approximately 300 geography programs across North America. Li’s receipt of the distinction signifies the third time in four years an ASU geography alumnus has won the prestigious award. 

“This is a remarkable achievement,” said Fotheringham, who also is the director of ASU’s Spatial Analysis Research Center (SPARC). “The Nystrom has been awarded annually for over 40 years and most geography programs have never produced a winner.

“These successes should act as an inspiration to all our students who will hopefully apply for the competition when they graduate. Also, it should provide them with the knowledge that they are in one of the best places in the country to undertake a PhD in geographical sciences.”

Recent recipients of the award also include ASU PhD geography alumni Marynia Kolak and Qunshan Zhao

“I feel so proud to receive the Nystrom award as an ASU alumnus,” said Li, who now is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Winning this award encourages me further to pursue an academic career. I also feel extremely honored because my PhD adviser Dr. Stewart Fotheringham also received this award 40 years ago in 1981.”

The freely available Multiscale Geographically Weighted Regression software that integrates the improvements in Li's dissertation can be downloaded from

David Rozul

Communications Specialist, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


ASU Law advances 'Future Fifty' initiative to support next generation of women in law

May 18, 2021

Millions of women have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic — with thousands more leaving the labor market in April.

The American Bar Association recently issued a new report, “In Their Own Words: Experienced Women Lawyers Explain Why They Are Leaving Their Law Firms and the Profession.” The report sheds more light on what factors affect the decisions by experienced female lawyers to remain in practice, move to a different job within the law or step out of the profession altogether after 15 or more years of practice. Photo of Kelsey Misseldine, student at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, being hooded by Loni Burnette as part of spring 2021 convocation ASU Law’s Future Fifty initiative aims to provide meaningful opportunities for female students, highlighting women’s contributions to law, and cementing the legacy of women’s work within the law through philanthropy. Here, ASU Law student Kelsey Misseldine gets hooded for her JD degree by Loni Burnette, senior director of academic services, as part of the college’s spring convocation. Download Full Image

“This report highlights the ongoing systemic barriers women still face in the legal profession,” ABA President Patricia Lee Refo said. “These women’s personal stories are eye-opening, and the recommendations illustrate the changes we need to make to support and advance all female lawyers.”

With ASU Law recently celebrating more than 50 years of impact, and being one of the few law schools named after a woman, the goals of the Future Fifty initiative are to celebrate 50 years of women in law and to usher in the next 50 more to come by providing meaningful opportunities for female students, highlighting women’s contributions to law, and cementing the legacy of women’s work within the law through philanthropy.

The initiative seeks to establish five new endowed professorships named after women, create 50 new endowed scholarships in support of women or established by women, and bring in 500 new gifts from women. Nearly 350 women have already contributed new gifts since the initiative launched in early 2020.

“Women in the legal field have worked hard for many years to gain equality in pay, benefits, diversity and other equal treatment in the workplace — yet we often still face many hurdles,” said Michelle De Blasi, who worked with ASU Law to establish one of the new scholarships — the Women’s Professional Power Scholarship.

“This scholarship will provide need-based educational scholarship funds to women law students, as well as quarterly professional guidance seminars related to skills that are essential to a successful law practice not covered in law school,” De Blasi said.

The seminars, which De Blasi will coordinate and fund in addition to her scholarship gifts, will range in subjects related to building a network, establishing area expertise, finding work-life balance and others.

“Although I’m not an alumna of the law school, I felt it was important to give back to the community in which I live to support women entering the legal profession,” De Blasi said, adding that she encourages other donors to be a part of “this important opportunity to positively impact and inspire other women. It will be amazing to see the benefits of this scholarship in the years to come.”

De Blasi is joined by several others in establishing new scholarships from or in support of women.

Laura Donovan, ASU Law Class of 2005, created an endowed scholarship for students with a demonstrated interest in intellectual property law — the Donovan Family IP Scholarship — with her husband, Brad, an ASU Law 2004 alum.

“When we were in school, ASU Law ranked around 50 and is now 25,” Laura Donovan said. “Under Dean (Douglas) Sylvester’s leadership, every aspect of the school — i.e. facilities, faculty, experience — has improved. It is an institution and community that we are proud to be a part of … and so should you.”

She added that the law school’s transition to self-sufficiency was and will continue to be a challenge.

“Philanthropic giving assists in keeping the school finances healthy and allows for projects and initiatives that may not otherwise be possible solely based on funding from tuition income,” she said.

Carolyn Blankenship, ASU Law Class of 1989, and her husband, John, also founded a scholarship supporting the IP law program at the college.

“We are honored to establish the Blankenship Family Scholarship to advance the cause of women in IP law,” Carolyn Blankenship said. “We are both grateful to ASU for giving us our start in the law, and are delighted to pay it forward in this way.”

In addition to the scholarships and new gifts from women, the Future Fifty initiative established its first endowed professorship named after a woman, with more to come.

The Roslyn O. Silver Professor of Law was named in honor of distinguished Judge Roslyn Silver, an ASU Law 1971 JD alumna, steadfast supporter of ASU Law and trailblazing federal judge.

Support the Future Fifty initiative today by making a donation. Or, if you’d like to learn more about additional ways you can support initiative, contact Terri Burkel at

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law