Candice Luebbering became the first student to complete a doctorate in the history of the Virginia Tech geography department, earning her degree in geospatial and environmental analysis in May 2011. She earned a combined bachelor of arts degree in sociology and anthropology from Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., before coming to Virginia Tech for graduate school. When asked what led her to the geography program, where she earned her master’s, she said, “I was drawn to the benefits of being a member of a small, close-knit department where everyone knows each other, while set within the resources and opportunities of a large, successful research institution.”

Combining her interest in language from her undergraduate studies with her focus in cartography, Luebbering chose to study the cartographic characteristics of language maps for her dissertation. Although language maps, such as a map of the distribution of the world’s major languages, are often found in introductory textbooks, language is an extremely difficult variable to capture and place on a map. “There are currently no guidelines for language map construction and very little research on how it is done in practice,” she said. “Given that in today’s world more languages are coming into contact while many languages are going extinct, I set out to study how we currently map language and how we may apply new mapping technology to enhance language maps for educational and documentation purposes.”

Luebbering, who said she has “always loved being a student and living a life of constant learning,” received the 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Student Award for both the geography department and the college. She is currently a visiting assistant professor in the geography department and plans to pursue a career in academics that involves both teaching and research, continuing the life of learning that she has always enjoyed.