Grad finds aviating and geography on the same map

December 11, 2014

Joseph Keller knows how to manage complex operations and monitor delicate, changing situations. As a duty pilot manager and a captain on an MD-80 aircraft with Allegiant Air, Keller is responsible for being available by phone 24 hours a day to transmit operational information to his management and to airline safety authorities.

Asked about his work, Keller describes it in simple terms: “What we do is manage the flow of information during irregular operations for day-to-day issues,” said Keller. photo on Joseph Keller in the cockpit of an airplane Download Full Image

While managing aviation information, Keller has also been handling a whole other set of information. He graduates from Arizona State University this December as the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Keller was selected as recipient of the dean’s medal for his outstanding academic achievement. He earned a 3.94 GPA and was named a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society.

Professor Michael Kuby, who taught Keller in a course on transportation, said the dean’s medalist added a great deal to his class’ atmosphere. “He really enjoyed getting into discussions with the grad students in the class,” said Kuby.

Kuby also noted that Keller’s hands-on projects were outstanding.

“The undergraduates in the class research a case study on transportation history and apply the concepts they learned to it, and his group’s presentation on the origins and geographic evolution of U.S. air mail service scored the highest in the class,” said Kuby.

Accustomed to considerable operations challenges, Keller pursued his geography degree full-time while also maintaining his full-time pilot schedule. According to Keller, his aviation experience led him to a keen interest in geography.

“Geography is a natural extension of flying in my eyes, as geography plays a huge role in weather, dynamics and airport position,” Keller said. “We are constantly using maps in the aircraft,” he added.

Professor J. Duncan Shaeffer, a member of the committee that selects dean’s medalists, said that Keller showed a willingness to go above and beyond from his first days at ASU.

“I remember he came to all the freshmen week activities when he first started, even though as a transfer student he wasn't obliged to attend any of them,” said Shaeffer. “He's been a great student, and he's quite deserving of this award,” added Shaeffer.

In working toward his geography degree, Keller has been able to develop new skills in a longstanding passion.

“I have been interested in aviation all my life. I got my private pilot certificate at the age of 17 and never looked back,” said Keller.

He also holds an associate's degree in aviation technology, and previously attended Embry Riddle Aviation University and the San Juan College of New Mexico.

Keller said that through piloting, he has honed planning, management, finance and public relations skills. He decided that a geography degree would develop further skills and open up even wider possibilities.

Despite his high-pressure career and his considerable academic load, Keller has maintained a sense of humor.

“You never have too much fuel, unless you’re on fire,” Keller responded to a question about lessons learned from aviation – before quickly adding, “Just kidding,” and offering serious insights about how aviation and geographical sciences can work together.

Moving forward with his degree, Keller said his aviation background and his geography credential will complement each other.

“It's nice to know where you’re at as you’re flying along,” said Keller.

Keller plans to continue his work as a pilot. At ASU, he also became interested in European history and geography, and hopes to pursue a master's in that area in the future.

The School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Wynne Mancini,
School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


Outstanding ASU grads ready to take on the world

December 11, 2014

More than 6,000 students will turn their tassels to the left and have their degrees conferred at the Arizona State University commencement ceremonies, Dec. 15.

Among them are several outstanding graduates, from future educators to public service professionals, to groundbreaking entrepreneurs and musicians. It’s no question that the crowd gathered this December in Wells Fargo Arena will be walking away with diplomas in their hands and abundant opportunities ahead. Download Full Image

Read on for individual stories of some of these extraordinary dreamers and doers.


Cecilia ChouCecilia Chou, bachelor's, global health and music

Cecilia Chou combined her passion for music and science at ASU by double majoring in piano performance and global health. She's been selected as a Dean's Medalist and will be given special recognition at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences convocation ceremony.


Mollie ConnellyMollie Connelly, master's, English

Mollie Connelly experienced history, adventure and excitement while pursuing her master’s degree, spending a majority of her time in the library. Connelly's applied project allowed her to develop a collection of 60 rare manuscripts from the 17th to the 20th centuries.


Laurie DuttonLaurie Dutton, bachelor's, education

Laurie Dutton, a December graduate and 2014 Outstanding Teacher Candidate, isn't wasting any time before making a difference as a professional educator. In January, she'll have her own classroom teaching seventh-grade science in Mesa, Arizona.


Jonathan GregoireJonathan Gregoire, doctorate, musical arts

Jonathan Gregoire, who is receiving a doctorate in music (organ performance), has already landed a job as the associate director of music and principal organist at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas.


Joseph Keller, bachelor's, geography

Geography graduate Joseph Keller excelled in his studies while continuing his career as a pilot. He has been recognized by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as the Fall 2014 Dean's Medalist for the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.


Judy Robles, bachelor's, communication

Judy Robles, the mother of NCAA wrestling champion and ASU alumnus Anthony Robles, will accept the fall 2014 Jose Ronstadt Outstanding Award on Dec. 17 at ASU's Hispanic Convocation, as she graduates alongside her 23-year-old son, Nicholas.


Greg TuckerTelpriore “Greg” Tucker, doctorate, chemistry

From chemist to mentor to entrepreneur, doctoral graduate Telpriore “Greg” Tucker has forged his path to a future in sustainable transportation. Curiosity and perseverance led to his doctorate in chemistry with an emphasis in electrochemistry and its uses for renewable energy, as well as his popularity as a mentor to K-12 students and university undergraduates.


Greg Tuckerdillon vaughn, bachelor's film and media production

Dillon Vaughn's time at ASU was supplemented by a unique student job: print room assistant at the ASU Art Museum, where he worked closely with the museum’s print collection manager, Jean Makin, to care for the more than 5,000-item collection held in the Jules Heller Print Study Room.


Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications