Recently the department has had the opportunity to reach out to a few of our outstanding alumni, in an effort to show current students where a degree in geography might take them. We are honored to bring you our first alumni profile of the year, of Britt Yamamoto:
When did you graduate from the department, and with what degree?
I graduated with a PhD in Geography in 2007. My dissertation was titled ‘A Quality Alternative? Quality Conventions, Alternative Food and the Politics of Soybeans in Japan’.
Who was your favorite (or most memorable) faculty member?
What is your current job?
Professor at Antioch University, Seattle and Founder and Executive Director of iLEAP. iLEAP is an international nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire and renew social leaders and global citizens through integrated leadership programs that ignite hope and transformation in the world. We conduct programs in Seattle, Washington and collaborate with social leaders throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America to build regional networks of change leaders who are connected through a values-based approach to leadership and committed to building strong global partnerships for social change. You can find more information about iLEAP here: <http://www.ileap.org/>.
Do you have any advice for graduating seniors on what to do when applying for their first job?
Be prepared to articulate in plain language why your Geography degree is important and relevant.
Can geography students contact you for advice?
Yes, contact me at britt (at) iLEAP (dot) org .
Thanks to all of those who helped make last week’s Geography career panel a success – especially our alumni panelists Angelo Taylor, Ed McCormack, Frank Leonard, Tee-Ta Walker, and Jason Milstead. While each panelist has followed very different career paths, they all stressed the numerous ways in which a background in Geography helped prepare them for ‘the real world’ – especially learning statistical skills, GIS software, census skills and above all learning out to write clearly, concisely and persuasively and the ability to synthesize and display data for critical audiences. Each also stressed the importance of networking and being able to work collaboratively. For a recap of the event, see the summary below.
Angelo Taylor characterizes himself as a “Business Analyst, Market Research Analyst and GIS Professional with 10+ years of experience researching, developing and innovating critical processes, tools, and predictive analytics to enhance cross-functional business intelligence and decision making for organizations spanning multiple retail channels including supermarket/grocery service, telecommunications, apparel, restaurant and drug industry”. He talked about the relationship between business intelligence and GIS applications for commercial and business purposes. He argued that business intelligence analysts still either underestimate GIS or don’t quite “get” what answers it can provide. At Coinstar, Angelo has been a kind of GIS evangelist, helping integrate spatial/location analysis and modeling into the company’s analyses and business strategies. Using GIS to aggregate disparate data sources is a powerful information tool to find new markets and evaluate existing ones. Maps help synergize people’s thoughts and also point out possible business risks and opportunities. Angelo also stressed the importance of learning statistical and database skills as multiple ways to manipulate data to draw out answers and see spatial patterns. Current software and programming languages he uses to create analytical products include: ArcGIS, Microsoft Stack, SQL and OLAP (for relational reporting and data mining.
•Statistical Analysis & Modeling
•Large Complex Databases
•GIS Modeling and Analysis
•Retail Site Selection
•T-SQL, Excel, Word, Access, PowerPoint
•ESRI ArcGIS & Exts, MapInfo
•PASW (SPSS), SAS
•Visual Studio .NET, C#, VB.NET, VBA
Ed McCormack talked about how he applies spatial models to help analyze transportation issues and problems. He traced his evolution from early days at UW Geography as a cartographer using pen-and-ink to draw maps, to an information researcher and then into someone who combines GPS with GIS. His experience includes examining the use of technology to improve freight mobility, developing freight performance benchmarks, and exploring the land use-transportation relationship. During his time TRAC, he was also responsible for managing a series of border and freight technology projects for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Previous experience also includes working as transportation planner/modeler for an engineering consulting firm and for a Metropolitan Planning Organization. He sees geography as situated midway between urban planning and civil engineering, and GIS as a very important tool for the ports, regional planning councils, engineering firms, etc.
Frank Leonard talked about how his diverse education as a geographer has helped him learn in many areas as he has built up his company, Key Mechanical, which manufactures & maintains refrigeration units. He stressed the importance of taking business and marketing courses and advanced quantitative skills courses. He has used the drafting skills he learned at the UW, as well as an expertise in civil engineering. His economic geography courses at the UW have also served him well in market development. He also stressed critical listening skills and always carefully researching and articulating your own needs before communicating them to others.
Tee-Ta Walker emphasized the importance of community, collaboration, data management and research, mentoring, networking and communications skills. She uses PowerPoint, Excel and statistical analysis tools every day. In her community outreach and recruiting roles for University Prep, she uses census data to pinpoint particular areas of the city. University Prep’s commitment to diversity also leads her naturally to sift through census data to identify potentially disadvantaged populations. She uses lots of social media to get buy-in from potential recruits and their families, as well as families of current U Prep students. She is always collecting and analyzing data and doing web-based research for both recruiting and assessment of enrollment statistics. She also does a lot of surveys, using both qualitative & quantitative methods. She has created a lot of streamlined analytical process for U Prep to help then better analyze the outcomes of their initiatives and better see the processes and patterns that result in their learning outcomes. Mentoring and networking are central to her job and her way of thinking about being effective professionally.
Jason Milstead describes himself as developing “new consumer experiences online that are easy to use for millions of users and quickly grow into highly profitable businesses. I enjoy finding the right balance of product design, technical efficiency and revenue growth to deliver value to my customers, product team and shareholders”. His specialties include: “web product management, $100mm+ p&l management, advertising sales, strategic partnerships, product/UI design, and agile/scrum development”. Jason related how he has built up his general management skills working at Real Networks, Rhapsody, and other online enterprises. He stressed the importance of being able to manipulate data and make sense of it. Whitepages.com is a top-30 website, sifting through hundreds of millions of data points, and puts a search engine on top of a database to get location-related results. Overlaying data on top of maps is critical for geovisualization of locations and trends. He also talked about the importance of writing skills, networking, and developing a personal brand through blog posts, meetups, Twitter and Foursquare.
Dear geography alums and supporters,
Over the past two years, higher education in Washington state has been hit hard by the recession that has gripped the entire nation. In responding to the harsh realities of our new situation, the Department of Geography at the University of Washington has become more entrepreneurial, and more focused on our own efforts to support our students, staff, and faculty. We have initiated three new strategies to raise the revenue needed to continue our high level of teaching and research support.
The first strategy we’ve engaged is to develop a new self-sustaining Master’s program in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This program involves two weeks of intensive, Seattle-based training (at the beginning and end of the program), and two years of on-line teaching. We chose to develop a professional GIS course because of the overwhelming demand for these types of skills, particularly among young professionals. The on-line version of the class serves both those in the Pacific Northwest and also a significant number of international students. It’s a win-win situation for Geography, as we are able to serve the needs of local and foreign students, and also bring in a significant new revenue stream for the department.
Our second strategy has been to seek out unusual sources of funding for our students, including grants and work opportunities that are not well publicized or known outside of a relatively small scholarly niche. Because geography is such a wonderfully flexible field, and our students are better trained than most small departments, we have had great success in placing students across campus in positions such as the Center for Studies of Demography and Ecology (CSDE), the Center for Statistics (CSSCR), the English writing link, the Law, Societies and Justice program, the advising center, and many others. We are also highly successful with in-house fellowships such as the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grants, which enable our students to continue their studies while learning a foreign language at the same time.
A third source of revenue makes us all feel very nostalgic, but reflects both the new economic realities, as well as the shifts in cartography that have occurred over the past decade. We are selling our maps! Partnering with UW Supplies, we plan to auction off hundreds of our old maps on EBay over the course of this coming year. We are also economizing on our printing and copying (unfortunately, we now have to charge students for these functions), and otherwise cutting back in our everyday operations.
Thanks to the generous gifts of our donors, however, we have been able to maintain a remarkably high level of support to both our faculty and our students. For example, we have been able to continue our lovely graduation ceremony at the Urban Horticultural Center, our colloquium series, and our monthly “first Friday” pizza lunches for undergraduates. These lunches give us a chance to provide information that’s ‘good for them’ such as resume building, career panels, and how to apply to grad school–which they otherwise tend to ignore (who has time, right?!).
More importantly, perhaps, recent donor gifts have supported undergraduate and graduate level research and learning that otherwise might never have happened because of the declining dollars available from public and private foundations. I’d like to share one example of how contributions from alumni and friends of the Department can positively impact our students.
In 2007, Dennis and Diane Durden established an endowment to support graduate students in geography. Last year funds from the endowment supported a “dissertator retreat” for advanced graduate students. Using the beautiful (and inexpensive) UW facilities at Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands, seven students and two faculty met up with eleven students and faculty from the University of British Columbia, for three days and two nights of intense, intellectual discussion, sharing of data and methods, and peer review of research proposals and writing. All of the students who were fortunate enough to attend the retreat raved about it. The experience was clearly formative for the students, who had the rare opportunity to think and write and get extraordinary peer and instructor feedback without the usual distractions of work and everyday life. One student, Patricia Lopez, wrote of her time there: “It’s difficult to express just how rare and wonderful it was to be in this beautiful and intimate setting with such amazing minds from two different universities – to receive real feedback from highly-respected academics with such candor. But especially, how grateful we all were to walk away with a sense of purpose and feeling so very supported (by both faculty and other grad students – many of whom we’d just met!) in what is, perhaps, one of the more daunting aspects of the PhD process. The intense passion and interest and dedication to our field that was shared over those three days reminded me of why I not only became a graduate student, but specifically, a Geographer.”
To all of our contributors, let me offer my profound thanks for your support. We have been able to continue our great programs through your continuing help. Please join us this spring, as we celebrate the department’s 75th Anniversary! The date and venue will be announced in my next letter.
With best wishes,
Department of Geography graduate J.J. Bach interned with the City of Seattle, Seattle Public Utilities while an undergraduate in the department, serving as a GIS Data Maintenance Intern with the City of Seattle from July 2007 – June 2008. This position lead to a temporary position with King County Roads Division GIS as a GIS analyst (official title: Technical Information Processing Specialist), editing and maintaining the transportation network feature data layer, and then a GIS Analyst position with the Seattle Pub lic Schools. At SPS, J.J. works closely with the district’s other GIS Analyst to create maps and data for school board members, internal staff meetings, and assorted general purposes. The job is centered around student enrollment data, school closures, attendance patterns, demographics, website map updates, and production of maps for the district enrollment guide. In addition to map creation using ArcMap, Adobe Illustrator, and PhotoShop, he uses Microsoft Excel and Access for analysis.
In his city and county jobs, J.J.:
- worked with the Water and Sewer & Drainage groups performing data maintenance tasks to annotation, watermain, sewer mainline, and maintenance hole feature data layers
- interpreted source materials such as engineering plans, water system map book, online mapping services, side sewer cards, and legal descriptions
- created procedural documentation, attended staff meetings, and participated in two separate field studies using a hand-held GPS device.