Why did you choose the Geography program at SU?
I actually came to Geography in an interesting way. My original intent was to become a patent lawyer, and in preparation for that career path I was a Physics major at another university. However, as is common with freshmen, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do. I began to explore other options and thought about how my interests could translate into a major. It was around this time that public information meetings about the upcoming I-81 project in Syracuse were being held. I am, and always have been, interested about our transportation network. I researched majors that would address these interests and Geography came out as a top choice. I then discovered that SU had an excellent Geography program and I thought, “What better place to learn about space than in my own city?” I transferred to SU and joined the Geography program, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
After SU Geography
Where do you work? How did you end up there?
After I graduated, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to work at the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the area.I started at the SMTC through a summer internship program. I’ve been very happy there since I started in June – not too many people get to immediately start working in a field that they love and in a city they have ties to.
What geography skills do you use at your work?
I would like to say I use my knowledge of geography at work every day. I am partially responsible for the SMTC’s GIS-based needs, so I utilize those skills that I learned at SU in GIS-based classes. At the same time, however, the SMTC is a planning organization and I have been able to offer thoughts and comments on some of the current projects going on. This is largely a result of spatial thinking skills that I have gained through all my geography classes at SU.
Lessons learned as a Geography major & Advice to undergrads
What was the most useful class during undergrad?
It’s tough to list just one. Given my current job, the classes involving GIS I took (Intro to GIS, Community Geography, Community GIS, and Environmental GIS) have proved extremely helpful. However, my knowledge of geography and my skill set for future careers would be incomplete without classes like Geographies of Urban Planning, American Diversity and Unity, Geography of Homelessness, and Global Cities.
What programs helped prepare you for the future outside of class?
My internship with the Community Geography program prepared me for the future in many ways. Many of the skills I learned there have translated into skills required for my current job. In addition, I was able to learn important life lessons about the working environment. Another useful program was the Career Night put on by the Geography Department every year. This was a great way to see what other geographers were doing once they graduated.
Any advice for undergrads?:
If you haven’t already, develop close relationships with the Geography faculty and staff. They are an excellent resource. Also, if you haven’t already as well, begin developing your professional network. Sometimes the key to hearing about a job opening is because it gets mentioned to someone you know, who may pass the information on to you. If possible, take any opportunity to get into a field that you enjoy. Even if it’s a temporary position, a contract position, or an internship, these experiences are the best way to get your foot in the door. (And, of course, enjoy your time in college, and take advantage of everything you can!)
My “fifteen minutes of fame” came when I was three years old and won America’s Funniest Home Videos.