Kelly Montague

Hometown: Hollywood, Florida

Discovering Geography

Why did you choose the Geography program at SU?

Well I stumbled into SU geography while I was still in high school for a number of lucky reasons. I was a fourth generation SU student, so I always knew I wanted to go here. As for selecting geography as a major, my dad is a biology professor and used a little bit of GIS for statistical ecology work. He showed it to me and I used it to make a social studies fair project about using GIS for epidemiological analyses. From there, I was hooked and came to SU as a freshman geography major.

After SU Geography

Where do you work? How did you end up there?
I work for the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer in the GIS Services division as a cartographer. I ended up there after meeting my now boss at a networking event that I was brought to by my former NG Maps coworkers. We bumped into each other and struck up and conversation, so let that be a lesson as to why you should go to any and every networking event you can.

What geography skills do you use at your work?
I luckily get to do what I love doing as their first cartographer using Adobe design software, but I do find myself doing a lot of GIS analyst work on the side. I do a lot of data consolidation and organization at times, but I was able to articulate my preferred skills in my interview and find myself mostly doing cartographic desig

Lessons learned as a Geography major & Advice to undergrads

Kelly interned at National Geographic Society. To learn more, click here.

Kelly interned at National Geographic Society. To learn more, click here.

What was the most useful class during undergrad?

There are so many geography classes that helped me in undergrad, but considering where I ended up, I would absolutely have to say Mark Monmonier’s Introduction to Cartographic Design. It really helped solidify my internship position at NG Maps by teaching me everything I needed to know and giving me a great recommendation letter (see: National Geographic Geography Intern Program). Being able to say I was taught under so many of the well known geography professors at SU and getting such positive responses really made me realize how influential and inspiring the professors in the department really are.

What programs helped prepare you for the future outside of class?
I think that my most useful experience was creating maps for Jane Read as her research assistant. I really got to practice my cartographic design and experience creating maps for something other than a final project. My advice is to seek out these opportunities to do work and create products that are not solely for a grade in a class. You will really get to experience what it is like to create a product that is the result of collaborative processes, which is exactly what you will encounter in the workforce.

Any advice for undergrads?
Take a wide range of classes within SU geography and in other programs. We have a great program, and I even found myself wishing I could have taken more geography classes (even with taking them since freshman year). Also, that minor or dual major you’re thinking of picking up? Do it. I’m still kicking myself for not picking up that minor in graphic design that would have been so useful in my career.

Fun Fact:
I graduated from SU 101 years after my great grandfather did. He graduated in 1913 and went on to own the now SU Warehouse as well as serve as a member of the Board of Trustees. Then, my parents and my grandmother all graduated from SU on the same day in 1983. My parents got married in Hendricks Chapel the August after their graduation.