Sarah Walton

Hometown: Henniker, New Hampshire

Hometown: Henniker, New Hampshire

Discovering Geography

Why did you choose the Geography program at SU?

I really enjoyed each of the classes I took in SU’s Geography Department. I found the interdisciplinary nature of the coursework to be particularly interesting and relevant. Additionally, both the human and physical studies of geography complemented my second major, policy studies, nicely. I also appreciated the smaller class sizes with fewer students in the major; I really got to know many of the professors and felt supported in each class.

After SU Geography

Where do you work? How did you end up there?
I work at the Syracuse Northeast Community Center, a neighborhood-based Community Center serving Northside residents through direct social services and recreational programming. When I was a junior at SU, I spent the summer working at Home HeadQuarters, a local housing nonprofit specializing in neighborhood revitalization. Relationships there, particularly through their Board of Directors, connected me to the position I have now at SNCC. I was offered the job during the spring of my senior year and began working immediately after graduation.

What geography skills do you use at your work?
As Deputy Director, I support and help manage all programmatic and operational aspects of the Center, including community partnerships, program development and performance management, and financial stewardship for the agency. I use geography skills in a number of unique ways: 1) via grant writing, a geographical perspective and understanding of census demographics guides the procurement of grants, 2) as a neighborhood-based Center, it is our responsibility to understand the unique needs and interests of residents comprising the North/Northeast side of Syracuse, and 3) organizing individuals in a geographical context helps to better define program and service goals and therefore delivery.

Lessons learned as a Geography major & Advice to undergrads

What was the most useful class during undergrad?
Although I hate to admit it, PAF 315. It demonstrated what it’s like to have a tough boss, how to effectively manage client-relationships, how to stay organized and take critique in your work, and how to document research and numerical data in a standardized way. I find myself relying on my ability to understand research and statistics all the time, as well as my ability to submit quality reports and findings to governmental agencies, community partners, our Board of Directors, and my colleagues.

What programs helped prepare you for the future outside of class?
The Community Geography program helped connect me to change-makers in Syracuse. By participating in a research project through CG, I built relationships with members of the community. It also gave me practical experiences that have helped beyond the classroom. The SU Study Abroad programs also provided vibrant experiences that have helped shaped my perspective both globally and locally. I was able to travel to both India and Israel while I was a student through SU programs and partnerships. Finally, the Mary Ann Shaw Center and, particularly, the Literacy Corps program got me working in the community and sharing experiences with Syracuse youth. To this day, I continue to see teachers and children I worked with as a tutor. The memories made in those classrooms and the observations found in urban settings continue to guide my work and passions.

Any advice for undergrads?
Go out and explore the city you go to school in! Build relationships with people beyond the hill. Whether you stay in Syracuse after graduation, return home, or travel the world, relationships always offer more perspective, open your eyes to future opportunities, and invite collaboration and skill building, all of which will be helpful after graduating. Also, Syracuse is a really neat place to embrace!

Fun Fact:
While in India, I was blessed by an elephant. You’ll have to believe me: the photo evidence is unreal.