New York "Southerner" Developing Career Pathways For Students
Tell us about yourself and your background
I am originally from Mississippi. Even though I haven’t lived there in almost 30 years, people tell me I still have a strong Southern dialect. Really. People often assume I just moved here to Syracuse. They advise me to get snow tires!
I started college at Hinds Junior College and eventually transferred the University of Southern Mississippi. (If there are any old-school Green Bay fans out there, I was at Southern Miss when Bret Favre played football there. Yes. Football games were awesome.)
I eventually ended up majoring in geography because I was interested in becoming a cartographer. I took drafting in high school and enjoyed it, and I always liked looking at the maps in National Geographic. When I learned that making maps was a legitimate job, I decided to try it. It’s not a very exciting story– there was no eureka moment– I just sort of picked the major out of the course catalog!
How did you get started in the industry you are in? What interested you most about it?
I liked that job very much (and Neel-Schaffer is a great place) but life led me to graduate school. I went to the University of Denver and earned a master’s degree in geography. I specialized in climate modeling, specifically dendroclimatology. After graduating from DU, got a job at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency office in Denver where I was a GIS analyst. I developed meta-data for the agency’s Superfund project files. We used the command-line rcInfo and had the 12 or so user manuals lined up on our desks. Remember those? I also worked on environmental justice initiatives where we looked at the spatial correlation between communities of color and Superfund sites. I really enjoyed using my technical and statistical skills to explore how people and the environment are linked.
I later went to Syracuse University to pursue a PhD in geography, but left due to what I call irreconcilable differences between me and my committee. After leaving SU I began a job with a local engineering company and worked on the Onondaga Lake sediment remediation project– a major sediment Superfund site in Central New York.
Tell us about your organization and your role
Onondaga Community College is located in Syracuse, New York. It is part of the State University of New York system. I am an associate professor, and I teach a variety of courses based on my education and professional experience– meteorology, New York environmental regulation, geographic information systems, geography, and natural hazards and disasters.
This semester we rolled out a new program I developed– geospatial science and technology. This program has courses in GIS, remote sensing, cartography, geostatistics, and UAV data collection and analysis. I developed this curriculum based in input from the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence and local industry partners as well as my own industry experience.
I am currently the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education grant to integrate UAV data analysis into this program and to develop career pathways for high-school students in this high-tech field.
What do you enjoy most about working in the industry you are in?
Share a success story
Share a failure and what you learned from it
The National Science Foundation, to me, has always stood as a beacon of all that is scientific and good. And I wanted to be a part of it! When I learned of a program that would help me learn to write a successful NSF grant, I jumped on the opportunity. Mentor-Connect was designed to help community college faculty maneuver through the grant writing and submission process. With the help of this program, I wrote and submitted a winning grant proposal! I have never been more proud of myself than when learning of the award. It might sound like a small win to some people, but honestly, I count it as one of my most awesome successes after such a devastating failure. And now I’m a PI! On an NSF project!
So failure is real. And sometimes it will feel like it’s killing you. But if something matters, try again. And keep trying. Maybe it will work out.
Any tips you would like to share with others in the industry?
What excites you most about the future of autonomous technologies?
What would you say to people who are skeptical about autonomous technology?