University of Wisconsin–Madison

Emily Pettit

"Science Hall became a de facto second home for me and being surrounded by so many talented, welcoming students, faculty, and staff was something I still treasure. From spontaneous lunch breaks to impromptu professional profile picture photo sessions, to group chats that were completely unrelated to anything cartography or extremely in-depth about a tiny nuance of map-making, the people were what made my time in the program so special."

Which program did you participate in?
I first enrolled in the Professional Capstone Certificate (which was split into two new certificates in 2018) in Fall 2017, then applied for and was accepted into the new in-residence Accelerated Cartography/GIS Master’s program starting in Fall 2018.

Current job?
GIS Coordinator for the State of Maine GIS Office (MEGIS)

Could you tell us a little about your career and education path?
I received my bachelor’s degrees in geography and history from the University of Iowa (2014), then worked for the Post Office for a couple years before enrolling in the Capstone Certificate program and moving to Madison. I received a job offer from the State of Maine GIS Office before graduating and moved to Maine not long after. As the GIS Coordinator for MEGIS, I’m responsible for a variety of things: authoring metadata workflows, assisting customers with GIS questions, creating online web map products, and GIS data acquisition and editing.

In what ways did your experience with GISPP prepare you for your career? The practicum project was one of the most important projects I completed for the Master’s because it gave me a chance to plan, design, and implement a professional-level project in GIS.

Favorite memory of GISPP?
The days of working on projects for class and client work in the Cartography Lab and M376 with other students defined my time in GISPP; Science Hall became a de facto second home for me and being surrounded by so many talented, welcoming students, faculty, and staff was something I still treasure. From spontaneous lunch breaks to impromptu professional profile picture photo sessions, to group chats that were completely unrelated to anything cartography or extremely in-depth about a tiny nuance of map-making, the people were what made my time in the program so special.

What advice would you give current students?
Don’t be afraid to go visit the Cart Lab, whether it’s just to eat lunch, or to ask a question about an assignment, or simply to work on projects. Tanya Buckingham and Daniel Huffman are amazing resources, and the other students are all so friendly and always willing to help. It can be intimidating to visit at first because people are hard at work, but know that everyone is welcome, even if they aren’t geography/cartography/GIS students. The Robinson Map Library is also a great place to work, and Jaime Martindale (the GIS/Data Librarian) is a wonderful resource if you’re looking for data or help on where to start researching for a project.

What do you like to do for fun? Hike, bike, run, kayak, camp, read

Is there anything else you’d like to share with program staff or prospective students about your experience?
The growing pains of starting a new program meant that the new Master’s students had some issues getting connected to listservs and other announcements for students that the longer-established programs had set and figured out. If you feel like you’re missing connections with your program or are missing out on events you think should be advertised more broadly, don’t be afraid to talk with the department. It was always reassuring to know that they welcome and encourage feedback and input from students to continue making the program even better. (And the little lounge by their offices is another good place to study!)