Farewell to Tanya Buckingham Andersen

It is with a heavy heart but extreme gratitude that we announce that Tanya Buckingham Andersen resigned after 14 years from her position of Creative Director of the University of Wisconsin Cartography Lab to take the position as Human Services Communication Manager for Dane County, she previously served as an Elected Board Supervisor in 2018−2020.  

Tanya Buckingham Andersen

We wish to celebrate the significant and meaningful contributions to the Cart Lab, the Geography Department, the cartography profession, and local communities that Tanya Buckingham Andersen has made through her collaborative cartographic work. Andersen graduated from UW-Madison with degrees in Cartography & GIS and International Relations in 2001 and subsequently joined XNR as a Cartographer and Project Manager, a cartographic design firm at the time based in Madison with a national reputation for print production that often contracted with noteworthy atlas products such as the National Geographic series. Andersen joined the Cart Lab as Assistant Director in 2008, revitalizing its technological infrastructure, mapping services, and design workflows based on her industry experience. Established in 1953, the Cart Lab is a full-service production facility conducting research and development on cartographic design and geographic visualization. The Cart Lab is a student-facing center within Geography, with the objective of supplying undergraduate and graduate students with unique apprenticeship-like experience that supplements classroom exercises with real-world client interaction. 

UW Cartography Lab: geography.wisc.edu/cartography/

Drawing on her MS degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Alder University, Andersen re-imagined the Cart Lab as a “makerspace”, enabling flexible reconfiguration of the Cart Lab space around evolving project team needs. Essential to this vision is a flattened hierarchy, with students at multiple stages in their studies invited to the table to contribute ideas and learn from one another as equals. This included an annual Designed Alliance meeting to collectively set Cart Lab values around use of the space and interpersonal interactions as well as a co-designed statement and policy on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Cart Lab. Andersen underpinned the makerspace model with an active emphasis on professional development, such as practice interviewing, resume workshopping, and design portfolio building. During her 14 years in the Cart Lab, Tanya mentored over 75 cartography and geography students, the vast majority of which have established successful cartography careers as sole proprietor business owners, at government agencies from municipal to federal, in academic faculty and staff posts, and at many leading design firms and news agencies, such as Apple, Bloomberg, Esri, Mapbox, National Geographic, the New York Times, NPR, Stamen, and the Washington Post, among others. Andersen received the prestigious Outstanding Service in Mentoring Award in 2016 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison for her work with students in the Cart Lab. As Alicia Iverson, Geography PhD Student and Past Project Assistant in the Cart Lab, writes, “Tanya was the heart of the Cart Lab, pumping life throughout and guiding the co-building of a thriving, joyful community of cartographers who are better for having worked with her. It was with creative, empathetic, and compassionate vision that Tanya led and continues to lead in our world.” 

Andersen also played a pivotal role in core Department activities, perhaps most notably as a leader of the External Relations Committee. Through this position, Andersen worked with Jaime Martindale of the Robinson Map Library to refresh the Department website and social media presence, become more intentional in interactions with alumni and donors, and redesign visual materials advertising Department courses and programs. As Jaime Martindale writes, “Tanya was so passionate and dedicated to fostering connections with alumni and friends of Geography – and broadcasting the amazing work by faculty, staff, and students in this Department each year. This realization makes her move to a Communications Manager position within Dane County so understandable. One of her greatest strengths is being a champion for others and making sure important work is recognized and amplified.” Andersen was an active member of the Department’s Women in Geography (WIG) Chapter, cohosting important discussions to support underrepresented groups within the Department and elevate strategies for promoting diversity across the Department. As Lisa Naughton, Professor and Past Chair of Geography, writes, “Tanya brought great wisdom and energy to WIG meetings. She also shared her professional savvy to help students prepare for and succeed in the work culture in businesses and NGOs.” Andersen also was a Representative to the Academic Staff Assembly, and worked with other staff leaders to establish staff voting rights on departmental operations and policies.  

North American Cartographic Information Society: https://nacis.org/

Beyond campus, Andersen has placed her indelible fingerprint on the profession of cartography through her service to the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS). Andersen’s hire in the Cart Lab in 2008 was during her leadership service to NACIS as Secretary (2007−2009), Vice President (2009-2010), and President (2010−2011) of NACIS. Andersen was a natural fit for these roles, as she previously had co-organized “Mapgiving” workshops at the NACIS Annual Meeting to collectively develop resources for the professional cartographic community, with one such effort leading to the Natural Earth dataset, invaluable open source map linework that has become a standard in cartographic production today.  Andersen’s leadership coincided with a particularly transformative period to the cartography industry, as a number of design startups derived from outside of the industry were developing online mapping services to “democratize” who can make maps and by what means these maps can be made. Andersen led important bridging efforts between established and emergent cartographic design professional communities, serving as a steward to both parties and centering NACIS as the location for having productive conversations around changes to the profession. Andersen also led transition of NACIS’s flagship peer-reviewed journal, Cartographic Perspectives, from a print product to an online periodical, providing beautiful and original design layouts remaining largely in use today while also overseeing new journal sections oriented towards professional in addition to academic audiences. Andersen continued as the Executive Director of NACIS until 2018, modernizing policies and procedures, building institutional memory to streamline leadership transitions, establishing diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and adding new membership benefits all while growing NACIS to the largest size in its history. As Robert Roth, Professor of Geography and Faculty Director of the Cart Lab, writes “NACIS remains the premier professional cartographic community in North America today, and its outlook would not be nearly as bright without Tanya’s selfless commitment and goodwill to the society crossing over 11 years. Cartographers across the continent owe Tanya a lasting debt of gratitude for the health of our community and strength of our profession.” 

Design Challenge: 2022

Finally, we perhaps will remember Andersen most for her numerous enriching collaborations and partnerships. In total, Tanya supervised over 650 mapping projects, with each project comprising several to at times thousands of unique maps. At one point in time, Andersen had collaborated with every faculty member in the department, with additional internal partners including the History of Cartography Project, the Office of the Physical Plant, the UW Sea Grant Institute, the State Cartographer’s Office, the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey, and the Wisconsin Idea Seminar and external partners including the Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and United States Geological Survey, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the United Nations, among many others. However, some of the most impactful collaborations were with local community groups and organizations. Expanding on her “Mapgiving” vision, Andersen worked with Robert Roth to establish an annual Design Challenge, or lock-in-like student mapping workshop focused on generating new questions and solutions around a single big problem, with the Design Challenge often having a community-engaged component that continues for the year following the event. Several Design Challenge partnerships have included the Bridge Lake Point Waunona Community Center, with outcomes from the collaboration including multimillion dollar funding for a new community center, the United Way of Dane County, with Andersen joining the Advisory Board to rethink services and infrastructure in Dane County Jails, and the UW Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring, partnering with Wisconsin schools to develop K5 cartography education standards.  

Andersen’s new position with Dane County will enable her to focus on this meaningful community-engaged service. As Andersen writes, “Geographers have a special and necessary role to play in all organizations. I consider myself to be so lucky to have been able to work with the best in the field, and have been able to be part of so many student lives as they were pursuing their dreams. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to combine my passion for community service and engagement with my work at UW Madison. To that end, my new role is a natural evolution, I am able to offer my training and experience in service of the community that I love so much.” 

As Jack Williams, Professor and Chair of Geography, writes “Our loss is very much Dane County’s gain. We will all miss Tanya terribly, but it is a delight to know that she is moving to a position that will let her further pursue her passion for community-engaged work. And, once a Geographer, always a Geographer!  We fully expect paths to cross and re-cross in future years.” 

 Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do Tanya! 

Author: Geography Staff