Like most geographers, Lucas Grigri ’16 always had a fascination with maps. Like geographers at UVM, he soon learned about the deep layers of the discipline—how geography describes the relationship of people with their environments across time and space.

He arrived at UVM as an undeclared major, though he was attracted by the Social Science Scholars Program, a College of Arts and Sciences first-year initiative that brings together students who share the same academic interests. Students live in the same community on campus and take the same suite of courses that examine an important question from multiple points of view.

“One course was 'Geography of Race & Ethnicity in the US' taught by Pablo Bose. That really hooked me on geography and I began taking other classes with Pablo. By sophomore year I had pretty much decided on that as a major.”

As a student, and later as an undergrad assistant for Bose, Grigri learned some of the technical tools of the trade, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

“GIS was  probably the hardest class I took at UVM, but it paid off in a very concrete way,” he recalls. “When I started working with Pablo, GIS was a major component and it was a big selling point in getting an internship later on.”

Bose hired Grigri as a research assistant for a study on refugee resettlement funded by the National Science Foundation from 2014 through early 2019, a period that overlaps Grigri’s 2016 graduation with a geography degree and a minor in community and international development. During that time, he transitioned from a research assistant to a research coordinator with supervisory responsibilities. His name appears as co-author with Bose on ten research reports, four research updates and two articles in progress.

During the project he took three months off for an internship in Thailand for Burma Link, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of Burma’s marginalized ethnic nationalities and communities affected by conflict.

All of which prepared him for his current position as tracking systems manager at the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), which helps new Americans transition to living and working in the greater-Burlington Community. Grigri uses his research and technical skills to organize databases that track outcomes for the many services AALV provides. He also lends a hand with the organization’s New Farms for New Americans Program and Youth Development Program.

“It’s gratifying that I had a chance to do real research as an undergrad that helps us understand refugee migration and co-author reports and articles with a professor at the same time,” said Grigri. “I’m not sure that happens very often at large universities.”