More geographers than ever before are employed in exciting jobs, using skills in cultural, regional and physical geography as well as modern technologies that have revolutionized the workplace. Geographers use satellite images, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and remotely sensed data, both in the field and in their offices and laboratories. Because of the broad interdisciplinary focus of the College of Arts and Sciences, geography majors are equipped with a broad range of transferable skills, enabling them to succeed in any profession.
Geography background leads to grad school placement in urban planning
Erika Shepard '16 used geography to fuel her interest in urban planning and transportation studies by taking classes like Urban Geography with Prof. Meghan Cope. After graduation, Erika moved to Minneapolis and worked at Metro Transit and then AECOM, a consulting firm for which she worked on transit projects all over the country. She is now pursuing a masters of urban and regional planning at the University of Minnesota.
She credits her geography education in giving her the skills to "use GIS to analyze and visualize data, but perhaps more importantly . . . describe the data to non-technical audiences," a crucial skill in urban planning. She hopes to use her masters degree to "reduce disparities in the delivery of public services."
Charting the Landscape of the Refugee Experience
Vermont native Tilden Remerleitch '18 published a series of podcasts for her senior thesis in 2018 on the experience of refugees arriving in Vermont. “Immigrants are people who choose to come here. Refugees come here because they have nowhere else to go,” Remerleitch explains. “Only 1% of displaced people are actually considered for refugee status in US. It’s a very lengthy process and it’s not easy. Applicants have to prove that returning to their home country will be dangerous for them.”
Remerleitch was awarded the National Geographic Society’s Early Career Grant, giving her the opportunity to conduct community-based research in Ecuador. Remerleitch took advantage of other opportunities to gain a global perspective during her UVM career. She spent her junior year in China funded by the nationally competitive David L. Boren Award. Thanks to Boren funding, she completed two complementary study abroad programs in the megacity of Shanghai, deepening her understanding of urban and global issues such as overcrowding and the environmental consequences of providing for an immense city.
Undergrad research opens doors for Lucas Grigri '16
Lucas Grigri was drawn to major in geography after taking Prof. Pablo Bose's "Geography of Race and Ethnicity in the U.S." course. Those critical thinking and analytical skills, combined with experience in Geographic Information Systems, were a "big selling point" in getting later internships, Grigri said. Grigri worked as a research assistant for Bose's 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.”
Explorer comes home to public service
In high school, Lucy Rogers got up every morning at 4 a.m. to hand-milk her cow, Zalia, and graduated at the top of her class from Lamoille Union High School. Then she went out west to help with two conservation projects, trapping and radio-collaring grizzly bears in Canada. Next, she worked on a beef cattle ranch and made birch syrup in Alaska. She came back east to enroll at Harvard, but after one year there she transferred to UVM. “There was a culture of fear of failure at Harvard—but at UVM there was a lot more freedom to be creative,” Rogers says.
In 2018 Rogers completed a geography senior thesis with the help of her advisor Professor Cheryl Morse titled: "Wildlife Values of Conservation Professionals: A Case Study of the International Bear Association." Rogers has since gained national media attention for winning her race for State Representative for the Lamoille-3 district.
Where do Geographers work?
The private sector needs geographers who can develop and apply geographic ideas and technologies to complex real world systems. Geographers also conduct marketing studies, plan transportation routes, understand international markets, and determine environmental risks associated with site locations. From transportation agencies to electric companies, and from forestry to telecommunications, real-time mobile interactive geographic technologies and databases are emerging as the backbone of large-scale operations management systems for industries with distributed assets and mobile workforces.
All levels of government
The government hires geographers. They may work for local and state economic development or planning offices, conduct research in recreation and park use, or map land use from satellite images. Many geographers at the federal level work for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Department of State.
Schools needs K-12 teachers with solid geography backgrounds, since all states have recently introduced higher standards for geography instruction. At the college level, exciting new courses attract large numbers of students, and the demand for faculty with regional specialties or theoretical and research capabilities is strong.