Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Set Apart: An Alumna's success in GIS

   “Stew was new on campus when I met him, and he told us that he had big plans for the program,” remembers alumna Laura Human Cannon ‘08. This Environmental Studies major witnessed the GIS program’s new beginnings and is nothing but thankful for her opportunities in GIS technology.

      “WC is a fantastic school and I am incredibly thankful for the way my four years as a student shaped my career path and enriched my life. I ended up taking GIS I & II because they were a part of the course options for my major. From what I have heard and seen, it sounds like Stew Bruce has already met his huge goals in just a few years. The program was growing while I was there and it has continued to expand,” said Laura.

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             Laura spent her time as a GIS Intern creating maps of Kent County’s Worton Park. She worked to provide the Parks and Recreation department with maps to enable visitors to easily locate sports fields and facilities. She also provided maps of utilities, roads, walkways, and plats to allow smoother maintenance of the park. As an intern with the GIS lab, she even taught the local Parks and Recreation Department how to navigate and update the databases she had created. The goal was to provide them with a map that patrons could use in the future. “Completing an entire project from start to finish was a great experience and truly tested what I had learned in the classroom,” said Laura.

      After graduation in May 2008, Laura’s first full time job was with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) as a Soil Conservation Planner, writing conservation plans, comprehensive nutrient management plans and helping farmers get cost-share assistance for the best management practices.

      “One of the reasons I got the job was because of my experience with WC GIS,” said Laura. “MDA utilizes Toolkit software on a daily basis. I was able to essentially hit the ground running and begin writing plans. I also worked in ArcMap to create several projects.”

      After nearly three years with the State of Maryland, Laura began working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency. She currently administers Farm Bill programs for local farmers. Her main responsibilities are to manage the Conservation Reserve Program and the county’s GIS work for cropland.

     Laura gives much credit to her GIS Intern experience at WC for her current employment with the Farm Service Agency. “We have hundreds of farmers that are active in our programs and each farm is managed electronically via GIS. My background with GIS in college absolutely gave me an edge in securing my current position.”

     “I highly encourage students at WC to utilize the GIS program. Knowledge of this technology has set me apart from other candidates and has made me a more valuable employee. GIS is valuable in so many different fields now that taking the classes just makes good sense.”

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