Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Favorite blog posts from the Past

Well I may reminiscence here on my retro blog at metsguild.com on occasion.  This is after all a retro blog.

One of the best things I ever did at Washington College is to get Mr. Edward Redmond from the Library of Congress to come to Washington College and talk about his research.  If you ever get the chance descend to the depths of DC and visit the map library vault where you can see and touch, with gloves, George Washington's original maps, then go.  It's quite a thrill.

Thanks to then President Mitchell Reiss of Washington College and then Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley for introducing Mr. Redmond's talk that evening.

On none other then Presidents Day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ2FNtpInmg

Credits:

Mr. Edward Redmond, Senior Reference Specialist and Curator in the Library of Congress, Geography and Maps Division, gave a lecture on the maps of George Washington. Mr. Redmond is not only an internationally recognized authority on George Washington's maps but prior to his work with the Library of Congress he taught Early American History at West Chester University and is now working on an atlas of George Washington's maps. Mapping the Past: The Surveys of George Washington is hosted by the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory, and the GRW Program. Video production by Digital Media Services at Washington College Event and sound production by the Washington College Department of Drama

Monday, February 10, 2020

5 Solid Tips for Finding a New Job in GIS for experienced GIS Professionals


I have been advising a large amount of college students for years on how to find a job in GIS after they graduate.  The advice stream started when I hired them as interns; usually four years before they graduated.  I recall one student intern who I hired without seeing him in person. He showed up with his Mom one day and had blue hair with a Mohawk.  Good advice.  Blue hair, a Mohawk, and a job today don't mix. Call me old fashioned if you must but it's old guys (and old gals too) like me that make a lot of hiring decisions and we, for the most part, don't like blue hair.  Mainly because our conservative customers who pay us don't like blue hair and Mohawks either.  Everything else is okay really but blue hair with a Mohawk.   Really you got to draw the line somewhere.

Most of my interns got jobs if they followed my advice.  I’ll do a separate post on how to prepare yourself for entry level jobs later.  Today I want to focus on folks who have at least a few years under their belt doing serious GIS work.

At my last GIS management job in Maryland I not only advised students on how to find jobs, I advised my staff on how to advance themselves as well.  That may have been a mistake as if they actually followed my advice, and many of them did, they quit working for me and went to work for someone else.  But I am glad for them that I was able to mentor them to advance themselves.  But then one day it was myself who decided to find a new job. And I followed my own advice as an example to my guild members.

There are many reasons why you may decide to start looking for a new job.  Here are some of them;

·        *   You hate going to work in the morning for any reason such as, well; if you do hate going to work in the morning you know the reasons so I am not going to rattle them off.

·        *  You have a pretty good idea that you are being way underpaid for your region and you don’t see any room for advancement in your current organization.

·         *  You spent the last five years doing the same thing, which you may actually like for the most part, but you feel you want to broaden your career experience.

·        *   Or you may be like me and end up going through a major life change that has nothing to do with work at all.  That’s how I ended up in Bermuda as an example.

Tip #1

Follow my Mom’s advice.  Don’t quit your current job until you have in “writing” a solid new job offer in your hand.  Feel free though to get into some side-hustles to test the waters.  Even if you simply do some volunteer work in GIS for some needy non-profit.  But hey honestly, I didn’t always listen to my Mom. But I should have.

Tip #2

Build your Internet profile up now.  Beef up your LinkedIn page and add more network contact’s especially in the career area you may wish to move too.  Make sure you actually communicate with them too and don’t just collect new LinkedIn connections like road kill in your rear-view mirror.  And make sure any other social media account you have represents you as a fine upstanding person who also appears to be neutral in regards to politics.  And everything else for that matter.  No one will ever admit to discrimination but it does happen and you will never know.  Get some of your professional friends to give you honest feedback as well on your resume and your social media presence.  I feel obligated myself when someone connects to me on LinkedIn to review their profile before I accept.  If I see something like a misspelled word; I am going to tell them.  Or their picture is like the best example of what picture not to post on LinkedIn.  If I really know them, then my comments might get more brutally honest.  If you feel brave then feel free to link into me and message me if you dare to want some brutally honest comments on your page.

Tip #3

If you’ve been doing GIS for five years you better be certified as a GISP, or actively pursuing that designation.  Too many employers are now requiring GISP even if the "Employers" really have absolutely no idea what it means to be certified and if the certification is actually meaningful.  Enough said there.

Tip #4

You need to keep at your continuing education.  Keep going to conferences and don’t just attend, but present at them.  Keep taking GIS workshops.  And most importantly, if you only have a four-year degree, you best get yourself into a decent graduate school (online or in-person it really doesn’t matter) and get a Master’s in GIS.  No pain, no gain.  I personally recommend Penn State.  What else do you expect a Nittany Lion to do?
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Tip #5

Now the hard part.  Finding that job.  There are many search engines.  Use them all.  Although I will have to say that for myself, I am very fond of these job search sites;





And my old classic favorite, the GIS Jobs Clearinghouse.  I love these guys.  But they don't catch all the GIS jobs out there.


Well for me the hard part wasn’t finding “a job”.  I found lots of them.  It is just many of them weren’t where I wanted to be for the salary.  It takes a lot of time to apply for a job, and even more time if you get an interview.  Only to find out down the road that the salary the new employer wants to offer you wouldn’t support your family; or your dog for that matter.  My advice.  Be bold and upfront.  I quite often just flat out ask what their expected salary range for the hire was if I couldn’t figure it out from the advertisement.  But use caution here.  If they do have a salary range, don’t expect to get an offer more than the mid-range and even then, only if you are very well-qualified. If the application process is intense, then I would ask before I applied.  If just a few clicks and press submit then I would wait to ask if they asked for an initial interview.  If they wanted to fly me to Hawaii for an interview; well then, maybe I wouldn’t ask such a silly question about salary in advance.  But any offer to work in Hawaii best be way up there as the cost of living is astronomical.  But not as high as Bermuda was of course.

I hope you found these tips useful in your efforts to advance your career.  Good luck and remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side so please try not to burn any bridges when you move on as you never know if you may need to cross them again.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

GIS Designed Map Permanently Installed by Sultana

Last September, Daniel  Benton, Erin Bloodgood, Erin Beach, and Kayla Johns began work on designing a map that would span the 30′ by 25’ floor of a new education building designed by the  Sultana Education Foundation, a  long-time local non-profit institution in Kent County. The mission of the Sultana Education Foundation is to provide experiential education to students of all ages, fostering an appreciation and stewardship of all aspects of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Their newly created Education Center was built in downtown Chestertown as an environmentally conscious LEED Platinum certified hub for educational activities, community awareness and environmental projects.  The building was unveiled in the September, promising to be an invaluable tool to the area for educational platforms and opportunities for local schools.

The Sultana Education Foundation approached the GIS Program a year ago, asking for a collaborative project that would lead a team to create a map.  The map would depict the Chesapeake Bay area as it would have appeared before the colonization of North America. In size, it was to be a map that included all of Maryland, Delaware, and Washington D.C. as well as huge tracts of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

In an interview during the early stages of the project, Benton said that he had never worked on a map of a comparable scale. “It has been challenging to find data that meets the standards we are setting for ourselves,” he said. The opportunity for students to work independently on projects of this magnitude is unique to Washington College, where the experience they acquire is incredibly useful to their future professional lives.
The team finished the project in early April of this year and sent the map to Locust Grove Studios, a studio that specializes in creative design, 3D design, graphic design, and animation. They worked on editing and optimizing the color scheme and design elements of the mapping data that the GIS Program developed to fit with the building. In addition, they used their image enhancement programs to create a vivid depiction of the water through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and extended out into the North Atlantic Ocean.

This Fall/Winter the GIS team is looking forward to designing new mapping layers as part of a collaborative project with the Sultana Education Foundation, Locust Grove Studios and the National Park Service related to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Benton said they could “show just about anything, such as the routes of Smith’s voyages, archeological sites of Native American settlements, as well sea level and shoreline changes.” Locust Grove Studios has designed some map proof-of-concept data layers which can be shown from a high-tech suspended projector over the main floor of the newly created Education Center. These initial test layers have already proven the abilities of the combined map/projector system.

“I visited the new building when it was still under construction last year, but since they finished it over the summer I haven’t gotten a chance to see the completed product yet. I can’t wait to go see it,” Beach said. “I think it’s so amazing that I could help create and contribute to something that hundreds of people will see, look at, and learn from. I helped make this map, and now it’s a real thing that I can go look at. And it will last for years,” she said.

According to Benton, it’s supposed to last at least 100 years in its place by the door – quite a long lifetime.

“I would say this has been one of the most enjoyable projects that I have worked on at the GIS lab,” Benton said. “The new building is amazing and it is amazing to see this map that I worked so hard on in the building.”

At the WC GIS Program, we’re proud to see testimonials of our students that will endure long after they have graduated and moved on to their professional careers. Daniel Benton’s work with the Sultana Education Foundation is a testament to his skills and the opportunities available through collaborative effort between educational institutions. We look forward to seeing more work from Daniel before he graduates, and to the exciting future opportunities for Erin and Kayla.

Stewart Bruce Accepts New Position in Bermuda

n 2007, Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program fit into a single classroom, Goldstein 206. There were a bare handful of student interns and one staff supervisor. That was also the year that Stewart Bruce was hired by the current Director of the Center for Environment and Society, Dr. John Seidel. Taking over what had until then been a fledgling program, Bruce determined that the best way to serve the WC community was to have the GIS Program grow.

In nine years, Bruce did indeed grow the GIS Program, and currently the student intern population is just under 100, and there are 9 full-time professional staff. To accommodate the mass of employees, the GIS Program has operated out of the Dixon Business Park for the past 5 years. The two suites occupied currently have well over five times the original space of Goldstein 206.

In Aug. 2016, Bruce announced his departure from the WC via email and announced his move to a new job in Bermuda.

“I have greatly appreciated everyone’s efforts to grow the program into the best GIS Program on the planet,” he said in the email. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”

During his time at WC, in addition to growing the GIS Program, Bruce was an Adjunct Assistant professor of Anthropology, teaching classes in GIS, remote sensing technologies, and cartography.

Bruce came to WC from Pennsylvania State University where he was a senior extension associate. While working as Program Coordinator for the WC GIS Program, Bruce initiated a relationship working with the Governor’s Office for Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP), launching a project that looked at regional crime data sharing.

The GOCCP Grant is now one of the GIS Program’s largest and longest running, and we are currently pursuing a renewal of the grant to continue the work that Stew began.

Last year, the GIS Program launched the Earth Data project, which is a “huge deal for the GIS lab and the Center for Environment and Society,” according to Bruce.

The Remote Sensing project began a partnership that continues between the GIS Program and Earth Data, a local Centreville company that has been a fixture for over 40 years.

In his last year working with the GIS Program, Bruce also launched the METS Guild, a STEM program for students in grades 7-9 that allowed them to work on real world GIS-related projects, with a second track dedicated to 3D virtual worlds and gaming, and a third track dedicated to web development. After its first successful run, the Guild is now accepting applications for its second year.

Casey Williams, journeyman leader, is one of the student interns leading the youths in the METS Guild program. She said that Bruce was a boss who saw the best qualities in everyone he worked with. “Whenever a visitor would come to the GIS Lab or if were with him at a conference, he would vouch for us, support us, and drum up interest in what we were doing. Stew also encouraged and pushed us to go outside our comfort zones in order to not only develop as employees, but as individuals as well. I never would have gotten involved in programs like METS Guild or the training academy without him believing in my abilities,” she said.

Bruce’s goal was to expand the lab without forgetting the pillars of a Liberal Arts education. In an email he sent as a thank you last year, he wrote, “While our customers are obviously very important, our number one priority is now, and always will be, to provide experiential learning opportunities for our students and help guide them into the productive job of their future. It is a combination of a fine liberal arts education available at Washington College with the experiential learning available at the GIS lab that makes our graduates competitive in today’s world market.”

Everyone who met Bruce could clearly see the passion he had for the students who worked at the GIS Program. His goal was to teach them real world GIS skills that would help them go far in their future endeavors after graduation. He passed on all the knowledge he could and provided an environment here at the GIS Program where students could exponentially grow their skills under direct supervision of professional GIS staff.

It is apparent from the success of our alumni that Bruce accomplished that goal. Two of our most recent GIS alumni have gone on to work immediately after graduating thanks to their experiences here. Josh Hyde and Stephen McFall, 2016, have gone on to pursue careers at Booz Allen Hamilton after summer internships that Bruce introduced them to.

“Joining the GIS lab may have been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life,” McFall said in a previous interview about his internship experience with Booz Allen. “The lab offers so many opportunities that you just can’t get anywhere else. I would like to thank Stewart Bruce for all of the help he has given me along the way through my college career.”

Bruce is now working as an Information Systems Officer at the Government of Bermuda, where he acts as a project manager, working to implement a new EnerGov application. He also assists the planning department by providing GIS maps, manages the department’s BEMIS application, and trains staff in GIS skills.

Because of the nine years he dedicated working at Washington College, the student intern population has grown exponentially and the GIS Program has secured incredible projects and opportunities and aspires to continue growing.

Erica McMaster, GIS Operations Manager, has temporarily taken over Bruce’s role. McMaster is a certified GIS Professional and has more than ten years of experience working with GIS and ESRI software. At the GIS Program, McMaster is currently working on the GOCCP and MHSO grants.

All of the staff remaining here at the GIS Program are working hard to fill the gap that was left after Bruce’s departure. He was a phenomenal boss that will be missed.


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Washington College GIS Mentioned in Police Chief Magazine

Every day our analysts and student interns work hard at creating useful products for our customers in hope to make a difference in traffic safety through Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is not every day, though, that we get mentioned in an international online publication for our hard work, but one of our products was mentioned in the July issue of the Police Chief Magazine.

This issue mentioned a product we created for the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) and Maryland State Police (MSP); the 40 on 40 initiative. The MHSO team at the Washington College GIS Program, comprised of Sean Lynn, Michael McGahee, Alicia Shipley, and Dana Case, along with their student interns, worked on assisting MHSO’s 40 on 40 initiative through GIS mapping and analysis. This was a high-visibility education and enforcement (HVEE) effort to reduce alcohol-related driving during the Super Bowl on 70 miles of US Route 40 in Maryland.

Our analysts created an in depth report of previous crashes that occurred along that stretch during prior Super Bowl weekends in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The team analyzed four years’ worth of data to show which areas of US Route 40 had the highest number of alcohol-related crashes, crashes by severity, highest crash counts on individual days, months, and times, and the total number of alcohol-related crashes that occurred during past Super Bowl weekends. There were 11 police agencies, including around 100 officers, that were involved in this initiative across Howard, Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil counties. Our team met up these agencies before the kick off to provide them the detailed report of their findings.

Previously mentioned in the Baltimore Sun, this effort proved to be a huge success. The use of GIS mapping to show law enforcement exactly where previous alcohol-related crashes are occurring along US Route 40 helped them to set up their DUI checkpoints along the roadway using a data driven approach.

The Police Chief Magazine stated the findings of this initiative: “Overall, during the Super Bowl weekend campaign, participating officers issued 641 citations, 604 warnings, and 204 safety equipment repair orders. There were 64 impaired driving arrests and 20 criminal arrests. About 670,000 motorists were exposed to impaired driving message boards, with another 900,000 impressions from the four billboards. Traffic safety organization Toward Zero Deaths Maryland helped disseminate messages via social media, reaching 12,000 followers and garnering 45,000 views. Maryland Highway Safety Office officials reported that the local cab company reported a 50 percent increase over average business on the first Friday of the campaign” (Wentlandt).


References:
Brad Wentlandt, “High-Visibility Education and Enforcement (HVEE) Pilot Project,” The Police Chief 83 (July 2016): 26–31.
Image from Police Chief Magazine

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Summer Kicks off at the GIS Lab

The 2016 summer interns have jumped into full gear at the GIS lab working 35 hours a week along with the GIS staff. The summer semester has begun very successfully as 26 interns have joined the team to help assist the lab in the plethora of projects being worked on, including 4 students interns that are working for Earth Data. The driven GIS interns that are at the lab for the summer semester include:

1 Graduated Senior: Koppany Jordan
5 Rising Seniors: Daniel Benton, Katie Walker, Erin Bloodgood, Christian Cooke, and Elizabeth Frye
5 Rising Juniors: Mark Christie, Casey Williams, Shane Manske, Jacob Hathaway, and Lindsey Arnstein
8 Rising Sophmores: Paige Guarino, Shannon Preen, Taylor Blades, Aaron Compton, Molly Flowers, Jiahan Lui, Morgan Perry, and Girija Ganeshan
3 Rising Freshman: Carl Williams, Emily Dobson, and Sara Kaminski
4 High School Students: Gavin Blue, Ryan Muller, Jervis Blake, and Phin Howell

The students are evenly distributed among all of the varying projects and grants throughout the lab. The GIS staff are grateful to have full time effort from these hard working students to put towards the projects they are managing.

Working at the GIS lab over the summer proves to be a very successful experience for the students as well. See below as some of the students express their reasoning for choosing to work at GIS over the summer:

  • Katie Walker, Journeyman Leader, explained that she “wanted to work here because of the wonderful co-workers and positive work atmosphere, as well as the ability to learn new skills by getting involved with more projects. Having worked here last summer, I understood that you can become more involved in the lab working over the summer than during the school year.”

  • Casey Williams, Journeyman, said that she chose to work at GIS because it “gives me the opportunity to get to know my coworkers better, to meet and get to know new students and employees, and it gives me the opportunity to better myself by working on different projects, while improving upon skills or learning new ones.”

  • Girija Ganeshan, Apprentice I, states that she chose to work at GIS this summer in order “to gain experience working in office environments.”

  • Koppany Jordan, Journeyman Leader, expressed that he “chose to work at GIS this summer because it’s an amazing environment to work in. It’s a great place to acquire new skills and be challenged in ways you don’t think possible. Staff are very welcoming and strive to help you see your fullest potential, no matter the line of work. That is why I asked to come back to GIS for the summer, so that I could not only continue to grow in this place and more fully develop my skills, but also learn something new along the way.”

  • Shannon Preen, Apprentice I, said that she “chose to work here this summer to maintain my skills learned this past school year and to open myself up to learn more this summer. I believe if I didn’t work here this summer, next semester when I return I won’t be as refreshed in the skills I have obtained.”

As an added bonus, Stewart Bruce, GIS Program Coordinator, has initiated a professional development session once a week for all staff and students in order to learn new skills that everyone can put into action for their professional careers. As the cherry on top of these bonus learning sessions, free lunch will also be provided. Everybody can certainly agree that Stewart Bruce is very adamant about the professional development for all the students and staff and we are grateful for his dedication to the lab and to everyone who works here.

The interns and staff are braced and ready to go for a successful summer at the GIS lab!

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Congrats to the GIS Class of 2016!

Our seniors are heading off to bigger and better things, and they are certainly going to be missed at the GIS lab. Their hard work and dedication for the GIS Program is greatly appreciated and we are certain that each and every one of them will go on to do great things in the future!

A special congratulations to Josh Hyde and Stephen McFall, who will be starting their careers at Booz Allen Hamilton after graduation. The two interned there over the summer and dazzled the company. Read more about it here.

Our 2016 Seniors

Josh Hyde is an Anthropology Major and a History Minor. Hyde worked on the Maryland Highway Safety Office grant, focusing on traffic records improvement as a programmer. He worked on updating and testing an ETIX Geocoder that “can update location data and geospatial data for a given dataset. Once updated, this tool could be used on a county by county basis, significantly reducing the time students spend geocoding data.”

Stephen McFall is an Anthropology Major and has worked at the GIS lab for all four years of his college career. McFall has worked on the ECI Project, where he helped build a 3D model of the Eastern Correctional Institution in Google SketchUp. By adding textures in from Autodesk 3DS Max and importing the model into Unity, he created a virtual version of the prison to help prison guards organize and access important information.

Brian Gicking, a Mathematics Major, has worked at GIS since fall of 2014. The majority of his time at the lab was working for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) grant doing crime mapping. He quickly became a huge asset to the GOCCP grant, completing all of the reoccurring projects, like Safe Streets, and supervising other students. He fell in love with being a crime analyst so much from working at the lab that after graduation he plans to pursue that career path. Gicking also developed a huge time saving method for student timesheets, converting all time to be entered digitally on an Ipad, thus saving many trees as well as saving the GIS office manager, Kelsey Newcomb, hours of time when processing student time sheets.

Brad Janocha is an International Studies Major with a Near Eastern concentration. Janocha has managed many projects for the lab, such as the Megacities project and mapping opiate use in Maryland’s Mid-Shore Region. Janocha also was one of the leaders for the training academy for the first year students who were interested in learning about GIS. After graduation, Janocha is considering signing up for the Peace Corp and in the future hopes to own his own business. Janocha was a finalist for Student Employee of the Year because of all his work at the lab.

Jeff Sherwood, an International Studies Major with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies, worked on the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) grant, as well as on the Washington’s World and Megacities projects. In 2015, Jeff won the USGIF Scholarship for excelling in both academics and GIS work. Sherwood also was one of the leaders for the training academy put on for the first year students who were interested in learning GIS.

Koppany Jordan started his GIS internship on the GOCCP grant. After studying abroad for a year in Morocco, he came back to the lab and was able to also work on the MHSO grant at the lab, creating statistical analysis on crash and citation data, as well as creating crash hotspot maps on demand for many agencies throughout the state. As an Economics and Political Science/Religion major, he had an interest in economic and business development through the lens of GIS. Jordan plans to work this summer here at the GIS lab before heading off to California to graduate school.

Jessica Gough is an Archaeology and Spanish Major and a Music Minor. During her time at GIS, Gough worked on the George Washington Atlas Project, which was a collaborative effort with Mount Vernon to assess Washington’s Southern Tour. She also was very involved in the back end of Geoworkshops, GIS’s professional development program.

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Hannah Ruff is an Art/Art History and Computer Science Major, and was the go-to person for web design and Photoshop. Ruff taught web design to the METS Guild students and also assisted in web development for other non-crime projects. Read more about Hannah here.

Leon Newkirk is an International Studies Major with a concentration in East Asia. Newkirk typically worked on general map requests as well as domestic violence, sex offender/daycare co-location, and homicides and shootings.He has worked on both the GOCCP grant and the Vehicle Theft grant. Newkirk also was a part of the team of students working on the Chesapeake Conservancy project.


Sean Emerson is a History and Political Science Major. He has worked on many projects during his time at the lab, including 3D projects and the Vehicle Theft grant where he worked on the monthly maps. Through his hard work and passion of GIS, Emerson was able to move up the guild and become a Journeyman Leader. Emerson is interested in using GIS for a career in national security. Read more about Sean here.

Hjordis Lorenz is a four year international student from Germany who majored in Clinical Psychology and minored in Spanish. For the past two years, she has been working at GIS on various crime mapping assignments (ArcMap) under the Governors Office of Crime Control and Prevention Grant (GOCCP) such as mapping locations of domestic violence, homicides and shootings or of recently released offenders. She has also worked on the Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) Grant, focusing on DUI mapping and analysis. Lorenz was interested in working at GIS because it combines criminal behavior she learned about in class with real world data. For her future she is very interested in the interplay of crime and psychology.

Congratulations to our class of 2016! Thank you for all your hard work and good luck in the future!


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Senator Cardin Visits Washington College GIS

Senator Cardin Visit

The GIS Program hosted a very important visitor on May 3rd. The students and staff prepared for Senator Cardin to visit and tour the lab. 20 student interns, 11 staff members, and Cpl. Currie from Prince George’s County Police Department were able to be present during the visit. Picture from Senator Cardin’s Twitter Pictured above […]

GIS Intern Finalist for Student Employee of the Year

Senior and Journeyman Leader Brad Janocha was second runner up for Washington College’s 2016 Student Employee of the Year, but as far as the lab is concerned, he is a winner!



“Brad is a take-charge kind of person and someone I trust to deal directly with customers and manage projects and the student interns on those projects,” Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce said.

Currently, Janocha is managing the Program’s $20,000 contract with the Delaware State Department of Education to provide geospatial support and web services. He handles everything that goes into managing a project – setting up meetings, managing the work load, and delegating other student interns.

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Janocha, right, with Shannon Preen, middle, talking to NGA representative
Janocha has been working at the lab since he was a freshman, and since then, “Brad’s work is always the highest quality and speed. As such, he only gets the toughest assignments to do in the lab,” Bruce said.

During his time here, Janocha has been involved with helping the UN with ground water improvement in Darfur and a project dealing with megacities. He attended an ESRI Conference on his own, had his own lightning round talk in front of over 10,000 people, and also sat down to talk to “GIS Cafe” about the Program.

“Most interns would not have shown that initiative on their own without some prodding,” Bruce said.

Janocha is also known for going above and beyond the standard for the Program. Even though students are only supposed to work 20 hours a week, Janocha’s dedication will have him working overtime without getting paid just so he can get the job done. He’s so reliable that Bruce has sent Janocha in his place to meet the Director of the National-Geospatial Agency.DSC_8506

“Brad is the poster child for why our GIS Program guild system is working for our students,” Bruce said. “While I can count many great students that I would like to see honored with this award, I can only nominate one and Brad is at the top of the guild in his performance.”

Congratulations for becoming a finalist, Brad! We know that you will accomplish great things in life!

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Out of the Lab: Habitat For Humanity

GIS interns took some time away from the lab over spring break to work with Habitat for Humanity on a new building project. The group was participating in their Collegiate Challenge program – a national initiative to involve college students to compete by means of construction projects.

“This year, we arrived on the site and the house was ‘dried-in,’” Journeyman Erika Koontz, 2017, said. “Meaning that the walls were sheathed in plywood and the roof was shingled. We were set to work on completing the siding on the house and putting the fascia, soffit, and other finishing pieces to make the outside of the house look nice for the homeowner.”
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The group traveled to South Carolina from March 13-19 and worked with construction leaders Bob Brown and Drew O’Rourke.

“Not only did this relentless crew finish each and every job at hand, but they had a blast doing it, from rocking out to ‘My House’ to forming a ten-person conga line. At the end of the day, the students truly understood that they were not only building a house, but they were building hope for a well deserving family,” the press release for the trip stated.

Koontz became involved with Habitat in high school, but she said that her involvement developed when she joined her freshman year at Washington College.

“I’ve definitely gained a lot of self-confidence from the trip, and construction skills,” she said.

Koontz, over the course of six trips, has worked on a variety of different stages when it comes to building a house – from framing to completing the siding.

“I’ve also met many people who are as inspired by Habitat’s mission to provide clean, decent, and safe housing for those without it,” Koontz said.

This was the first time what WC has partnered with Sumter Habitat for Humanity affiliate and after this experience, they’ve now set up a strong partnership.


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Filling in the Gaps – The Domestic Violence Project

In 2014, Maryland’s total domestic violence reports were at 27,242, according to the 2014 Uniform Crime Report. And the Washington College GIS Program works with the story behind those numbers.

Allie Gorman
Allie Gorman

“I’m really interested in learning how everything works in order to help identify issues or improvements that can be made,” GIS Analyst Allie Gorman said.

Her interest in learning how things work and solving the puzzle to make improvements is what drew her to working with domestic violence information in the lab. 

“While I was a student, I worked on the domestic violence project,” Gorman explained. Gorman graduated in May 2015 after having worked with GIS for her entire college career. After her graduation, she took classes to get her Crime Analysis Certificate and she was drawn the different domestic violence projects in particular.

The team, funded by a grant from the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), working on this  project is comprised of Gorman and students Brian Gicking, Stephen McFall, Aaron Compton, and Lynn Diferndinando.

Right now, the team deals with several different projects that relate to domestic violence.

For one aspect of the domestic violence work, the team receives 9B forms – monthly domestic violence incident reports from Maryland State Police.

“So my understanding is every law enforcement agency that has a domestic violence incident fills out this form and sends it to the Maryland State Police,” Gorman said.
The team has to wait until the police receive a whole year’s worth of incidents before the Program gets the reports in the paper form.

“Currently, we are working on 2014 and we just enter them into the access database and once they are all entered and are all checked multiple times, we geocode per census tract, by zip code and we look at a standard deviation and percent population,” she explained.

Gorman said that aside from that work, they also have a team working with the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence.

“Mid-Shore deals primarily with the victims of domestic violence and they serve five counties on the Eastern Shore: Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Talbot, and Dorchester,” Gorman said.

Mid-Shore is interested in the welfare of the victims and what kind of services they are receiving. The team hopes that by looking at the client information, they can identify the gaps in the services provided to victims and then make strides to fill those areas.

“Eventually, we are planning to look at domestic incidents from the form 9B and comparing victim addresses that the Mid-Shore provides and also comparing them to the Lethality Screenings that are preformed,” she said.

Working on this project connects her interest in making improvements to her GIS work.

“For so long we only looked at the crime side of it and now we have another angle or perspective looking at the victims,” she said. “So working with the Mid-Shore is really fascinating, because we just started and we are seeing gaps and hopefully with our analysis maybe new policies can be implemented so that these gaps aren’t as prominent.”

A new project is also just beginning to come together, and while Gorman isn’t too sure about the details, she’s looking forward to getting started with the Montgomery County Police Department and continuing to use her GIS skills to assist in helping police better take care of domestic violence cases.

Highway Safety Superheroes

Not all heroes wear capes, so the saying goes, and a prime example of that is the Washington College GIS Program’s Maryland Highway Safety Office (MHSO) project. The project is split into two parts: traffic improvements and impaired driving analysis. The team of staff and students are tasked with working with and analyzing crash and citation data throughout the whole state of Maryland and reporting those analyses through detailed map products to the Maryland Highway Safety Office and multiple police agencies.



Sean Lynn is the staff member and Analyst II who works on the traffic side on the MHSO project, handling requests from multiple agencies who are interested in different aspects of traffic safety. The MHSO team — comprised of Analyst I Alicia Shipley, Analyst II Michael McGahee, and several students, such as Josh Hyde, Chelsea Stevens, Jonathan Seitz, Julie Golinksi, and Elijah McGuire-Berk — handle a lot of on-site requests for data from DUI citations, to bicycle and pedestrian data, to just regular crash data.

“We do a lot of crash analysis,” Lynn said, “creating hotspot areas for each county to help show police where most of the crashes are occurring in their patrol areas. We do a lot of statistical charts and graphs with the data. One example of that is our popular temporal topology analysis. They are essentially heat maps that focus on the time and day when accidents are occurring. The red areas on the map are showing a high amount of crashes at those particular times, whereas the green areas are reflecting low to zero number of crashes at those times.

The traffic side of MHSO takes care of all of the on-demand projects in addition to a couple of small reoccurring projects, Lynn explained, whereas the other side of MHSO, the impaired side, handles most of the reoccurring monthly projects.

“We do a monthly report for the State Police Impaired Driving Effort (SPIDRE) Team, a quarterly report for multiple counties in the state, as well as holiday analysis maps,” Lynn explained.

In the instance of the “holiday analysis maps,” the team analyzes holidays, such as Fourth of July, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco De Mayo, or Labor Day, since those holidays tend to have alcohol-related accidents.

“We try to figure out where, historically, these accidents are happening to predict where they’re going to be occurring in 2016, so officers are aware of where to patrol in those areas,” Lynn said.

MHSO does all the reports and statistics for the SPIDRE Team, Maryland’s designated impaired task force comprised of about 7 troopers whose duties are to patrol the metropolitan areas of Maryland to look for any drunk drivers.

“So we evaluate through our monthly Post Patrol Analysis if they are stopping enough people and seeing what effect they are having on trying to get drunk drivers off of the road,” Lynn said.

The latest report that went out, by request, was the 40-on-40 project.
In this 40-on-40 project, taking place on Super bowl Weekend, the GIS Program’s MHSO team joined forces with nearly a dozen police agencies, covering 80-miles of Route 40 with 40 posted officers to look out for impaired drivers.

Route 40 was chosen for this weekend because of the studies the MHSO team has done on its history of alcohol-related crashes.

“They chose the Super bowl Weekend because there has been a higher amount of deaths and serious crashes on that particular weekend. They chose Route 40 because it touches several counties in Maryland,” Lynn explained.

The counties they focused on were Howard, Baltimore, Harford, and Cecil.

“Our report was focused on how many deaths were occurring on each of the days surrounding the Super bowl…so we focused on each day leading up and a day after to see what the correlation was: how many deaths, how many injuries, and top times of crashes.  At the end of the 40-on-40 enforcement everyone who was a part of it said it was very successful. There actually were no deaths and no serious injuries,” Lynn said.

Because of their work, the team was actually featured in the Baltimore Sun in February.


“It was a great job by Maryland State Police, because they did the second half of the work, where we chipped in for the first half.” The team went down and had a meeting with Tom Gianni, who’s the chief of Maryland Highway Safety Office, and discussed their research and briefed them, along with a team of troopers who were also a part of the enforcement, a week prior to the Superbowl to establish a solid plan.

“It was a very good initiative,” Lynn said. “And I hope that Maryland starts doing more initiatives of the weekends to keep people off the roads while they’re drinking. So the hope is, in the long run, is that we reach our goal of zero deaths.”

Aside from the successful 40-on-40 project, the team also works on a monthly post patrol for the SPIDRE Team, a quarterly analysis for alcohol-related driving, holiday analysis for alcohol-related driving, Aberdeen crash trend reports, Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) analysis, and creating the new RAVEN web application.


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FROM CHINA TO CHESTERTOWN

Chen “Hank” Zhu started working in the lab in March, 2015 and the transition from China to Chestertown feels a little like ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ But he’s making the best of the quiet, country town he’s found himself in.

“I heard of this job from Theresa Capule, director of the Global Education Office, when I was intending to look for a part-time job,” he said. “When I first heard there is GIS lab, I was so thrilled, because I have a basic knowledge of ArcMap, and I’m pretty interesting in geographic stuff – getting this job would be the best thing in the world.”

Zhu did get the job at GIS, and said that the experience working in the lab is much different than his other jobs at home.
 
“Back in China, I had part-time job as waiter at a small restaurant in my second year of high school, and I became an English tutor at my third year,” he said. At his restaurant job, he was working just for money, which “made me so tired and exhausted every day.” Zhu didn’t enjoy what he was doing, as he was serving tables without tip, cleaning the restaurant every morning, washing the dishes, and making desert for customers. When he became an English tutor, he was able to quit the waiter job.

Now at GIS, Zhu enjoys the environment much more. “This is a more formal job to me, comparing [it] with waiter and tutor. I need to wear appropriate dress to go to work, which boosts my confidence,” he said.

In the Program, Zhu works for MHSO. He described the job as “simple and clear” – where he finds X and Y for DUI offenders’ location. As he continued working here, he took an ESRI lesson online, which gave him a better understanding of GIS and how to use ArcMap at a more advanced level.

“I started work on holiday map – DUI crashes and citation analysis, which was using given data from Highway Safety Office to analyze which area has the most accidents and citation, and print out a nice and clean PDF file so they can put more patrol teams on these areas,” he explained.

The jobs weren’t just a transition for Zhu, but the atmosphere of Chestertown was a big change too. “China is a place where people [are] everywhere, making my hometown seem more crowded than ever before,” he said. “The traffic in my town is like Washington DC, I can barely driving during the rush hours. But Chestertown is, like, the most quiet place I’ve ever been. Nobody using the horn,” he joked. “I went back to China during winter break – no doubt, I have no immune to the noise anymore. I barely could sleep the first night I got home.”

Zhu is currently working part-time on a CC project, where he digitizes New York state. He’s been working on this project because his class schedule is tight and he doesn’t have enough time to work on MHSO right now.

Being at the lab hasn’t just boosted his confidence by wearing business clothes or advancing his knowledge of GIS and ArcMap, but Zhu says it has also taught him persistence. “Because sometime, I have to do some boring and simple task over and over again, but I can’t hold any grudge to anyone or anything. The simple and repeated tasks tell me that if I don’t have persistence and patience for doing the easiest thing in the world, what else I am able to do? It is what real life looks like, I am lucky I can experience these thing when I am still young. I think it apply to any area of study and work,” he said.

GIS GRAD SOARS AS RESEARCH ASSISTANT

Even though there’s no official GIS major at Washington College, working in the Program has its benefits “as fluency in GIS is rapidly becoming a necessity in wildlife research,” GIS alumni Jeffrey Sullivan said.

Sullivan began working in the lab his freshman year in 2011 after completing Project Coordinator Stewart Bruce’s Intro to GIS course at WC.

“At that time we were still in the old Goldstein office,” Sullivan recalled.

Sullivan worked in the lab all four years, tackling crime projects including welcome wagon and gang related violence, before he began transitioning for a short time to several research projects for Stew.

“Perhaps the most interesting work I did on that end was when we were mapping all of the center pivot irrigation in a few counties to do predictive mapping of copper theft,” he said.

Through his time at the lab, he eventually started to work on more environmental projects, including a project where “all religious structures were classified by parking lot size to determine impact of the ‘rain tax.’”

After taking the intermediate GIS course Sullivan began doing a lot of independent work for the lab, by making maps for reports on Andelot and Chino farms.

“It was a great experience for me to get experience working with the customer from the beginning through the end of a project and see how are products are utilized by landowners,” he said.

After graduating from WC and the lab, Sullivan is now a masters student research assistant at Auburn University. He works under Dr. Steve Ditchkoff on white-tailed deer research.

“I am examining the movement of female white-tailed deer relative to estrus and hunting pressure, focusing on the potential display of female mate choice and the way in which these keystone herbivores display fine scale spatial and temporal risk aversion,” he explained.

As a research assistant, he uses Arcmap to build and maintain shapefiles that represent a multitude of attributes for his field site.

“For instance, I have developed a polygon around each permanent deer stand on the study site that represents the area in which the deer is visible to a hunter,” he explained. Sullivan then uses the “R statistical software” and codes for every point if the animal is in, or isn’t in, one of the zones. This allows him to determine the “temporal patterns at which deer place themselves at risk.

“Even when I am not using GIS in my research, I have found that the spatial reasoning skills I developed in the lab are critical to how I approach movement and behavioral questions.”

Sullivan says the skills he gained at the lab were “crucial” and helped him stand out for his current position. “I believe access to high level GIS coursework and experiences truly provide WC students with a significant advantage in the environmental fields,” he said. “While the actual work I did at the lab is not really comparable to what I am doing now, learning how the software functions, and developing the problem solving skills I honed as a project leader have helped me immensely.”


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MERGING COMPUTER SCIENCE AND ENGLISH IN THE LAB (CASEY WILLIAMS)

In the September of 2014, sophomore Casey Williams actually thought she wouldn’t have much to offer the lab, but in the year-plus that she’s been working here, she’s proved just the opposite.

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Sophomore and Journeyman Casey Williams
After talking to a few interns at the GIS Booth on Admitted Students Day, Williams was intrigued by the lab. “That meeting acted as the bait that would eventually get me hooked onto the lab,” Williams recalled. “A few months later, Stew sent out an email discussing the need for new interns. I felt that if I didn’t take a chance and introduce myself—even with not being familiar with any of the programs—I was going to regret it immensely. Now, I’ve been working at the lab for almost a year and a half.”

During her time with the Program, Williams worked solely on vehicle theft projects. She created DPP and DJS offender maps, while gathering all the essential data and organizing it into packets.

At the start of this year, though, Williams’ path changed slightly when she began working as a student-teacher for the game development METS Guild.


“I don’t really have a favorite project [in the lab], but I really enjoyed helping middle school student learn the ropes of game development,” Williams said. “I’m honestly a tad jealous – I would have loved having a program like that growing up!”

Williams has learned a variety of skills while working at GIS, like  creating maps and displaying data using ESRI software, but she’s also learned skills that are easily transferable to other jobs – learning how to organize information and make it aesthetically pleasing and understandable.

“I’m an English major with a Computer Science minor. I’m aiming towards a job that will involve a lot of writing and programming. Though the fields are divergent from one another, I believe they can both benefit from the skills I learned,” Williams said. “It’s obvious as to how the lab benefits my understanding of computers and programming: everything I do at the lab is on computers and I’m learning new ways to navigate them. Writing, on the other hand, has a lot more in common than I originally thought. With organizing data and making it presentable for an audience, it’s important to make sure the information is coherent and that your ideas are translated well—writing resonates with this. In order to be a good writer, you have to be able to write with an audience in mind. Communication and coherency is just as important in writing as it is in the lab.”
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