As a first year at not only GIS, but also Washington College, you think taking on so much work at once would be stressful. However, Shannon Preen is handling it just fine.
“I was initially nervous, but I promised myself that I would tackle anything that came my way and look for and utilize any opportunity that was given,” Preen said.
Like most, Preen learned about GIS through an email blast GIS Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce sent out. While she didn’t know much about the the program, she was interested in learning more and decided to take the chance and respond. After visiting WC, Preen learned that it was a “sought after opportunity” and became “even more intrigued.”
Preen was hired into the Program and began her GIS training on the weekends before she was able to start working at the lab. Throughout training, Preen said she tried to keep herself open to soak up all the information she could, and she wasn’t afraid of asking questions.
Her attentiveness to the program has paid off, as Preen was among some of the Apprentices and Journeymen Leaders who were able to give poster presentations at NGA on GIS Day. Preen works with Brad Janocha on the Megacities project at the lab, and they were given the opportunity to discuss what they’ve been working on.
And while Preen has been involved with numerous projects in her short time here, her favorite is the Mumbai project, which is part of the Megacities project. “I am using imagery analysis techniques to extract informal settlements, political boundaries and transportation networks,” she said, also stating that she’s looking forward to moving forward with the project next semester.
“This project has opened the door for me,” she said. She explained that the opportunity of spending the day at NGA headquarters for GIS Day as “amazing” and “eye-opening.” Preen was the youngest member of the program to be given the opportunity to present a poster, and it gave her the chance to talk with the deputy director and director of NGA.
“The experience made me realize that my future may hold endless possibilities based on the experiences I will have during my time with GIS over the next few years,” she said. “GIS has given me hands-on training that has made my first semester at WC more than I had ever hoped for.”
Beyond just the mapping and computer skills that Preen has picked up, she also said she’s stepped out of her comfort zone and has been able to perfect her conversation and public speaking, skills that she’ll be able to take into any other work situation.
“I have been given the confidence that comes with interacting with coworkers, clients, and even the director of a government organization. When I tell people I am majoring in sociology, they seem confused as to why I would choose to work with GIS. However, GIS has given me the chance to graphically represent social services in a given area,” she said.
There is no GIS major at WC, but the lab employs students with many different majors and interests, which helps diversify the working experience and give students plenty of new skills they may not have otherwise had.
Preen believes that working at GIS will give her marketable skills as she applies to other positions in the future, but working with the program also has its sentimental benefits.
“If there is anything else I would add, it would be how honored I am to be a part of the GIS family,” Preen said. “I have made valuable friendships and learned a lot about not only GIS, but the community in which I chose to come and study. If anyone were ever to ask me if I would recommend working with or for the WC GIS Program, I would tell them, ‘Don’t even hesitate.'”