Meet Sam Powell, our July Undergraduate of the Month! Sam is majoring in GIS and minoring in Statistics and Sustainability!

What are your interests within your program(s)?

Learning about cartography and its intricate details is something that really connected me with my major. Creating a map is almost like solving a puzzle-- you have to find which parts fit with others to create the best-looking result you can.

What previous jobs, internships, and volunteer experience have you had?

My first internship in my field began at the Office of Transition Initiatives, which is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development. I was a virtual mapping intern working with web mapping software such as Open Street Map. I gained skills and knowledge about how to appropriately label aerial images and how my work from home helps the on-site workers.

Where are you/have you been interning?
I just finished my internship with UMD’s Facilities Management GIS Division.

What are your internship responsibilities?

I supported the full-time workers with any miscellaneous projects they were working on until I began my own project of the interactive campus map.

What project(s) are you working on or contributing to?

My main project that I contributed to was the interactive campus map. It is a web map that is purposed for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to navigate around campus. I began by georeferencing floor plans in a few of the remaining buildings that were not yet complete. I moved on to categorizing entrances to every single UMD-owned building on and off campus (there are more than 1600 entrances). I spent most of my internship analyzing aerial images and determining if the door was ADA accessible, required a swipe, an employee-only entrance, and so on. If I could not see what I needed from the images, I added it to the list of entrances that I would need to physically visit. I spent three weeks traveling all around campus and all the way up to Greenbelt to describe each and every entrance. Once that was complete, a few interns and I began working on routing the entrances to one another. The toughest part of this was determining the common walkways of students that aren’t always on a sidewalk because we wanted the most efficient route, but we did have strict guidelines about crossing streets and grass.

How is the internship experience relevant to your studies in Geographical Sciences?

This internship threw me into a real world project that had significant relevance to the University. In the process, I was able to apply the ArcGIS skills I learned in class to this project. I also learned many new skills from my mentors and online ESRI classes provided by the GIS division.

What are your career goals after your graduate?
My current goal is to secure a job and eventually move on to graduate school. I am not entirely sure of the field I want to dive into, but I know I want to utilize my GIS skills. Recently, I have been researching environmental studies jobs that require GIS because my minor in Sustainability has taught me how important our environmental impact currently has on the Earth.

Where are you from?

I am from Towson, Maryland!

What has been your favorite class at UMD? Why?

My favorite class at UMD was GEOG201 – Geography of Environmental Systems because I had Dr. Yearwood who was a comical, straightforward professor. He told you exactly what was going to be on the exams, what to write down, and what to study. On top of that, the material was the most interesting I had seen in college. It taught us so much about how and why natural disasters occur or why clouds form only at a certain altitude. This class made me want to major in the geographical sciences.

We're so glad that GEOG201 was able to help you choose a path within the Geographical Sciences! We can't wait to hear more about what you'll do with your GIS skills!

Congratulations, Sam!

Sam Powell