Congratulations to our November Alumni of the month, Elise Alkire! Elise is a Cartographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. She graduated from UMD in 2008 witha Bachelors of Science in Geography with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Read below for great recommendations and insight on working as a Cartographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Name: Elise Alkire

Year of graduation: 2008

Major: Geography

Minor: Geographic Information Systems


Current employment status:

  • Employer: U.S. Census Bureau         
  • Position: Cartographer


What drew you to GEOG/GIS/ENSP?

I’ve always been into maps, but didn’t know geography was something you could major in until I got to UMD. There I took GEOG100 as a core requirement, and upon reading other GEOG course descriptions I realized I wanted to take all of them!

What internships or independent research did you do as a GEOG/GIS/ENSP major?

I interned at the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association as their only GIS employee the summer before my senior year. I worked on a project to map toll facilities using Google Earth.

What do you do at your current job?

In the Cartographic Products and Services Branch I configure our in-house automated mapping software to create reference maps using data from the MAF/TIGER database, develop web mapping applications using the ArcGIS API for JavaScript, and make publication-quality maps using ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator. I also do activities that support mapping such as data extraction and analysis, documentation, and QA/QC of map products.

What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success while they are still undergraduates?

Take some classes that you genuinely find interesting, both in your major and outside of it. When you are in the workforce the opportunities to learn new things outside of your immediate job needs diminish, so take advantage of the diverse learning experiences UMD has to offer. You should also take a programming class if you can, because that is a valuable skill in any occupation.

What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success after graduation?

Remember that your major has given you knowledge about the world and human interaction that is applicable in a wide variety of professions, as well as technical skills that are uncommon among undergraduates in the social sciences. There are more kinds of jobs out there than you may realize, so be open minded in what you pursue and how you sell your unique background and skillset.

What do you miss the most about UMD?

My former boss Robin Rice at the Tydings Copy Center, Allen Eney’s lectures, and having summer and winter breaks.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

Fitness, cooking, home brewing, hiking, reading/watching anything funny

Anything else you’d like to add?

Go geography and go Terps!

Thank you Elise!. We appreciate your insight and wish you the best!

Elise Alkire headshot