March Alumni of the Month: Rachel Levine
Name: Rachel Levine
Year of graduation: 2004
Major: Human Geography
Current employment status:
• Employer: American Red Cross International Services Division
• Position: Operations and Training Coordinator for the GIS Team
Did you/do you currently go to graduate school? If so:
• School: School of Geography, University of Leeds, UK
• Program: Activism and Social Change
• Degree: MA
What drew you GEOG/GIS/ENSP?
I’ve always been interested in maps and travel. I started undergrad not knowing much about Geography as a formal discipline, but quickly switched majors once I found out more about the department and the classes being offered. I loved that my classes were taught by a mixture of professionals in the field (Mila Zlotich specifically) and more traditional academics. Not many people know exactly what they want from life at 18 (or even at 30!) so having that mix of viewpoints and experiences allowed me to start figuring that out which is something I always appreciated.
What internships or independent research did you do as a GEOG/GIS/ENSP major?
I didn't have many internships or independent research.
What do you do at your current job?
Every day at my current job is different, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. A typical day can be anything from researching drone law, to planning Geography Education Week! One of my favorite things I get to do is coordinate the Missing Maps project. The Missing Maps project is a humanitarian project that preemptively maps parts of the world that are vulnerable to natural disasters, conflicts, and disease epidemics. This is done using OpenStreetMap in a three step process. First, digital volunteers trace satellite imagery to create base maps. Second, people with local knowledge add data to the map. Third, NGO’s and community groups use this data for program planning and disaster responses. We have had over 19,000 volunteers in the few short years we’ve been up and running, and working with volunteers is easily one of my favorite things I get to do! Digital volunteers are a huge part of our success, so please see missingmaps.org if you are interested in joining our community.
What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success while they are still undergraduates?
Learn open source programs like QGIS along with your regular coursework assigned by the department. Not being locked into proprietary programs is key to showing future employers that you are flexible and inquisitive.
What recommendations would you make to current GEOG/GIS/ENSP majors for career and academic success after graduation?
Volunteer! Internships and more formal research partnerships are important, but volunteering is a great way to get to know an organization and get your name out there. Job hunting can be terrible, so this is a great way to show that you are using this post-graduation time to stay current and give back to the community.
What do you miss the most about UMD?
I loved my time in CP! One of my favorite things was having my brother Danny join the department my Senior year. Unfortunately, we never got to take a class together, but seeing him on the regular is something I miss each and every day!
What are some of your hobbies/interests?
I enjoy Maryland Basketball, tailgating, travel, parks, and playing tourist in my own city!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t take this time for granted. Some of you are lucky enough to be handed four years to do nothing but figure out the world. Cornerstone isn’t going anywhere, so study abroad, audit classes outside your major, join clubs!
Thank you, Rachel, for all of your advice! We're so glad you love your job and that everything is going well!