Geography & Planning
Since most high schools in Pennsylvania do not offer geography courses, and because employed geographers hold many job titles but rarely the title of "geographer," few students come to college intending to major in geography. Thus, most majors come into the field from another major, or from an "undeclared" major status. Once in the major, retention is high and employment attainment and success is almost universal. The following vignettes of a variety of students over the past decade are illustrative:
Ryan came to WCU with an undeclared major. Like many young students new to college, Ryan wanted to gain experiences that would mold his future and give him a strong educational foundation. After assigning Business GIS as a minor to his Liberal Arts major, he quickly found his passion in the Geography and Planning department. He finished his Liberal Arts undergrad and then enrolled in the M.A. Geography program. Ryan is currently working on spatial data at Apple in California, and is part of a start up involved in internet marketing and SEO. Ryan says, “With a geographic mindset, the universe and possibilities are limitless.”
James, a graduate of Reading public high school, entered WCU as a criminal justice major. He changed to Geography the second semester of his first year, and expanded his horizons by spending a year in California on the national student exchange. Initially employed by Navigation Technologies in locations in California and North Dakota, he has returned to Pennsylvania where he is Manager of their Database Update Request Department. He is enrolled in a Masters program at Drexel University.
Carol entered WCU from Sun Valley High School in Aston, initially as a geology major. She changed to Geography in her junior year, and still graduated in 4 ½ years. One of her special experiences was being selected for a summer research experience at NASA at their Global Hydrology and Climate Center in Alabama-to which she traveled at their expense, received a weekly stipend as well. Upon graduation she had full time employment with The Chester County Planning Commission.
Bob came to West Chester from a public high school in Lititz PA, initially as an undeclared major. Despite being employed nearly full time throughout most of his college years, and a long commute from his home north of Lancaster, he graduated in four years. Presently he is Data Engineer for Mapquest.com, Inc. in Lancaster.
Robert, a graduate of Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, came to West Chester as a computer science major and switched to Geography in the middle of his sophomore year. While here, he did an internship with West Chester’s Academic Computing Center and had an active student life, especially as treasurer (for 3 years!) of the Black Student Union. He is employed by Montgomery County Planning commission with the title "GIS Cartographer and Webmaster."
Fern, a Henderson High School graduate of the late 1980's, was married and had two children when she came to West Chester. Initially she was an undeclared major, and she entered the Geography major toward the end of her sophomore year. Her student internship with Cahill and Associates, as well as leadership activity in the WCU Geography Club, were strong credentials for her first post-graduation employment at Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc. Presently, she is a GIS Analyst II at Roy F. Weston, Inc.
Evan came to WCU "undeclared" and entered the major in his sophomore year. His summer internship with Roy F. Weston, Inc. led to full time employment. He is still there, and will soon complete a Masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
Keary graduated from West Chester University (W.C.U.) in the summer of 2000 and is currently employed at the Chester County Planning Commission as a GIS Specialist. He was offered this position after successfully completing an internship with the Planning Commission.
At W.C.U. he was President of the Geography Club and joined Gamma Theta Upsilon, the Geography Honors Society.
His primary responsibilities at the Planning Commission include development of custom GIS applications and providing GIS user help desk support to a multitude of users throughout the office. Keary has worked with the Agricultural Preservation Board to improve their GIS database and mapping capabilities, contributed to the mapping efforts for the Chester County Open Space Plan, implemented Global Positioning System (GPS) and handheld GIS technology. All of these projects make the day to day functioning of the Planning Commission's overall program more productive and efficient through the use of GIS.
Louis graduated from West Chester University with a BA in Geography and Planning, and a minor in Political Science. He is currently employed as a Planner II with Chester County Planning Commission's Data and Transportation Department. Lou works primarily on transportation projects with an emphasis on highway and bridge issues. His responsibilities include regular coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Delaware Valley Planning Commission, elected officials, and the general public; maintenance of databases and inventories that cover nearly all aspects of County transportation issues. He also makes extensive use of GIS to create maps, which provide visual displays of pertinent data, needed for analysis.
Tom started his career with the Planning Commission after receiving a BA in Geography from WCU. For the first 9 years, Tom worked as a Community Planner assisting Chester County municipalities in preparing plans and ordinances. For the last 6 years has served as the Planning Commission’s GIS Coordinator, integrating this w technology into the organization’s numerous projects and activities. Tom continued his education and received his MSA Degree from WCU. The academic experiences he gained in geospatial data analysis, planning techniques, and management strategies have enabled Tom to excel in his profession at the County Planning Commission.
Carolyn is a graduate from West Chester University with a BA in Geography and a minor in Geology. She is currently employed with the Chester County Planning Commission as a Graphic Specialist. Her work responsibilities focus on the creation of maps and web pages, as well as photography and document design, all using computer-based technology. It was her experience with GIS as a Geography student that led her in the graphics direction. Carolyn creates maps in GIS or receives them from planners and, using her cartographic and design skills, takes them a step further by making them more aesthetically pleasing.
Richard graduated from West Chester University with a BA in Geography and Planning. Currently, he is employed by Tru*Serv Corporation in the Store Planning & Design Department. Tru*Serv is the corporation behind Tru Value Hardware. Richard began working in their world headquarters in Chicago, then moved to their Allentown distribution center. He uses AutoCAD to implement fixture and merchandise layouts as well as provide site plans, exterior elevations, interior decor and electrical plans.