Growing up, I had a big interest in maps. I would draw maps, look at road atlases, and pore over gas station road maps. I also would spend hours looking at my grandparents’ globe from the 1950’s and a Rand McNally World Atlas. When it came time to go to college, I thought there were only two paths - engineering/science or business. I wasn’t the best at math, so I chose to pursue the business route. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I realized geography was an option. I remember sitting in an excruciatingly boring economics class and found myself looking at a plastic relief map on the wall and daydreaming. Later that day, I told my mom I had made a big decision- I was going to switch my major to geography. I was met with silence. After a few seconds, she replied “What kind of job are you going to get with that degree? All you can do is teach!”
They call geography the “the ultimate discovery major”… I now know why.
Sharing the Knowledge
The best part of my job with GeoDecisions is having the opportunity to speak with younger generations about geography, geographic information systems (GIS), and maps. In recent travels, I discussed these topics with Cub Scouts in grades 1 through 4, at the Colonial Trail District Cuboree in Suffolk, Virginia; a group of junior and senior high school students at Harrisburg University in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and several groups of 2nd and 3rd graders at Hardy Elementary School in Smithfield, Virginia. What amazes me is the way that today’s students learn about geography and GIS. Second and third graders in Virginia, for example, are required to learn about maps through their course work as a part of their standards of learning. In the Capitol Region of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, many high schools teach GIS to juniors and seniors. Cub Scouts are taught map reading and navigation skills, while children use Google Earth, just because they like to look at maps.
Looking Back for a Path Forward
I sleep well at night knowing that our next generation of geographers won’t have to stumble upon geography as a career path. My mom laughs now when I tell my story. Fortunately, today’s students are delving into geography and know there is a career path ahead. Geography is slowly becoming a major of choice and the “discovery” portion is happening as early as grade school, versus college. I’m sure there will be a few skeptical moms and dads out there, but I’m doing my best to change their minds.