What Can You Do with a Geography Degree?

The Department of Geography and Planning is using the power of GIS to illustrate answers to the questions, where do our alumni go, and what do they do? GIS is a multidisciplinary field that brings together geography, cartography, statistical analysis, and computer science to bring relevance to data sets that may well seem to be unrelated and to represent that data in an easily understood, visual manner. It is a dynamic area that has broad appeal in fields where people might never have considered working with visualizing data. Dr. Jacquelyn Chase, professor of geography and planning, is working with the department’s new advisory board to develop projects that will illustrate the professional trajectory of geography majors. The department has teamed up with members of its new advisory board outreach subcommittee as well as the campus’s Geographical Information Center and the Office of Institutional Research to create a dynamic map of geography and planning alumni who reside in the United States. The alumni data extend back to the founding of the department in the early 1960s and when mapped using GIS, geographical patterns by occupational field are revealed. These patterns reinforce the notion that there is a broad distribution of Chico State geographers in every state and county, from metropolitan areas to rural locations.

Having completed the map of where alumni reside in California, the next step in the process will be to add more detailed occupational and temporal data, in order to answer more specific questions such as:

■ What kinds of professions are available for geographers in remote, rural counties?

■ Where are recent graduates employed?

■ Did alumni who work in large cities find the curriculum and experience of studying in a more rural region, such as Chico, a good match for the demands of their careers?

By extending the GIS mapping analysis, the department hopes to reach out to alumni to find out how their career paths and educational needs have changed. This process is already under-way with an online survey of alumni. Data will be georeferenced and analyzed with GIS to distill additional patterns of place and occupation. The Department intends to broaden the map to include all 50 states and to make it interactive and accessible on the web this Spring 2014. This work is important to the department in preparation for its 50th anniversary celebration to occur September 5, 6, & 7, 2014.

Map of Alumni living in California