MA Alumni

The following is a sample of alumni who have completed a Master's of Arts (MA) in the School of Geography and Development.

Julie Jamarta (MA 1992), GIS Analyst, Pima Association of Governments, Tucson, AZ

When I studied abroad in Madrid, I got excited about both Spain and urban planning. For graduate school I wanted to continue to study geography, and I wanted to retain the warmth and language of Spain. I chose the UA, where I also worked as an RA at the Drachman Institute, assisting with transportation research projects, work I continued after graduation at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) as a Senior Transit Technician working in transit planning using GIS. I later became Education Coordinator for the California Regional Office of ESRI, a dream job that again enabled me to travel, teaching clients how to use ESRI’s software. It was a great opportunity to learn the software in-depth and to work with a large group of talented GIS programmers and technical and support staff.

But Tucson and urban planning remained my home, and I wanted to return. Now at Pima Association of Governments I use ArcGIS for wide-ranging regional planning projects, including land use, environmental, and transportation planning programs. My projects have included work for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and Building A Quality Arizona (bqAZ) and also reconfiguring regional geographies for the 2010 census. I also provide GIS educational and technical support for PAG staff and have assisted in the development of web map applications, using Esri’s ArcGIS Server and Silverlight.

Jenna Meyers (MA 2007), Physical Scientist, National Weather Service/Climate Services Division, Silver Spring, MD

Since the 5th grade, I have always wanted to work in the field of weather. It became my passion and I decided to study meteorology at The Pennsylvania State University. While studying at Penn State, I worked at the National Weather Service (NWS) State College Forecast Office as a student. I also became very interested in climate and in addition to my B.S. in meteorology, I graduated with a minor in climatology in 2003. To further my climate education, I went on to get my M.A. in Geography from U of A under Andrew Comrie. An opportunity arose for my thesis to work on a project for the NWS in developing the methodology to downscale 3-month precipitation outlooks. Through my research collaboration, I was fortunate to be offered a position in 2005 as a Climate Services Specialist at the NWS Western Region Headquarters. In late 2008, I accepted and moved to my current position in the Climate Services Division at the NWS Headquarters Office. My work primarily supports the NWS field offices in the Climate Services Program, where I conduct training, write policy/guidance, and develop tools. I also promote coordination and collaboration among the climate community through partnership engagement and outreach development.

Kate Pearson (MA 1999), Resource Development Manager, Wetlands International, The Netherlands

I come from a geographic family – all my grandparents were immigrants, both my parents are geographers, several other family members are social studies teachers… but it was being raised in resource-­rich (and dependent) Alaska, that really brought home the interdependencies of economics and environment.

As an undergraduate at Middlebury College, I took a class on global warming in which I represented Indonesia at a mock Earth Summit, and spent a semester in Ecuador. I learned about inequity, which led to me majoring in Geography and Environmental Studies as a way to understand and tackle international development challenges. I became fluent in Spanish, and now also speak proficient Portuguese, tolerable French, and am learning Dutch. My first job was in the planning & zoning department in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I didn’t realize at the time how useful it would be – most development projects run by NGOs count on local government and community support to be successful. I chose the University of Arizona for my MA in geography, because of the many opportunities to link my interests in social and environmental themes (see “Gender and Coastal Management in Magdalena Bay, Mexico” InterCoast, 41, 2002).

Now at Wetlands International, I coordinate strategic fundraising for this global network organization. It is dedicated to conserving and restoring wetlands for people and nature. Prior to that I worked with Habitat for Humanity International, most recently leading its Haiti‐based fundraising team for two years following the January 2010 earthquake; we raised US$45 million for shelter, seflement and vocational disaster response programming. Before that I supported and built capacity in Habitat’s 20 country programs across Latin America and the Caribbean out of their Costa Rica­‐based regional office. I’ve also worked for several nonprofits in Washington, DC, including as Global Program Director for BoardSource, a US‐based nonprofit organization providing consulting and training to nonprofit boards. That experience led me to write “Creating a Board Without Borders” (Association Management, January 2004). For work and for fun, so far I have been to 40 countries… and still counting.

George Saliba (MA 2007), Senior Project Manager, City of Worcester, Massachusetts

As an undergraduate and a Master's student in Geography I was able to study and engage in the topic of human-environment relationships through the many course offerings and faculty experts in SGD. Following with my interests, each semester I enrolled in a blend of physical and social science courses while sprinkling in quantitative methods courses such as GIS and statistics. Six years after graduating with an M.A I can truthfully say that my professional career has closely mirrored the academic trajectory that I set upon while at the University of Arizona. I have been fortunate to work in the field of urban environmental restoration in Baltimore Maryland and now, in Massachusetts. In concrete terms this has meant engaging with a diverse range of community groups, scientists, and government agencies to complete on the ground restoration projects. A typical week can involve attending community meetings, writing technical reports, reviewing engineering plans, monitoring restoration and construction projects as they are built, or working with elected officials to secure funding.

Upon finishing my degree at SGD, I took a job and moved east to Baltimore, MD, home of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Here I worked for both the City and the County where I developed policies and implemented short and long term plans to conserve, manage and improve Baltimore’s urban natural resources. With the City I managed urban reforestation projects, environmental outreach and education efforts, and worked with community and strategic agency partners to leverage resources in support of community stewardship initiatives. As a project manager with the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, I oversaw the design and construction of stream restoration, stormwater retrofits, wetland enhancement projects. Recently my wife and I moved to Massachusetts to work as a Senior Project Manager with the City of Worcester to manage economic development projects that focus on turning long neglected waterfront areas into community assets such as parks, bike trails, and places that attract visitors for the their recreational and historic value. At each step along the way I am reminded of the importance of human-environment interaction. My academic foundation coupled with continued professional pursuit of this geography based dynamic has led me on a an exciting career path.

Jason Welborn (MA 2004), Junior Crew Chief, Psomas Engineering

I have always wanted a job where I could work outdoors. A backpacking trip down the Appalachian Trail as a teen drew me to geography where I could bring together the natural environment and people from diverse backgrounds. I came to Arizona from Mississippi to focus on political ecology, quality of life, and land management. Initially I had short term opportunities to be employed here, first with the Sonoran Institute, a non-profit that deals with conservation in the western United States, and then in a temporary position as a land surveyor with Psomas, a national consulting engineering company that engages with surveying, construction projects, and environmental services. But it was a temporary job and I thought a federal government environmental position would as a better long term career choice. So I started as a temporary seasonal park ranger and then as a biological science technician at Tumacacori and then Saguaro National Parks. With federal government financial uncertainties that proved not to be long term, so I decided to move back to Mississippi to work for the Nature Conservancy where I performed field surveys and studies of rare and endangered species and communities, evaluate habitats, and improve management for those that are threatened. In that work, my skills in field surveys and mapping were important and I also have enjoyed working with people and contributing to sustainable practices. But after my years in Tucson, I really missed being here. Fortunately, Psomas called me back, seven years after my previous employment with them. I am now on track to obtain professional surveyor registration. This requires years of experience but, what do you know – a Master’s in Geography eliminates some of the required time and puts me on a fast track! I will be focusing on surveying boundaries on public and private lands, topographical mapping, and transportation related surveys including many bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects in Pima County and southern Arizona. So I am indeed drawing on my geography, working with environment and people projects, and happy to be back in Arizona.