Student Spotlight

Monica Zhang

Monica Zhang is a recent graduate of the GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Certificate Program. As a career changer, she is hoping to leverage what she learns in the program to transition into a brand new industry. We recently spoke with Monica to learn about what brought her to the program and what she enjoyed most as a student. Here are some highlights from our discussion.

On why she decided to take classes in the GIS Certificate program…
I decided to take classes in the GIS Certificate program after seeing some jobs involving GIS work that sounded interesting, but I wasn't really qualified for. My background is in wildlife biology, and learning more about how to use GIS to map and analyze data seemed like a good way to further my career as well as branch out, since GIS technology can be used in many different fields for different things.

On what interested her in the program…
The College of Extended Learning's program appealed to me because of the variety of useful classes, ease of scheduling, and getting to interact with instructors in person (as opposed to an online program). 

On her favorite classes in the program…
It was great coming into classes week after week and feeling like I was vastly improving my knowledge. The computer exercises were very helpful in getting us familiar with the programs and essential to the learning process since you need to be prepared for doing things on your own in ArcGIS (software). I also liked that each class came with a printed booklet, which made it easy to take notes during lectures and exercises and is a useful reference.

On her favorite instructors…
I learned new and useful things from each and every class, but I especially enjoyed the classes taught by Jerry Davis. The classes in cartographic design, remote sensing, building GIS web applications, and sustainable planning introduced me to a lot of new ideas and skills. The Managing a GIS Project class was also a good way to integrate all that we learned into our own projects.

On future opportunities after she graduates…
I definitely learned a great deal and met many instructors and fellow students, which should be useful moving forward as I look for career opportunities.

On advice she'd give to future program students…
Make sure to get enough sleep the night before and/or bring coffee. Take notes. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Try to understand why you're doing what you're doing and what each button click means. Also, save your work often!