Quinn Heiser, 2021 USGIF Scholarship Winner

A third-year undergraduate student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Quinn Heiser spoke with us about winning the USGIF scholarship.


A third-year undergraduate student at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Mich., Quinn Heiser spoke with trajectory about winning the USGIF scholarship, how he became interested in maps, and why his favorite college class so far had nothing to do with geospatial intelligence.

trajectory: What is your current field of study? And how did you become interested in it?

Heiser: My current field of study is geography with a concentration in geographic information science (GIS). My interest in geography was sparked when I was in fifth grade when I would follow along with the map on long road trips. I just thought that was really interesting, so I started to study geography in my free time, and eventually GIS caught my attention when I was applying to college. I liked the concept behind it: applying a lot of complex ideas, intertwining them, and then using them to produce something that is useful to a lot of people.

What does winning the USGIF Scholarship mean to you? And how will the scholarship support your education?

To me, it means that all the work I’ve done up to this point has been worth something. I think also it shows me that people see potential in me to do something genuinely good. They see that I want to work in geospatial intelligence for the goodwill and improvement of the world and of society in general. I’m using the scholarship to help with tuition, which has been super helpful.

So who or what has been your favorite course, teacher or subject matter so far in your current program?

One of my required courses was a philosophy class called Critical Thinking. It was really a general overview of how we make decisions and why we do what we do. It made me begin to look at things with a more critical and objective eye. I think that’s really helped me with GIS because I had to reevaluate my own biases when it comes to map creation or data visualization. It’s helped me to take a step back and ask, OK, what’s really going on here?

What career path do you intend to pursue?

I would like to become a geospatial analyst. My goal is to go into national security for a government agency. I know I’m aiming pretty high, but that would be my ideal career path.

Would you recommend an education in geospatial intelligence to those who aren’t familiar with the field? And what would you tell them?

I would definitely recommend it. I recently took a cartography course, and what I learned is that mapping is just as much of an art as it is a science. And because of that, I think you can apply that knowledge to many different things. Whether you have an interest in the sciences and the data side, or if you enjoy the visual, more aesthetically pleasing part of it, there’s so much you can do with it.

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