Azavea's Summer of Maps Connects Student GIS Analysts with Nonprofits - Generocity Philly

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May 8, 2014 4:13 pm

Azavea’s Summer of Maps Connects Student GIS Analysts with Nonprofits

Local GIS pioneer Azavea is connecting student analysts with nonprofits in need of geospatial mapping capabilities in the third year of its Summer of Maps program. “[Summer of Maps] is a pro bono program, where we provide geospatial analysis services to nonprofits, and at the same time we have fellows working in our office who […]

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Local GIS pioneer Azavea is connecting student analysts with nonprofits in need of geospatial mapping capabilities in the third year of its Summer of Maps program.

“[Summer of Maps] is a pro bono program, where we provide geospatial analysis services to nonprofits, and at the same time we have fellows working in our office who complete the geospatial work,” said Sarah Cordivano, program manager for the Summer of Maps program and a digital analytic project manager at Azavea. The program is sponsored by Penn Design and  ESRI, the maker of a well-known GIS software program.

The idea was the brainchild of Azavea’s CEO, Robert Cheetham. “[It was a] way to bring in more interns, but then also be able to show the kind of work we can do, and at the same time provide challenging work for the staff here at Azavea,” said Summer of Maps mentor and GIS Analyst Daniel McGlone.

For this year’s Summer of Maps program, three fellows were selected to work for three months on geospatial data analysis for nonprofit organizations. GIS (geographic information systems) is the analysis, display or visualization of geographic data. This can be anything from a simple map to a complex assembly of data sets. In general it is used to help users make better decisions about data and planning.

Each fellow chose two nonprofits to work with. This year, the fellows will work with Tree People, Consortium for Building Energy Innovation, girlstart, City Harvest, Community Design Collaborative and Data Haven. In addition, Azavea provides each fellow with a mentor. Both Cordivano and McGlone are mentors for the program, along with John Branigan, a GIS project manager at Azavea.

“I thought [the program] was really valuable because I got to choose my projects, which means I had an investment in their success,” said Tyler Dahlberg, a fellow from last year’s program.

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Although only three fellows are selected, Azavea shares information about nonprofits and students who weren’t selected in order to create opportunities to work together. Cordivano said that Azavea would not be able to provide any support for these potential projects. However, they hope to expand the program to incorporate more fellows, nonprofits and mentors in the future.

“We’d like to expand the program. There’s certainly the desire from both nonprofits and fellow applicants,” Cordivano said. “We’re seeking additional funding opportunities and additional resources — for example, we’ve talked about hiring guest mentors from academic institutions or other professional fields to assist with the mentoring because that’s been a big time commitment for us.”

Learn more about the Summer of Maps program at summerofmaps.com

(image via summerofmaps.com)

Update: A previous version of this article referred to the students as developers. The students are GIS analysts, not developers.

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