URISA Announces 2021 Young Professional Scholarship Winners

by | Sep 15, 2021

URISA is pleased to announce that Josiah Burkett and Samantha Strang are the recipients of 2021 Dr. Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarships. This scholarship fund was established in 2018 and honors Dr. Marilyn Ruiz. During Dr. Ruiz’s  career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she provided her undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students with excellent research experiences in her laboratory which helped them to have successful careers in academia, government, and industry. Marilyn was passionate about her role as a mentor of graduate education.  

The scholarship fully supports young professional participation in URISA's GIS-Pro annual conference, fostering their professional connections and educational development.

Selection Criteria

  1. Demonstrated work and/or research within the GIS (or related) industry
  2. Quality of responses to essay questions
  3. Impact of work, contributions to the GIS field
  4. Letter of recommendation

URISA established the Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarship program which selects up to two young professionals (35 years old or younger) to attend GIS-Pro in-person. The scholarship application is rigorous and the evaluation committee appreciates the effort and detail with which all candidates presented their qualifications.

Meet this year's winners:

Josiah Burkett is a GIS Analyst for GeoTechVision in Kingston, Jamaica. He is an active member of URISA's Vanguard Cabinet and serves as a volunteer on URISA's Community Resilience Committee and the Climate Change & Climate Equity Working Group.

Valrie Grant, GISP, director at GeoTechVision, noted: “I directly supervise Josiah and I am always very pleased with the quality of his work and his voluntary spirit. Josiah is very professional in the way he conducts business. He has strong personal and stellar technical competencies: passion and drive, solid interpersonal skills, critical thinking, robust analytical and problem solving skills, ability in time management and multi-tasking, which makes him an ideal graduate student. Working with such a young, dynamic and professionally competent individual with a focused regional outlook is refreshing. It is always a pleasure to recommend and refer Josiah to opportunities that will bring him greater exposure and deepen his appreciation for the geospatial industry I have no reservations in recommending Josiah for the Dr. Marilyn O'Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarship to attend GIS-Pro 2021 in person. I believe that this would along him to interact with like-minded individuals and have the opportunity to evaluate offerings from the industry. This would be an extra-special in person event especially given the fact that it would be one of the first such events since the global pandemic.

Samantha Strang is a GIS Technician for Chatham County in Savannah, Georgia. Her knowledge of coastal dynamics and processes along with knowledge of fundamentals of elevation, along with her ability to fly drones with her FAA 107 license and airspace awareness, brings an added dimension to GIS offerings at Chatham County. 

David Anderson, GISP, GIS Manager at Chatham County, noted: “At the Chatham County Department of Engineering in Savannah, Georgia I've been fortunate to supervise and mentor Samantha Strang. Samantha is very adept at learning technologies and how to integrate technology into business workflows at Chatham County Government. Samantha is currently learning county business processes and how she can bring her knowledge and skill to best meet our business needs. Samantha is driven to learn GIS and she has a firm foundation with her Master's Degree from Johns Hopkins University. I hope to introduce Samantha to the National URISA network and all the professional relationships that are important to build as a URISA Young Professional.”

Fik Winata, one of the members of the scholarship review committee, expressed the following: “Both of the scholarship winners are undeniably exceptional. The committee was impressed with their contributions related to climate change, disaster management and recovery, and the coastal environment. Their efforts, within and outside of their jobs, have positive impacts on people's lives and make a difference.” 

URISA is pleased to support these two young professionals, along with so many others who are the future leaders of the organization.

A core strategic goal for URISA is to support GIS professionals at all stages of their careers. URISA has established a number of programs to support young professionals and has active participation through programs such as GISCorps with abundant, diverse and rewarding volunteer opportunities, the URISA GIS Leadership Academy, and the Vanguard Cabinet which collaborates with URISA leaders and committees to create programs and opportunities geared toward other young professionals. Learn more about the scholarship, and consider donating to support future winners, here: https://www.urisa.org/yp-scholarship



April Issue 2024