Lauren Weber–GIS Skills Provide New Opportunities

Lauren Weber shares about her personal experience with the GEOG 403 course 

I graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota with my B.A. in Geography and Urban Studies in 2020. I found geography – or rather, geography found me – late in my undergraduate career, when I was looking for ways to bring together my interests across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. I am interested in critical human geography, redevelopment and planning processes, and qualitative research methods. I also spent a few years working for a few different nonprofits in the Twin Cities, from food justice work to energy efficiency policy, but I soon came back to geography because of how the discipline can examine tangible issues in a grounded, interdisciplinary way – which is what I hope to learn how to do within my own research. 

How did you became interested in starting the online program at Illinois?

I took one GIS class during my time as an undergraduate career, and though it was never my greatest strength, the ability of GIS to convey spatial patterns and information is essential to any geographer. I enrolled in GEOG 403 Geographic Information Science and Systems to get a refresher on some of my basic GIS skills, to expand on those skills, and to become more confident working with datasets and using ArcGIS. I also knew that the applications for GIS have rapidly been growing, and I wanted to gain some experience doing quantitative work.

What did you like best about the GEOG 403 course?

I appreciated the flexibility of the online course, as well as the clear tutorial videos that walked me through each step in the process – from acquiring data to cleaning up spreadsheets to mapping the data. I also think the variety of assignments, including using ArcGIS Online, creating maps ready for print, and making a final, conference-ready poster, was a crash course in the applications and uses of GIS. I can definitely say that I got what I wanted out of the course, and I now feel confident that I have the resources and skills necessary to analyze data and create maps for my own research.

In general, I think GIS, and working with any kind of new technology, can often be intimidating. GEOG 403 was an approachable and supportive course for a beginner GIS user, and the online format allowed me to take my time with tutorials and assignments, while always having the teaching material to refer back to.s 

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