Mapping A Bright Future for People of Color in the GIS Field

When opportunity knocked, Whitney Kotlewski answered.

Kotlewsky, a PhD student at the Center for Information Systems & Technology (CISAT), noticed that the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) workforce was lacking in women of color. She was determined to find a solution.

GIS is often described by Esri, a global market leader in GIS, as “the science of where” with endless possibilities for using this technology to gather and analyze geographic data.

The world of GIS is projected to grow in coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, GIS has been classified as a “new and emerging field” that will become increasingly essential in solving many of today’s challenges.

Kotlewski saw a need—and an opportunity.

“I was walking around, looking for others who looked like me, and I didn’t really see that representation,” she says.

To build diversity in the GIS workforce, she partnered with a colleague at Esri to found Black Girls Mapping Action to Pioneer Progress (MAPP), a group that helps connect and empower women of color working in GIS and that encourages others to explore the field.

Kotlewski’s first quest with Black Girls MAPP was to identify black women in the U.S. who work in GIS by using the very software that she helped design. From there, it was all about getting everyone connected and figuring out how to inspire a younger generation to pursue a career in GIS.

“Most people who get involved in a field like GIS have done so because they’ve had a mentor tell them they should take a computer science class. They never grew up thinking, ‘I want to work as a User Experience (UX) Manager,’ ” she explains. “That’s why it’s so important for Black Girls MAPP to visit schools to teach – not just black girls, but other kids of color – about GIS and the type of problems they can solve with it.”

Kotlewski sees the potential in those young minds and encourages them toward success.

Learn More About the Center for Information Systems & Technology

The Center for Information Systems & Technology (CISAT) prepares outstanding leaders in the field of Information Systems & Technology.

With a strong grounding in software development, database systems, networking, and information systems and technology management, CISAT’s curriculum provides cutting-edge technical training and research-infused instruction from faculty fully devoted to IS&T scholarship and innovation.

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