Erica Brown (’17): Mapping the City

Posted on November 18th, 2016 by

ericaErica Brown (class of 2017) is a Gustavus student majoring in Geography with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Concentration. She interned for the City of Rochester this past summer.

Who did you work for and what do they do?

I worked for the City of Rochester, MN, in their Public Works Department. I assisted the GIS Coordinator and the GIS Specialist with projects over the summer. The GIS Coordinators are very busy people who manage a lot of different things for the City. They are responsible for street sign locations to parcel splits and merges to building grading plans to some water resource management. They basically keep track of everyone else’s projects and data, since most aspects of city government have to be mapped in some way.


What were some of your daily tasks?

For the most part, I was given larger projects to work on for a few weeks at a time. I was not doing field work, so I worked in my office with ArcGIS every day. My largest task of the summer was a project where I digitized the impervious surfaces of the commercially-zoned parcels in the city of Rochester. Some days I worked on smaller projects, like georeferencing old aerial images of the city.


What are some interesting projects you did over the summer?

One interesting project I worked on was converting several existing databases into ArcGIS. Many cities are at the point where they need to consolidate a lot of data into one place or platform. I assisted with that. I converted traffic accident data from an Access database into ArcMap so that the city would have access to all data in one place.


What is something you learned that you found very valuable to your GIS experience?

It was super helpful as a whole to see how people use GIS in a real-world setting as opposed to just in the classroom. Almost everyone in the Public Works Department in Rochester works with ArcGIS at some point, so it was reassuring to see that the things you do with ArcGIS can be used by many people. I learned that there are one thousand ways to do something in GIS. Over the summer I learned a lot of helpful tricks and shortcuts in ArcMap. My skills interfacing Microsoft Excel with ArcGIS also increased.


Was the internship different from what you expected it would be?

It was not exactly what I expected it to be since I had not worked with GIS outside of the classroom before. In my internship I had a lot of freedom and I felt as if I could give my input more often than I thought I would be able to. Overall it was a great experience. If you are interested in going into GIS in the future, I would highly recommend doing an internship. Since my internship was in the public sector, I would be interested to see how private sector positions differ.


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