"Knowing where you're going makes it easier to get there."

Leslie Kohlberg, Assistant Director of Department Relations, visited with Geography students to discuss how to tell employers the value of their experience as UW Madison students. (Students should see Joel Gruley to obtain useful handouts provided by Leslie.) Also, take advantage of all of the opportunities at L&S Career Services!

To begin the session, I led students through an activity to better understand their own personal values. The values exercise helps students identify their personal goals and values so they can also be looking for a place that is a good fit for them. To paraphrase Leslie, the interview (along with all of your other application materials) are simply a way to convey information. Assessing personal values is a good way to do a quick self check to determine if we are living a life that honors the things most important to us. When we are out of alignment, it's like riding in a car with a flat tire. Nothing feels right, you can't continue cruising down the road, because something is pulling you off your course. In the best of all situations, our partners, our friends, our jobs, all support the values that we honor most. This is why it is critical to have a clear understanding of those values.

The formula that I have been using with my students for the last few months, is inspired by coaching exercises. If you are doing this on your own, I suggest finding someone who will listen to you, and participate in the process as well. This exercise can be completed in 30 minutes; it can also run much longer, if you have an engaged group, full of self-reflective individuals who are interested in sharing. There are five questions that I pose, allowing for 2 to 5 minutes between each. 

1. Describe a high point in regard to a project that you have worked on for a class or work. This would be a time of extreme pleasure, satisfaction, learning, or fulfillment. It may be a single moment in time, or it may have happened over a long period. What about it was so important to you? Put yourself in that time; what can you see, hear, smell? Use as many details to describe the situation as you can: season, surroundings, the feelings you had, who else was involved, if anyone. 

2. Describe an awful experience at work or in school. This would be a time when you felt unimportant, dishonored, disempowered, or invisible. Use as many details as possible to describe the situation.

3. What drives you crazy?

4. If I were to interview your family and friends, what would they say that you value most?

5. Imagine yourself in 10 years. You are successful (however you define that). Someone approaches you at a conference and says, "Oh, it is so good to meet you! Your work has impacted me because you..." Finish that sentence. 

After all five questions have been asked, then students work in groups of 2 or 3. Each student explains his/her answers to all of the questions. The observing student listens carefully, and provides feedback to the student that is speaking. The listening student looks for patterns within the answers. What types of responses are showing up in both the negatively and positively phrased questions. Listening students then share their observations, and engage in a conversation about the perceptions. Make sure that you watch the time so that each sharing student gets about the same amount of time to share and receive feedback.

It can sometimes be helpful for the students to have access to a list of personal values as they go through this exercise, or in the personal reflections following the exercise.


The workshop series is related to an ongoing project funded by the 2015-2016 Alumni Relations Career Development Grant, which was distributed by the University of Wisconsin Foundation, and The L&S Career Initiative. 

Unique space

The UW-Madison Cartography Lab occupies a unique space in the industry. First, the axis: the Cart Lab exists along on the spectrum between theory and application. Predominately we focus on the application, and dabble in theory. Our participation in theoretical endeavors will increase in the coming years, as Dr. Rob Roth has taken on the role of Faculty Director of the lab. Out of this we expect to see more projects like the Process for Assessing Emergent Web Mapping Technologies. This will not diminish our focus on applied, service-learning projects, as we expect to be able to train more students with our expanding mission.

Secondly, the Cart Lab is positioned at the confluence of Arts & Humanities, Technology, and Science. This is the intersection in which all cartographers engage in the process of creating maps.

Finally, where the Public Sector, Industry, and the Academy overlap the Cart Lab is in a unique place to connect people and practices and ideas. This is the most exciting aspect of my job! As an educational space, we are not a competitor with industry organizations. In fact, I work closely with industry experts to adjust our curriculum and training for our students in order to best prepare them to join the workforce. This work includes inviting industry experts from government (local, state, and federal), and private organizations to engage directly with our students, through presentations in our lab, visits to their offices, interviews, and advice seeking about process. I'm grateful to the many individuals who engage directly with me and my students to help us to better train future spatial data scientists. Of course, we also exist in a space that engages the academy. With frequent academics visiting or collaborating with our Geography Department, our students have regular access to trends in research.

It is the combination of research and production, along with the willingness of multiple sectors of the field to collaborate with us, that situates the lab for the most meaningful work. The Cart Lab will continue to seek impactful work through the combination of research and production, and continue to build collaborative relationships with across the field.