Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Student profiles

Sam Johnson

SamMy GIS ‘story’ started as I was transitioning into my undergraduate degree. Throughout my childhood I had put all my career eggs in one basket; playing soccer for the Brazilian national team. There were two major roadblocks to this plan that took years to sink in…I had to be good enough to play for the Brazilian team. And I had to be Brazilian. Neither were true. As I reoriented my interest compass, it settled on engaging and exploring the natural world.

I remember a specific National Geographic article was about discovering and mapping caves in the South Pacific. How cool is that?! Maps. Maps suddenly became cooler than a bicycle kick! I took numerous geography and GIS classes during my undergraduate degree, but something was missing.

After a couple of years, I decided to supplement my BS with a GIS certificate from PCC. My experience at PCC was a stark difference than the larger state school; instructors who cared while pushing me, students that weren’t there because “it was what you did after high school”, and an internship that embedded me in the PDX GIS space.

I’ve been with my GIS company now for almost three years. I still channel the “say yes” attitude that PCC instilled in me to jump on any opportunity as it arises. I can’t speak highly enough of the GIS instructors at PCC. Yes, we were taught cool technical skills. But there were also real-life applications and networking opportunities that were invaluable to my growth and where I am today. If you’re looking for local opportunities with amazing instructors, look no further.

Jesse Schaefer

SchaeferI was introduced to GIS while working as a wildland firefighter for the National Park Service and became immediately drawn to the field. It took a few years of consistently building interest and exposure for me to decide to take the plunge and pursue a GIS certificate at PCC. Throughout the program, I was impressed by the quality of instruction, and by the level of commitment and quality of work produced by my fellow students. Classes were engaging and I felt like I was getting a great education in GIS, one that could easily compete with programs offered by 4-year colleges.

I finished the PCC GIS certificate program well prepared to enter the GIS field. While still enrolled at PCC, I completed an internship at an environmental nonprofit based in Portland. I got to work on a wide range of interesting projects and learned a lot about applying GIS in a professional setting. After the internship ended I even got hired to do some contract work for the organization. Since completing the program, I’ve had fun and diverse opportunities to continue building my skills and experience through paid work. I’ve taught a data collection class for the GIS department at a local community college, provided on-site GIS support for wildfires as an Incident Mapping Specialist, and worked for the Oregon Department of Geology in support of a project related to earthquake risk and damage modeling. With each opportunity, I continue to build my skills and make connections. This fall I will be starting a master’s program in GIS through the University of Washington, and I’m excited to take my GIS education to the next level.

I would recommend to the PCC GIS program to anyone curious about GIS (and willing to put in lots of hours working on making maps)!

Randy Morris

RandyRandy Morris has a strong relationship with Portland Community College. Though Randy originally enrolled in PCC’s GIS Certificate program to supplement a Bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management, he loved the Geography program so much that he was inspired to seek a graduate degree in geography at Portland State University.

After finishing a Master’s Degree in Geography, Randy returned to PCC to teach Geography and Geographic Information Systems until 2016. Randy is now the Community GIS Project Leader at Portland State University’s Institute of Metropolitan Studies, and was most recently published as a lead cartographer in Portlandness: a Cultural Atlas. Currently, he heads the IMS Neighborhood Pulse project.

Randy delights in introducing people to the field of geography, as well as sharing his enthusiasm for GIS and love of cartography. He especially loves PCC and how the GIS program attracts experienced, cross-disciplinary students from whom he always learned as much as, or more than, he taught.

Katharina Perez

PerezI was one of those people that had never really heard of GIS or knew what it was until I stumbled upon it at PCC. Though I have always found geography interesting, I wasn’t into mapping or analyzing spatial data at all…little did I know that was about to change.

After graduating from OSU, I was interested in supplementing my resume and I heard that GIS skills were highly sought after ability. I decided to take one GIS class: Intro to ArcGIS. I was immediately hooked and ended up pursuing the certificate. I enjoy GIS because it is so useful and can be applied to a diverse set of fields whether you are in business, environmental conservation, research, or the arts.

While taking classes at PCC, I have used GIS for a wide variety of things ranging from applying spatial analysis to mangrove carbon sequestration data to making my custom maps for backpacking. I am excited that I can utilize this skillset for my passion, environmental conservation, and can now implement a spatial lens to my research.

The GIS skills I was acquiring at PCC already are paying off. They got me hired to my first full-time job mapping and modeling utilities using lidar data, a Fulbright research grant analyzing ecological spatial patterns of deer in Chile, and a whole new network of professionals in the GIS industry I would have otherwise likely never been introduced to.

I highly recommend PCC’s GIS certification or intro classes for anyone who wishes to view and analyze the world in a new way and learn how to effectively combine technology, art, and communication via this amazing field.

Levi Cecil

LeviI’ve had a lifelong love of maps and geography. I used to collect maps from National Geographic and hang them on my walls. When I was 11 years old, I took part in the Idaho State geography bee and met the governor. When I learned about GIS, I knew it was a career path that would be a good fit for me. I was already working towards an Associate’s transfer degree at PCC and I realized that I could earn the GIS certificate concurrently.

After graduating from PCC, I spent the summer working for Watershed Sciences as a Remote Sensing Technician. I worked on LiDAR data classification and feature extraction. I am currently preparing to enroll at PSU to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in geography.

I thoroughly enjoyed the GIS program at PCC. I wish there had been more classes! The GIS Applications class was especially challenging, but also very rewarding. My final independent project will be used as part of an ongoing campus watershed and sustainability research project. It was exciting to be part of a class where the students were getting hands-on experience, and providing crucial services to community partners. In the program, I studied with some of the best professors in my three years at the school. They are accessible, helpful, and passionate about the subject. I can’t speak highly enough of the program.

Joey Bard

JoeyWhen I chose to go back to school I had two things I knew I wanted in a career; I wanted the chance to explore and travel, and I wanted my work to benefit the world as a whole. Studying GIS is a path that will provide me with an endless puzzle to solve, and to continually develop new skills and apply them in the field.

In my first GIS class at PCC, we conducted a food access study in North Portland with an advocate group. It was an amazing experience to put the lessons into action and conduct a meaningful piece of research. The GIS instructors imparted to me a breadth of knowledge that prepared me for my internship abroad with The Trailblazer Foundation in Cambodia. Back in Portland, I have been interning at the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory, where I authored a digital database of the Newberry Volcano Geologic Map. The skills I learned in the PCC GIS program transitioned seamlessly into the field and were vital to opening the doors to these opportunities.

This fall I will be starting my junior year at Portland State University. I am already working in my field and using my experiences in the PCC GIS program to forward my career. The quality of instruction I received at PCC has been first class. The instructors brought in industry know-how and communicated it in a way that was accessible and pragmatic. Most of all my instructors were wonderful people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for helping me in the classroom and supporting me in any way they could to help me on my path.