Chapter 11: Where to Now?

Students and Jobs

As evidenced in the UCSB catalogs of the 1960s, the study of Geography used to be thought good only for teachers. But, today, while want-ads don’t ask specifically for a geographer, jobs abound.

Careers day thumbnail

Six alumni with great jobs who returned to campus to speak to undergraduates at “Careers’ Day,” an event June 1, 2001, arranged by the Geography Department

When students earn degrees from the UCSB Geography Department, many of them get jobs in the fields they studied. Of course, one must note that the Department emphasizes aspects of Geography that are hot in the job market, like GIS and remote sensing. People who are skilled in GIS are needed in multidinous fields from fire suppression to city planning. Those with remote sensing knowledge are hired by the military and agencies that assess resources.

A major key to employment after earning a BA or BS is interning. Graduates have sworn by internships. Paid or unpaid, alumni claim the internships gave them the connections and experiences that made the crucial difference.

Masters graduates, can, of course, teach in junior colleges. PhD graduates can become professors at universities. But many, who, while students, were involved with projects that collaborated with government agencies, get jobs with such agencies when they leave UCSB.

Below is a sampling of positions obtained by recent graduates.

Jobs Upon Graduating From UCSB Geography Department

Employment of Recent Graduates with a B.A. or B.S.

  • GIS Technician, Bonterra Consulting, Costa Mesa, CA
  • Technical Support Manager, Earth Resource Mapping, San Diego, CA
  • Vice President of Acquisitions & Entitlements, Capital Pacific Holdings, Inc., Santa Barbara, CA
  • Urban and Regional Planner, U.S. Peace Corps
  • Scientist, Bechtel Nevada (Division of Special Technologies Lab), Santa Barbara, CA
  • National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Saint Louis, MO
  • San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego, CA
  •, Santa Barbara, CA
  • GeoInSight International, Carpinteria, CA
  • GIS Technician, Thomas Brothers Maps, Irvine, CA
  • Scripps Institute, UC San Diego, CA
  • Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), Redlands, CA
  • Tele Atlas, Menlo Park, CA

Employment of Recent Graduates with an M.A.

  • Assistant Systems Development Specialist, Computer Data Systems Inc, New Orleans, LA
  • Environmental & GIS Analyst, Capital Mapping, Takoma Park, MD
  • Environmental Research, GIS/Remote Sensing Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa
  • Project Office Manager, Ogden International, Santa Barbara, CA
  • GIS Specialist, Fairfield Industrial Inc, Houston, TX
  • Managing Director, Technical Study-Tours & Travel, Nairobi, Kenya
  • GIS Technician, Houston Department of Transportation, Houston, TX
  • Instructor, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA
  • GIS/Remote Sensing Scientist, Desert Research Institute, Reno, NV
  • Research Associate, University of Hawaii, Inst. for Marine & Atmospheric Research, Manoa, HI
  • Principal Geographer, Creative Data, St Heliers, Auckalnd, New Zealand
  • Senior Researcher-Compiler, National Geographic Society, Cartographic Division, Washington, DC
  • Sr. Hydrogeologist, Metcalf & Eddy, Inc, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Staff Research, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Employment of Recent Graduates with a Ph.D.

  • Principal Scientist, Geraghty & Miller Inc, Environmental Services, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Technical Support Services, United Nations, Statistics Division, New York, NY
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Earth Resources, Colorado State University
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Boston Univeresity
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Univeresity of Utah
  • Postgraduate Research Meteorologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Ohio State University
  • Vegetation Ecologist, Marin Municipal Water District, Corte Madera, CA
  • Lecturer, Geographical Sciences & Planning Dept, The University of Queensland, Australia
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography, Hunter College-CUNY
  • Executive Director, Geographic Information Science Center, UC Berkeley
  • Remote Sensing Scientist, EROS Data Center, US Geological Survey, Sioux Falls, SD
  • Assistant Professor, Social Sciences Dept, Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Assistant Professor, Dept of Geography & Environmental Science, University of Denver, Denver, CO
  • Sr Remote Sensing Specialist, NOAA Coastal Services Center, Charleston, SC

Typically, universities do little to help students transition to jobs in the real world. The UCSB Geography Department has taken steps to address this need with practical courses, collaborative research, and encouragement of internships. Building on this success, the Department is currently updating and adding to a data base of companies and agencies that may offer students internships and jobs.


As a young department about to celebrate its 30th anniversary, UCSB Geography is making efforts to be in closer contact with its alumni. The Department hosted a special event for alumni at a recent AAG meeting, and it has begun publishing an annual newsletter.


Since 1987, the National Geographic Society (NGS) has sponsored Geography Awareness Week to promote geographic literacy in schools, communities, and organizations, with a focus on the education of children. Celebrated every 3rd week in November, National Geography Awareness Week was signed into law on July 24, 1987 by President Ronald Reagan. UCSB Geography, under Golledge’s guidance, began participating Fall 1988.47

Geography conference room thumbnail

Faculty, graduate students, and sometimes staff have given presentations about geography to area schools, reaching approximately 250 students each year. Presentation topics included the geography of Santa Barbara County, the basics of remote sensing, clouds and global warming, maps and map-reading, and weather and seasons in Santa Barbara. For instance, Professor Clarke has given a Powerpoint presentation to Dos Pueblos High School on the five themes of Geography: Location, Place, Region, Human Environmental Interaction, and Movement. He showed different kinds of maps, five air photos of the Dos Pueblos area from 1943 to 1998, maps of population changes in the Santa Barbara area, and more.


When the Geography Department began, planning was generally done year to year. During Church’s years as Chair, planning shifted to five-year spans. Now, it encompasses strategic, long-term goals. At the January 2003 faculty retreat, plans were projected to 2010. The faculty give full input and review during their annual retreats, which are all-day and located off the main campus.


“For of those to whom much is given, much is required,” spoke President-elect John F. Kennedy to the Massachusetts legislature in 1961.[a] With growth into a solid, relatively large department, UCSB Geography has been shifting gears from young upstart to leader among peers. Golledge was President of the Association of American Geographers in 2000. Clarke was President of the Cartography and Geographic Information Society in 2001. The Department hosted the annual conference for the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers in 2001.

The model of “servant leader” may well offer the Department an avenue for future growth. Written about in the business community, servant leaders recognize that teams are more powerful than the sum of the individuals and recognize people as their prime (and appreciating) assets. The principles of leadership are based on strengthening the bonds of respect, responsibility, and caring for those around you.[b] Traditional heirarchical leadership, with one person in charge at the top of the pyramid, no matter how good the top person is, breaks down after a certain size. It also doesn’t develop each individual to the fullest. More powerful can be the model where the principal leader is “primus inter pares” — first among equals. As professors not only pursue their own research and careers, but support and serve others — within the Department, on campus, and in the wider community — the UCSB Geography Department can continue to blossom.


An essential factor in the rise of the Department was the clear vision held by Rickborn (the Dean of the College of Letters and Science) and Simonett (the man chosen to be the founding Chair). That vision has been fulfilled. The Department could fizzle without another compelling, unifying vision. As goes the famous saying, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”[c]

At the January 2001 retreat, the faculty hammered out a new vision. It continues the technologic bent of the Department, pioneering cutting-edge GIS and spatio-temporal research, and deepens the goal of interdisciplinary work. Notable, too, is the recognition that a vibrant and supportive community is essential in discovering valuable new knowledge about planet earth and its inhabitants.

Faculty retreat thumbnail

Geography Faculty at Faculty Retreat, January 3, 2003, at Devereaux Point on West UCSB Campus

In 1995, National Research Council (NRC) ranked UCSB’s Geography Department fourth in nation, based upon reputation by peer review. Since then, the Department has added depth and breadth. It has just about reached the size it will be within the university, and, as Ray Smith observed, “Now, the push is for excellence.”13 While the members of the Department use their vision as their compass, hold to excellence in their work, and freshen service to the community, the Department may just rise in the NRC rankings in 2005.


  1. Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations, 1989, published on website, September 9, 2003; recorded in the Congressional Record, January 10, 1961, vol. 107, Appendix, p. A169.
  2. Some of the recent books about servant leadership in the business community are: The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership, by James Hunter, Prima Publishing, 1998; Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness, by Robert Greenleaf, Larry Spears (ed), Stephen Covey, Paulist Press, 2002; Servant Leader, by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, J. Countryman Books, 2003.
  3. The Bible, Proverbs 29:18.

Appendix: Sources of Information »