Highlight on Students

Students in the Online Master of Science or Certificate in Geographic Information Systems program seek a top-tier education and credentials to strengthen their work and standing. The program focuses on the principal avenues of employment within the next generation of geospatial design, development, and analysis. Learn more about what some of our students are working on and their experiences with the program.


Martha B.

Martha B. is a part-time graduate student interested in environmental and social justice-related applications of GIS. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and working in policy research, the Johns Hopkins M.S. in GIS program has provided an ideal opportunity for her to enhance technical and analytical skills while exploring these areas of interest. She has particularly enjoyed exploring web-based mapping capabilities and creating tools for specific analytic problem sets. The online format of the program has proven to be both flexible and rigorous, providing opportunities for self-direction in project selection while also emphasizing collaboration with classmates who have diverse work experiences and backgrounds.

John Dawes

R. John Dawes, a Geographic Information Systems Masters candidate works full time as the founder of Chesapeake Commons. His small web cartography and data visualization shop provides affordable programming support to small watershed organizations, foundations, and government agencies. John and his 3 person team build environmental applications that spark information transparency, public engagement, and conservation policy decisions. Ultimately, John hopes to fledge the Commons into a non-profit tech shop that matches data scientists and technical GIS/programming capacity with environmental organizations that need it the most. “Pursuing my Masters in Geographic Information Systems at JHU has allowed me to better understand the many avenues available for programmers and GIS analysts to work together to solve complex environmental issues. I’m excited to be constantly learning and honing my technical skills as an analyst. What I learn at JHU will help the Commons Team and our clients build technologies that catalyze positive environmental outcomes.”

Keith Forte

My name is Keith Forte. I live in Fairbanks, Alaska with my amazing family and have a great career with the Fairbanks North Star Borough in support of their GIS platform. It is a little over 4000 miles northwest of campus, so being able to attend Johns Hopkins remotely has allowed me to pursue long standing academic goals that would have otherwise remained improbable. I began working with GIS in 2001 and have had the good fortune these many years of being able to explore and implement several of the many technological advancements in the field of GIS as it has matured. From that perspective, I have come to appreciate that JHU’s Master’s Degree Program in GIS is not only expertly designed for the established GIS professional, it is also perfectly suited for a person aspiring to become one. I have observed that beyond Johns Hopkins providing the cutting edge resources necessary for newcomers to master the requisite “how” of GIS, the program’s coursework compels students to critically comprehend the “why” of GIS. Simply put, students that complete this program are truly prepared for a successful career in Geographic Information Systems.

Randall Fowler

I have a Bachelor of Science Degree from Appalachian State University in Ecology and Environmental Biology. In addition, I have a Master of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from New Mexico State University and a GIS Technician Certificate from San Diego Mesa College. I have been teaching biology courses at the community colleges and universities in San Diego, CA for the past 9 years. I am trying to retool and enter the versatile field of GIS with a Master of Science Degree in GIS from Johns Hopkins University. I hope to eventually get a job using GIS to solve complex environmental problems associated with climate change and human encroachment on natural systems. Johns Hopkins University is a prestigious university and having a graduate degree from here will look good to prospective employers. The GIS courses you take are completely online allowing people to obtain their degrees remotely. The instructors are very knowledgeable of their disciplines and readily provide assistance to questions regarding complex GIS subject matter. Johns Hopkins University uses the Blackboard platform to conduct their online classes which is a common platform to many universities so the learning curve to participate in these classes is low. If you are looking to change careers and find better employment, GIS is versatile field and can be applied to many different sectors in the economy. A degree in GIS from Johns Hopkins University will go a long way to achieving this goal.

Sara K.

Sara K. is a full-time GIS Specialist working for a leading technical engineering firm in Toronto, Canada, which has provided her experience in geospatial analyses and involvement in transportation and sustainable development practices. Sara holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Urban and Regional Planning, in addition to having completed Certificates in GIS and Remote Sensing, and Architecture. She is working on completing her Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems by the end of 2016. She is highly focused on the capabilities for improving transportation infrastructure and network systems with the integration of GIS, and has a high level of experience in developing systematic geodatabases, preparing cartographic quality maps, and conceptualizing field based data models. “I have already recognized the positive influence during my time at Johns Hopkins, preparing me further in my career by learning and practicing new skills to apply in my technical field. The MS GIS program at Hopkins is a flexible, yet challenging and innovative way of learning, with a variety of courses suited to fit the diverse background of students. The online learning platform really gave me the opportunity to engage with other students and learn about other developing practices for GIS, while professors were able to let students apply themselves to personal case studies, employing the emerging technologies of GIS even further”.

Paul Lukas

Paul is in his third semester as a Master’s Candidate in the Geographic Information Systems program at Johns Hopkins University. He discovered geography almost twenty years ago while preparing for an expected career in anthropology. After a few courses in cartography, he was hooked. GIS in particular provided the perfect mix of science, art, and analysis to spur Paul on a new career path. In the past nineteen years, Paul has used GIS to analyze data and solve geospatial problems in demographics and marketing, telecommunications delivery and network design, and environmental safety assessments and impact analysis for nuclear power plants. He has also created applications used by engineers to efficiently design, provision, and deploy fiber optic networks to homes and neighborhoods. Paul enrolled in the Johns Hopkins MGIS program to burnish his experience with fresh ideas and new technology. The online program allows him to attend classes while working full time and raising a family. Upon graduation, Paul expects to leverage the knowledge he has gained in the MGIS program to help him pivot his career again to integrate geospatial collection technologies and unmanned aerial systems with GIS and geospatial data solutions.

Courtney Maxson

Courtney Maxson is currently working as an intern for the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in Denver, CO, where she is automating the migration and transformation of track and utility data from AutoCAD and MicroStation into a unified and cohesive geospatial database. Courtney completed her Bachelor of Science in Geology and Studio Art from Millsaps College where she discovered her love and passion for both the arts and the sciences and began her journey as a creative scientist. This journey continued when she discovered Geographic Information Systems, which she describes, “I finally found a way to seamlessly combine my fascination with both art and science. I finally found my passion!” She is expected to receive her Masters in GIS in May 2015 and commends the program, “During my time as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, I have been constantly amazed and inspired by the intellect, dedication, and enthusiasm of my professors and classmates. I have enjoyed this journey immensely so far, and have learned an unbelievable amount along the way.”

Shawn McCabe

Shawn McCabe earned his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Systems/Cartography from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo in 1997 and expects to complete his Masters of Science in Geographic Information systems at Johns Hopkins University by the end of 2017. Shawn has 18 years of GIS experience, working on many high profile environmental, planning, and wind farm siting projects across the U.S. Currently employed as a Senior GIS/Environmental Data Management Specialist at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where Shawn utilizes state-of-the-art geostatistics, spatial analysis and 3D-modeling to estimate and display volumetric amounts of radiologically-impacted impacted soils, sediment and groundwater at sites contaminated by activities related to the nation’s early atomic energy program. Shawn also uses his extensive knowledge of enterprise geodatabase design/implementation to help manage the vast array of FUSRAP related geospatial information, and his cartographic knowledge to help create high quality cartographic maps for stakeholders. “Over the past 18 years, I learned how GIS is incorporated into everyday events and how it can lead to the development of “smart” decisions. Continuing my education and earning my Master of Science at John Hopkins University will help broaden my current skill set and enhance the effectiveness at which I can perform data analysis. The online format of the Masters of Science program at Johns Hopkins University has provided me the opportunity to pursue my goal of obtaining a graduate degree, while allowing for self-direction and collaboration with fellow classmates. The professors at Johns Hopkins University are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and encouraging. Pursuing my degree at Johns Hopkins is one of the best decisions I have made!”

Hilary Melton

Hilary Melton received her undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico in 2012. Completing an online GIS class at UNM opened her eyes to this exciting industry, and since being accepted to the Johns Hopkins program in January of 2015 she has had the privilege to work with professors who are experts in their fields as well as with a diverse body of students all engaged in the material and eager to learn. The online format of the program has offered flexibility as well as instilling personal responsibility for success. Hilary is confident that her positive experience in the JHU GIS program is due to the continual encouragement of her advisor, professors, and classmates.

Her career and personal goals have been shaped by this program because of numerous classes such as Web Mapping, Spatial Analysis, and GIS for Emergency Management. Through the support of Johns Hopkins, Hilary was accepted as a student assistant for the Esri International User Conference in June of 2016, where her growing interest in using GIS to analyze natural disasters and improve emergency management was solidified. Soon after the Esri UC, she accepted an opportunity to be an Esri Campus Representative with the hope that she may excite and educate other students about the growing field of GIS. She plans to graduate in December of 2016 with her MS in GIS after completing a capstone project for the oldest Search and Rescue organization in the country by introducing spatial analysis techniques and updating the user interface of their online GIS data portal.

Brian Michelotti

Brian Michelotti received his undergraduate degree at Pennsylvania State University in Earth Science with a minor in Marine science. Since graduating he has been traveling to different parts of the world as a fly fishing guide and instructor. He now resides in Key Largo, Florida and works full time on a 60’ sport fishing yacht. It is his passion for marine ecosystems and work in navigational systems that pushed him to pursue a Masters in GIS at Johns Hopkins University. “The field of GIS has always interested me and the more I continue to learn about it the more I realize how involved it is in all of our lives. The technology JHU possesses to allow me to complete all of my work from home is unbelievable. We are doing some very cool things in this major and I look forward for more to come.”

Fizza Mustehsan

Fizza Mustehsan is an entrepreneur with a diverse background that spans technology, recycling, real estate, and retail realms. Her experience in these fields has enabled her to witness firsthand, the pivotal role played by Geographical Information Systems and the potential it holds in revolutionizing these spaces – thereby inculcating in her, a strong interest for GIS.

Prior to enrolling in the Online Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems program at Johns Hopkins University, she collaborated with a scrapyard to cofound Junklo – an online marketplace that specialized in helping junk collectors get listings for items of recyclable value from households, businesses, and junkyards. Before Junklo, Fizza served as an information manager at Tri Metal – an Alaska-based recycler and trader of metallic scrap.

As an independent real estate broker as well as the co-founder and president of First New West Mortgage, she has overseen numerous real estate and mortgage transactions. She has also assisted with technology and entrepreneurial activities at Phones4Less – a cellular phone and accessory franchisor that had over 40 stores and kiosks across Southern California.

Fizza graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor Of Science in Computer Information Systems obtained at California State University, Stanislaus in 2003. She also holds a California Real Estate broker’s license since 2007 as well as numerous technology certifications and diplomas from the University of Cambridge and Oracle Corporation.

Chris Nixon

After working for 15 years as a professional journalist and web content producer, Chris Nixon, GISP, decided to switch gears and concentrate on his passion for spatial data and cartography. Since earning an Associate Degree in GIS from the San Diego Community College District more than five years ago, Chris has worked as a full-time GIS Analyst for RECON Environmental, Inc. – an environmental consulting firm based in San Diego. He is currently enrolled in the JHU Master of Science in GIS online program.

Chris serves as graphic and analytical support, working with biologists, archaeologists, noise/air quality technicians and environmental analysts to compile, analyze, and synthesize data from various sources, including GPS field data, CAD drawings, and digitized data.

Within the past two years, his efforts have been focused on transitioning to tablets and smartphones for data collection using ESRI’s Collector and Survey123 applications. With the skills he is learning in the graduate program, Chris is implementing new service areas at his job, including using remote sensing and multi-spectral imagery to identify and analyze sensitive and invasive plant species.

“JHU’s online master’s program affords me the ability to work full-time and expand my GIS knowledge base through in-depth online classes with teachers who really know their topic. Working full-time while pursuing a graduate degree has been challenging and rewarding, providing me with the opportunity to test new GIS functionality in a real-world environment.”

“The world of GIS changes quickly. Along with foundational skills like geodatabase design, programming, and working within the enterprise environment, you need to keep up with cloud-based and mobile technologies. This program provides a great mix of broad knowledge base skills and cutting edge concepts.”

Donald Shaw

Don earned his Bachelor’s degree in Geography at the University of Colorado Denver. He is an Army veteran and recently joined the Esri team as a Platform Configuration Engineer. He most recently was a GIS Analyst for Allworld Project Management, a Memphis firm that supported construction and engineering projects across the Mid-South region.

Don is interested in Systems Architecture, Web Application Development, and Machine Learning.

“This program has elevated both my technical and management skills. The diverse catalog of courses provides opportunities to master tools that are in-demand by employers. Each instructor is performing their own GIS work somewhere in the world and you benefit from that! I am where I am today (with Esri) because of this program!”

Lindsay Spencer

Lindsay Spencer began her career path in the fine arts early in life and knew that would be her path forever. She attended the University of Arizona’s prestigious School of Dance in 2003, but had to withdraw from the program after just three years due to chronic injury, and was left with an empty and unclear road ahead in place of what was once so sure. After recovering from injury and not having a focus, she began taking some natural resources classes for general course credits and she discovered how much she loved being outside and studying rocks and the physical Earth. It was through the Geology program at the University of Arizona that she discovered she also loved mapping the Earth. In 2013 she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Geoscience all the while working as a Barista and Café Manager, Dance Instructor, and Park Ranger.

She finally decided she wanted to do more with mapping in her every-day environment so she decided to go back to school at John’s Hopkins University to earn a Master’s in GIS for a perfect marriage of her two loves: rocks and maps. She began her first semester at JHU’s online Advanced Academic Programs in the Fall of 2015 and only six months after starting the program she applied for a new job as a Hydrologist for Pima County Regional Flood Control in Tucson, Arizona. Now she has the pleasure of juggling her Master’s degree plan with her new position with Pima County and is expected to graduate in the Spring of 2018. Meanwhile, she hopes to stay working for Pima County for a long time doing Hydrology and Hydrogeology research. After all of life’s tumult, lessons learned are to never think it is too late to walk down a new and unexplored path of learning, and to never think you are incapable of changing your life’s path by making new, exciting, and sometimes terrifying choices.

Andrew Whitman

Andrew Whitman plans to graduate with his Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University in the Spring of 2017. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Architecture with a minor in Environmental Science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in the Fall of 2013. Andrew is interested in the intersection of geospatial analysis, sustainability, and conservation. Studying online with JHU has empowered him to succeed as a student and a professional. In 2016, Andrew was chosen to serve as a student assistant at the Esri Federal User conference as well as the Esri International User conference. Shortly after the Esri International User Conference, Andrew accepted an offer to work as a Support Analyst with Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute) in Redlands, CA. He is honored to serve as an Esri Campus Ambassador in support of his fellow geogeeks at Johns Hopkins. The support and guidance of the professors and students at Johns Hopkins has been invaluable to his success. The courses in JHU’s online GIS program allow students to gain hands-on experience with the newest technology in their field. The professors bring their passion and expertise into each course at JHU. The flexibility of the coursework and the expertise of the faculty at Johns Hopkins allows students who are working to actualize their dream of pursuing a career in GIS.

Alex Wong

Alex Wong is an anthropologist, a scholar, and an educator focused on creating a healthier, more sustainable community for the future. His academic background includes B.A. degrees in anthropology and political economics from UC Berkeley. While continuing to work on his masters in GIS degree at John Hopkins University Online, Alex has experienced a few interesting career changes along the way; from high school mathematics teacher on the west side of O‘ahu, to conservation specialist for the East & West Kaua‘i Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and now CZM (Coastal Zone Management) planner for the County of Kaua‘i. In light of his many passions and academic interests, GIS has emerged as the consistent philosophy and vehicle for coherently studying such a variety of topics including education and socioeconomics, conservation and agriculture, transportation and planning, emergency management, and public health.
“The flexibility and quality of the Johns Hopkins University Online master’s in GIS program makes for a convenient, yet challenging path to achieving my graduate degree aspirations. I greatly appreciate the positive communication and working relationships that JHU Online provides for distance learners like me. In these past two years, I have already experienced several new career opportunities that were available to me because of my GIS education through this program. Aloha!”

Zoe Zaloudek

Zoe Zaloudek is a degree candidate in the Master of Science in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program at Johns Hopkins University with plans to graduate at the end of the fall 2016 semester. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2005. That same month, she began working as a GIS Intern at the Illinois State Water Survey. In the fall of 2005, she attained the full-time position of GIS Specialist at the ISWS, working on the FEMA flood map modernization project. In 2010, she embraced the opportunity to split her appointment and include GIS work with the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. For over ten years, her work at the ISWS & MRCC has included the mapping and analysis of hydrologic, floodplain, weather and climate data. After learning Python scripting and dabbling in Web GIS, she began looking into earning an advanced degree during which she could use GIS applied to climate. After weighing several options, the GIS program at JHU seemed to be the right fit for her. “What I really liked about the GIS program at JHU were the practical courses in web mapping, programming, and data analysis. I definitely feel that taking this path was the right decision for me. In my classes, I have been pushed outside my comfort zone, using ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, Python Toolboxes, open-source Python libraries, and ArcGIS for Server. I don’t think I would have tried these things on my own, and I’ve already been able to apply many of my new skills at my job.”