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2023 Summit Award Interview: Visiting with Maria Sevier

23 Jan 2024 4:29 PM | Tami Faulkner (Administrator)

At the 2023     Washington    GIS Conference one of the highlights was the awarding of the Summit Award.  The Summit Award is for the GIS Person of the year and is awarded to a Washington State GIS Professional who has changed the profession in some significant way, been practicing GIS at least 10 years in the state, made a significant contribution to the GIS profession and community and is known for their excellent work and successful projects in GIS.  Generally, they will have volunteered significant time for the profession.   The 2023 awardee, Maria Sevier, is just such a person. Maria has dedicated significant effort to the GIS Community and WAURISA/WAGISA for over 20 years.  Everyone who has worked or volunteered with her knows her energy and enthusiasm towards her profession and it’s community.  I was fortunate to be able to interview Maria in light of her recent award.  Here is that interview:

Congratulations on being the 2023 Summit Award winner!  Can you describe your response to receiving the award?  I was quite surprised when my name was announced and I felt overwhelmed and happy.  I’ve always seen this award as one that goes to people that have made what I see as a big impact on our local GIS community through their hard work and contributions and I’ve never quite seen myself in that same category.  To know that others do is quite humbling.  I feel so blessed to be part of this amazing community and have learned so much from all of you.

Where do you plan to keep the plaque?    The plaque is in my office.

How did you start in the GIS industry and can you describe your GIS journey?  I began my GIS career as an intern for the NW Indian Fisheries Commission during my senior year studying at The Evergreen State College where I completed my degree.  During my final year at university I had the chance to take a yearlong GIS course and was so excited by what I was learning that I knew it was what I wanted to pursue.  After my internship I moved to Vancouver, WA where I then worked for a contract company that managed the GIS for the BLM in Oregon and from there I went on to work for Clark County WA.  A few years later I moved back north to begin working for the City of Lakewood where I stayed for 13 years.  During my tenure at all of these agencies I was able to grow my skills and move from technician to analyst and then a GIS coordinator.  When I left the City of Lakewood I started a small consulting company where I had the chance to work with non-profits, small businesses and government agencies.  In 2020 I started working at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department supporting their COVID response team and where I continue to grow their GIS today.

What kinds of tips do you have for communicating the value of GIS to those outside of the field?  When I talk about the value of GIS I like to focus on sharing a story about how GIS can support making connections and helping to educate people so that they are able to make educated decisions. I’ll often reference all of the different ways in which everyone already uses GIS and then tell a story about how it might have been used to support their work or community.  For me it’s all about sharing in context to the person I’m speaking with and how it might benefit them and their work or life.”

Can you describe an exciting or interesting GIS projects you have worked on?   Working on the COVID response team for TPCHD has been one of the most challenging and exciting experiences that I’ve had in my career.  It was a dynamic and challenging experience with 10-12 hour days 7 days a week.  I had the chance to build a GIS from the ground up during a dynamically changing situation.  I gained new skills, created new friendships and supported my community.

When you are not working on your job, what do you do for fun and relaxation?  I love to travel, garden, knit, work on puzzles, hike, workout and spend time with friends.  In the next year I hope to add music concerts to the list of fun.

What advise do you have for young professionals trying to break into the field?  I always recommend volunteering as a great way to learn and network to help you grow your GIS career.

Do you have any final thoughts on your experience as the Summit winner?  I’m humbled by the recognition and look forward to continue to give back to our GIS community through the coming years.

That ends our interview with Maria Sevier, 2023 Summit Award Winner.  

The Summit award is an annual award presented every year at the Washington GIS Conference, if you know someone who you would like to nominated please Click Here to review the criteria and nominate someone you know.

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