During the 2017-18 academic year, Michael Camponovo, GIS outreach coordinator, began developing a more formalized process of identifying internships and preparing students to fill them.
By developing close relationships with geospatial professionals through organizations like the Tennessee Geographic Information Council (TNGIC) and Cumberland URISA, Camponovo was able to assist in placing seven students at three organizations during the summer of 2018. Three students worked for UT Parking Services, one for NASA, and three students at the East Tennessee Development District (ETDD) in Alcoa, Tennessee. One additional student found an internship on his own and did crime mapping work for the Memphis Police Department.
Through his professional relationship with Susan Butefish (’85) at ETDD, Camponovo learned of a large Census project they were scheduled to tackle that was an excellent fit for interns. He recruited two undergraduate students, Kali Williams and Logan Gross, and graduate student Yasin Rabby who were all interviewed and subsequently hired by ETDD.
The 2020 Census, Local Update of Census Addresses Operation (LUCA) was a voluntary process in which communities could review and comment on the Census Bureau’s address lists. The process gave the communities an opportunity to correct or add any addresses in their jurisdiction, such as new apartment complexes, subdivisions, or group housing that was missing or incomplete on the Census address lists. LUCA is an important step in conducting an accurate population count that is critical for the local communities impacted for several reasons, including distribution of federal dollars and securing legislative representation.
Acting as a reviewer for the State of Tennessee, ETDD focused on entities that, for various reasons, could not do a LUCA review themselves. In the ETDD region, this included nine rural counties and unregistered municipalities within those counties (meaning more than 65,000 addresses to review). ETDD’s review process lasted two months, during which the interns each worked 20 hours per week.
“The interns tackled a very detailed and painstaking process, but it was extremely worthwhile because of the potential benefit for our communities,” Butefish says.
Working under the State’s umbrella and using several state, local, and other data sources for the reviews, the students compared the Census address list against state Tennessee Information for Public Safety Project (TIPS) addresses and then added and/or corrected as necessary. Many other tools and data sources were used to confirm the addresses, such as multiple sources of aerial photography, land use and zoning data, real estate sites, and county parcel data.
“It was nice to have an office space and work space,” says Williams, who had her first experience working in a professional setting during this internship. “Everyone there was super friendly, which was really helpful for adjusting to a professional environment. Additionally, the GIS 311 and GIS 411 courses at UT helped familiarize me with the Esri ARCMap software, which was what we spent most of the summer using. We had the knowledge to navigate around image and data resources that were necessary to do the job.”
Terry Bobrowski, executive director of ETDD and a UT alumnus was happy to have UT geography students as interns.
“As a result of their work, we conservatively estimate that the local governments in the nine counties could receive up to $5.7 million dollars of state/federal shared revenues that might otherwise have been lost to the region,” Bobrowski says. “I am very pleased to see that the UT geography department continues to produce high quality candidates that will meet the needs of the 21st century workplace.”