Alumni Stories

How My Geography Major Prepared Me to be a Product Designer

I am a Geographer-come-Product Designer. In interviews and otherwise, many people ask me how this came about. I happen to think that the transition is a rather natural one. After all, Geography examines how humans shape environments and vice versa. I am sharing my story to encourage and motivate Geographers to consider a design career (or at least not to disqualify themselves from it). I also want to encourage those hiring to consider candidates with a Geography background. To read more:

Nicholas Steffen '66

After graduating, Nicholas was commissioned in the Navy and began flight training, getting his wings in February 1968. Nicholas spent much of his time in the western Pacific with tours in Vietnam,Okinawa, and the Philippines. During that time Nicholas got to fly into Korea, Japan, Twaiwan,Hong Kong,Singapore and Thailand. He also spent some time in the Indian Ocean as well as Iran. After retiring in 1988, Nicholas flew for the airlines until he retired for good in 2004.

Courses in meteorology and oceanography as well as air photo interpretation were very helpful. I still enjoy traveling but these days would rather drive than fly.

Charlie Grant '11

After a brief stint working for an education technology company in Boston, in 2013 Charlie joined into business with his father pursuing the development of commercial and utility scale solar arrays in the State of Vermont, and today the company, Essex Capital Partners, owns and operates facilities around the state with a combined generation capacity of 5megawatts.     As an undergraduate, Charlie took Geography courses in GIS,Political Ecology, and Economic Geography.   This background has direct relevance to his current work, which includes selecting appropriate sites for solar development based upon physical criteria, interacting with State and local planning and environmental agencies, and navigating the public policy issues surrounding energy and the environment.    He lives in Cambridge, MA and hopes to pursue a Masters in Business Administration  in the next few years.

Isaiah Berg '11

After graduation Isaiah rode his bicycle from Alaska to Argentina for a year. Upon his return to my home in North Dakota he joined the Marine Corps.

Isaiah is currently serving in the Marines as an infantry officer, stationed in Quantico, Virginia. Isaih believesDartmouth's Geography Department always pushed him towards a better understanding of place and space. He believes this has made him a better Marine and citizen, especially in a world riven by borders, segregation, and war. Isaiah informs us he will always be grateful for this perspective.



Laurie Gill '91

After graduating from Dartmouth with her Geography degree, Laurie worked for several years in consulting in Washington DC before returning to school to obtain her M.A. in Demography from Georgetown. She worked as the County Demographer in the GIS Department of Prince William County, VA for several years. Laurie was so well prepared for that job thanks to her Geography studies at Dartmouth! In 2004, she moved back to her hometown (Columbus, Ohio) to enter her family business. Along with her husband, they have operated her family's Chevrolet automobile dealership ever since.

Brendan Doherty '96

Brendan's geography professors at Dartmouth  inspired him to become a professor himself.  In particular, George Demko and Richard Wright set an example as excellent teachers who were committed to their students while at the same time tackling important research questions with real-world political implications.  While Brendan went to graduate school in political science, some of his research focuses on the geography of American politics.

He is now a professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.  He is grateful for his experience as a geography major at Dartmouth, and has especially good memories of the FSP in Prague!

Fiona Danks '96

Fiona Danks '96 is the Senior Programme Officer in the Science Programme at UNEP-WCMC (UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre) the conservation branch of UNEP based in Cambridge, UK. The Centre works on global conservation and biodiversity, developing knowledge and science and impacting policy. Her geography skills are still in use!

Peter Jolicoeur '95

Geography has played in important role Peter's my life and career.

After graduation, Peter worked at the National Geographic Society as a cartographer before deciding to pursue a Master in City & Regional Planning.

Thomas Boldt '94

Thomas has always joked that he graduated with one of the few practical degrees from a liberal arts school - with an ability to read a map and find his way around any urban environment.  It has served him well in his travels, which have included many trips to Paris, where he has family. He has also been through nearly all of Bolivia and much of northern Argentina.


Thomas now lives and practices in Santa Monica, CA, where he is a licensed acupuncturist.  He gets down to the beach nearly every day and loves seeing how the ocean and wind shapes the sand.  It often takes him back to his classes with Magilligan - thinking of fluvial geomorphology.  He continues to have a great appreciation for how the land is being shaped and see it wherever he goes.

Laura Martin '10

The year after graduating from Dartmouth, Laura traveled to India and China studying urban planning with the H. Allen Brooks Traveling Fellowship from Dartmouth.  She went on to get my masters in urban planning from MIT.

During Laura's graduate degree, she learned about the world of community development corporations (CDCs), which are non-profits that often have an arm in real estate development in more disinvested communities.  Currently Laura works as a project manager for the CDC Madison Park Development Corporation in Boston, managing projects such as the development of a community center and the renovation of an affordable senior housing building.  Laura says she frequently feels that she is living out what she studied as a geography major, working at the nexus of place, environment, health, social justice, politics, culture, community, etc.