Catching Up With Janna Chapman - the EVONA Scholar for Diversity in STEM

We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Janna Chapman, winner of the EVONA Scholarship for Diversity in STEM.

Janna is an incredibly talented and passionate young person who wants to use Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) to solve real-world environmental problems. We’re thrilled to be partnering with the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) to sponsor Janna through her master’s degree in geographical science.

You can check out the original announcement and learn more about the EVONA Scholarship in our recent blog post.

Firstly – congratulations on being awarded the EVONA Scholarship for Diversity in STEM! How are you feeling?

I’m feeling really excited for the school year now! This scholarship takes a huge weight off mine and my parents’ shoulders.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a senior Geographical Sciences and Environmental Science and Technology dual degree student at the University of Maryland, College Park. My research interests include using GIS to investigate the spatial patterns and inequalities associated with various climate change-induced effects. In my free time, I enjoy going gardening, hiking and reading.

Where does your passion for geospatial intelligence stem from? Are there any specific people who inspire you?

Before geospatial intelligence, I started a huge interest in environmental science thanks to my grandfather when he introduced me to gardening when I was 3 years old. Since then I’ve tried to get more and more knowledge and experience in the environmental sciences. This led me to apply to a first-year research program at my university where I learned how to use the programming language R to investigate environmental issues. While I didn’t know that what I was doing at the time was considered 'geospatial intelligence', the data visualizations I made and success after the trial-and-error process made me interested in learning more about how maps and programming can help people and the environment in light of climate change.

Do you have any industry experience so far?

This past spring I was a Global Forest Watch intern at the World Resources Institute. I managed training data collection for machine learning algorithms that were used to classify drivers of deforestation. This included recruiting and training volunteers to collect data and my own data collection.
On campus, I’ve had many different research experiences from mapping poultry farms in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia for the US Department of Agriculture to using geographic regression to determine the relationship between urban green space accessibility and different demographic groups in New York City.

What are you most looking forward to in this next chapter?

I look forward to developing my technological skills, especially data visualization, in a course I take this fall. I also am looking forward to applying for off-campus experiences for next spring and summer.

What are you hoping to do once you’ve finished your master’s?

After my master’s I’d like to work as an analyst at an environmental organization such as the EPA or the World Resources Institute where I can use and develop the skills I’ve learned in school to help solve real-world environmental problems.

What impact do you want to have on the GEOINT sector?

I’d like to improve general public knowledge about environmental phenomena (environmental literacy) through easy-to-access and understand environmental data. Sometimes this information can be hard to find or can be misinterpreted, which can have a negative impact on policies that can impact real environmental change.

What are your thoughts about diversity in GEOINT/STEM industries?

I think the diversity of the GEOINT/STEM industries can be improved. Diverse perspectives in any sector can provide new avenues of research ideas and potentially decrease the feeling of imposter syndrome. I even feel imposter syndrome in school because I’m usually the only black woman in my classes. Introducing GEOINT concepts early in students’ education can help close these gaps in the industry.

Our entire crew are wishing Janna the best of luck as she enters this next chapter in her GEOINT journey. We’ll be checking in with her each semester to see how she’s getting on, so keep an eye out for updates!