January 23, 2022

Geography Grad Earns EPA ‘Rising Star’ Award

Kaitlin Kean ’19, MSGA ’21, seen here with her parents, recently received the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Rising Star’ award. A geography major at UMW, she now works as a program analyst and GIS training lead in the EPA’s Office of Mission Support.

Kaitlin Kean ’19, MSGA ’21, seen here with her parents, recently received the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Rising Star’ award. A geography major at UMW, she now works as a program analyst and GIS training lead in the EPA’s Office of Mission Support.

Growing up, Kaitlin Kean spent mornings before school in her father’s office, poring over maps and watching him collect data as a land surveyor.

“That’s where I first learned about the field and that it was something I wanted to pursue,” said Kean, who now claims her own office where she wields sought-after expertise in geographic information systems, or GIS, for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Recently named a “Rising Star” in support of the EPA’s mission to protect human health, Kean honed her skills in the University of Mary Washington’s geography department, ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. Southeast. A bachelor’s degree, paired with a fast-track master’s in geospatial analysis – both completed at UMW – plus a pathway program with the EPA, packed a powerful punch. Now, straight out of college, as a program analyst and training lead in the Office of Mission Support, Kean’s work helps the agency protect communities from environmental hazards like lead paint and toxic waste.

A college-level GIS course she took in high school caught her attention and got the ball rolling. “My teacher told us this was a growing field,” she said, “and if you stick with it, you’ll have a job.”

That’s especially true at UMW, said Geography Chair Jackie Gallagher, where many graduates find immediate work, thanks to the robust programs of the department, which College Factual also ranks No. 5 in VirginiaRead more.

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