While adjusting from being a full-time graduate student to my first full-time, permanent job over the past six months has been a learning experience, my toughest learning experience has actually been learning how to still be an advocate without risking my dream job. In a perfect world, “I’m speaking as a resident of Arlington County and not as a consultant for Arlington County” should be enough for me to keep being a vocal advocate without risking my dream job. As this post shows, my first documented time of being a vocal advocate was in January 2009, which was during my senior year of high school. Since we don’t live in a perfect world, I need to be more careful of how I approach my advocacy work.
This interview with a local reporter about a new Capital Bikeshare station at the Shady Grove Metro Station is a great example. I told the reporter that I was only willing to be interviewed if he interviewed me as a cyclist and not as a consultant for Montgomery County. Even though the reporter followed through on my request, my boss asked me to not do any more interviews and to refer reporters to the County’s Public Information Officer. My boss also said I represent MetroBike, Capital Bikeshare, and our clients at all times, so it doesn’t matter whether I tell the reporter to interview me “as a cyclist and not as a consultant for Montgomery County”.
Source: Ray’s interview with Michael Gordon
While my boss has trusted me to understand how to be a careful and aware vocal advocate at public meetings, my friends and family have suggested that being a vocal advocate isn’t worth the risk of potentially losing my dream job. Since I agree with my friends and family, I’m experimenting with another advocacy approach that I’m calling mapping advocacy.
I’m planning to silently (no risk of being interviewed or speaking at public meeting) advocate for a better regional trail system in the DC region by using my GIS knowledge, skills, and abilities and partnering with two DC-based non-profit organizations, which are the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). WABA launched the Capital Trails Coalition in 2016 and I serve on its Analytics Working Group, so this is how I learned about the project that I’m helping to complete. Full-time employees of both non-profit organizations have offered to request additional help for our project from their organization’s volunteers, so the official name for my new advocacy work may be Public Participation GIS (PPGIS).
Since I haven’t done any complex analysis in QGIS yet, I’m looking forward to learning how to use QGIS to complete the complex analysis needed for the Capital Trails Coalition’s project. As my senior honors thesis from UNC Charlotte shows, I have done this complex analysis in ArcGIS. I no longer have free (included with tuition and fees) access to ArcGIS like I did at UNC Charlotte and Portland State University, so I’ve been learning how to use QGIS.
The below examples from my senior honors thesis show the analysis I plan to do for the Capital Trails Coalition. I plan to digitize all the regional trailheads and connect them to the walking, biking, and driving infrastructure networks. This will allow me to create multimodal service areas for all the regional trails in the DC region. I can use the service areas to do further analysis like overlaying the service areas with US Census data. This analysis will allow me to see socioeconomic issues that could be improved with better planning.