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Class of 2016: Callie Lambert charts her own path at Virginia Tech

December 13, 2016

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Callie Lambert

Callie Lambert, of Leesburg, Virginia, has called the Virginia Tech campus home since before she could walk.

“I come from a Hokie family. My dad graduated from Virginia Tech, so we frequently came down for games. I’ve been on campus since I was a baby,” she said.

Lambert’s own Virginia Tech experience soon led her to the College of Natural Resources and Environment, where she majored in geography with a concentration in geospatial and environmental analysis.

“I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I had taken a GIS [geographic information systems] class in high school and I really loved it,” she said.

It didn’t take Lambert long to become an integral part of the Department of Geography. She currently works as a teaching assistant for Professor Bill Carstensen’s Principles of GIS course. As one of a handful of undergraduate teaching assistants, Lambert is responsible for facilitating communication between Carstensen and more than 200 students.

Lambert sees the extra work as an opportunity to prepare for graduate school.

“When I start grad school in the spring, I’ll be a teaching assistant,” she said. “I see this as a chance to continue practicing and honing my GIS skills. I feel like if I can explain the material to someone else, I can prove to myself that I know it really well.”

In addition to her work as a teaching assistant, Lambert also managed to find time for an independent study project, an internship, and to study abroad.

In spring 2016, she completed a research project with the Town of Blacksburg’s Sustainability Department. Using GIS mapping, she worked to analyze transportation routes through the town and determine whether students had adequate access to bus stops, bike lanes, and sidewalks to and from campus.

Lambert and her project partner presented their findings at Virginia Tech’s 2016 GIS and Remote Sensing Research Symposium, and ultimately won first place in the undergraduate division.

During summer 2016, Lambert put her GIS skills to use as an intern with the Utilities Department in her hometown of Leesburg. The town needed help on a variety of projects, from mapping water pipes throughout the town to measure flow accumulation, to plotting new open parcels of land.

“It helped that I had taken both GIS classes during my junior year, so I was prepared that summer afterward to go into a GIS job,” she explained.

Lambert joined a diverse group of students for Professor Robert Bush’s study-abroad course — Culture, Natural Resources, and Design in Ireland. The students spent 10 days fully immersed in the Irish culture and environment. Lambert stayed in a hostel next to Connemara National Park and explored the country’s rich bog lands and forests.

“It’s a beautiful landscape, unlike anything on the East Coast of the United States,” she said.

Lambert said these experiences shaped the kind of career she hopes to achieve.

“My ideal job would let me be out in the field for part of the time and then working with GIS mapping part of the time. I would love to do something in the environmental field,” she said.

Lambert plans to continue working toward that dream by starting graduate school at Virginia Tech this spring. She described the moment that Associate Professor Lynn Resler, co-chair of the geography department’s Executive Leadership Committee, extended the offer to begin her studies in the spring rather than next fall.

“It was definitely one of my proudest moments,” she said. “I’m looking forward to developing my own research interests and finding a unique project that I can become an expert on."

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