My name is Emma Gray, and I am the new communications and outreach intern for TeachOSM! I am a third year undergraduate student at the George Washington University, where I am studying Geography and Political Science, and minoring in Geographic Information Systems. I also serve as the outreach coordinator for the Humanitarian Mapping Society (HMS) at GW.
My first introduction to mapping, and to considering geography as a whole, was in my high school AP Human Geography course. Alongside learning about various principles of geography, I was introduced to GIS. While my initial exposure to GIS was limited, its significance struck me. After enrolling at GW, I was enticed to learn more about geographic information systems, and my introductory class in the subject only increased my passion for the software and their capabilities.
While taking my first course in GIS, I was introduced to the Humanitarian Mapping Society (HMS) at GW. Serving as the GW chapter of YouthMappers, the organization hosts “Mapathons” twice a month to aid in mapping areas that have recently faced disaster using OpenStreetMap. While the first handful of HMS events I attended were online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of the work being done was immediately apparent, and I was captivated. I continued to attend events, and at the start of my junior year I joined the executive board as outreach coordinator, where I write and distribute weekly newsletters throughout the academic year.
It was my initial introduction to GIS, the projects and practicals in my GIS courses, and the familiarity with OpenStreetMap after participating in Mapathons that led me to TeachOSM. I have benefitted firsthand from the promotion of geography and its disciplines by teachers and educators, and I hope to help others realize the importance and magnitude of mapping.