ORURISA's Quarterly Newsletter

3rd Issue - February 2021


ORURISA celebrates




February 2021


We welcome you to our 3rd quarterly Newsletter! Thank you for your support and feedback on the ORURISA's 1st and 2nd quarterly Newsletters. Through your valuable feedback, we received overwhelming support and some great ideas. We have incorporated your feedback into our 3rd edition. We aim to explore, expand, and reshape the content of forthcoming Newsletters together, to meet the needs and add value to ORURISA membership.

We hope that you will find great value in its content and that it will aid you in your own goals to grow and thrive.

President's Message

As I sit down to write my message to you, my mind continually gravitates toward the start of the year, a year for which I had high hopes. I’ve attempted to reject that attraction but I realized after several failed attempts, I cannot reject or avoid it. So here goes...

I had hoped for a calm and peaceful start to 2021. Instead, it began with a tumult that underlined and re-emphasized the numerous and significant divisions in our nation, divisions that threaten to cleave it apart. At a local scale, my team at work is pained, angered, and divided by historic, ongoing, and new inequities. More than a handful of my closest friends have lost parents, siblings, and other family members to the pandemic. I have seen so many issues politicized in ways that are damaging, and in my opinion, have no business being discussed in those dangerous terms. 

And yet, I’ve also seen community members stand up for others’ rights, initiate efforts to heal the pain of loss and conflict, repair the cracks, and bridge the crevasses. I see a community that while divided, can also see the common pain and come together to fix it. 

And so I find myself with a mix of emotions and opinions about what this year holds for me and for all of us. My inner optimist is starting to again see the light…

As individuals we are constantly put into positions where we are tested by the simple reality that each of us is one person and no one else can experience exactly what we each experience or think. This positions us to make a choice, and one of those options is to be curious about what other people’s experiences are, to listen to those expressed experiences, and to learn. As a part of a large GIS community, we practice this in our profession, by talking with our peers and our colleagues as we grapple with a particularly challenging analysis, listening to their insights, and learning how we can apply their experiences to our own situation so that we can finally achieve the successes we seek. These successes usually benefit a community or audience beyond just our individual selves. And just like that, we’ve made a difference and demonstrated our grit, our intelligence, and our flexibility as well as our value through our contributions. These are moments to celebrate!

As you move out of those celebratory moments, I challenge you to strengthen your curiosity “muscles” by being curious about others’ experiences and perspectives both inside and outside of your professional work and personal comfort zones. I challenge you to lean in to uncomfortable discourse, using curiosity to support and sustain you in those moments when it would be easier to turn back to the familiar. I challenge you to fuel your intelligence with your curiosity and the resulting learning that comes from listening. And I challenge you to exercise your flexibility by recognizing your current limitations and pushing beyond them. As you feel these moments of being uncomfortable I hope you will then celebrate them as accomplishments. They are big and courageous accomplishments. 

In this quarter’s newsletter we share stories about two motivated women who are making change in their lives and impacting many others, especially black girls and women through Black Girls M.A.P.P. I find their stories to be exciting and heroic. Exciting because they’re paving a new path to diversify the GIS profession through the creation of awareness, and heroic because they’re demonstrating daring leadership through the mentoring and elevation of role models to a new generation of geographers. I hope that you’ll follow their work and join them at this year’s virtual GIS in Action conference in April, along with many of your colleagues. 

Lastly, I want to put a plug in for your work. The ORURISA newsletter is a great place to share something that you are passionate or excited about and to connect with your community. The newsletter is a safe place to publish an article, and Tara Kaur, our Chapter’s communications director, cares deeply for putting together a professional, attractive newsletter. So, please, jot down an idea that others might enjoy so that we can all learn about your work in one of the next newsletters.

Black History Month

This month, the Oregon and SW Washington Chapter of URISA celebrates and shares the achievements of Women of Color in the field of GIS. Raynah Kamau and Whitney Kotlweski, both work for Esri and are contributing their expertise to the GIS profession. Raynah and Whitney are the keynote speakers at the upcoming virtual 2021 GIS in Action - Resiliency and Equity, annual conference. 

Raynah Kamau

Kamau is a native of Kenya and works at Esri as Partner Technical Advisor. She works with strategic partners to help them maximize their investment in GIS. She holds a Bachelors in Geomatic Engineering and GIS from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and a Masters of Science in GIS from the University of Redlands. She is also the co-founder of Black Girls M.A.P.P – a non-profit organization that has a two-fold mission; 

  1. To celebrate black women in the field of GIS as well as empower other aspiring young women looking to venture into GIS. 
  2. Evangelize GIS by using GIS to visualize social justice causes as well as other community topics. 

Most recently, she alongside her co-founder, Whitney Kotlewski, and a team of volunteers were nominated and won the American Association of Geographers Diversity and Inclusion award for 2021 – this award was to recognize the work that Black Girls M.A.P.P. led in mobilizing volunteers to build resources that could be easily distributed and disseminated to the community to educate and empower them to vote.

Lastly, Raynah is also on the racial equity team at Esri where she helps apply location intelligence to racial equity and social justice topics. 

Whitney Kotlewski

Whitney is leading Design Operations at Esri, working at the corporate headquarters in Redlands, CA. Her core responsibilities are to support high profile products, for mobile, desktop, and web applications, with designs that embrace UX Principals, User Research, and Design System consistency.

Whitney’s most influential work at Esri has been her contributions to Esri’s data visualization application, Insights for ArcGIS, where she led the UX design of the product's V1 interface. Today, Whitney has impacted various new projects at Esri, where she has led redesigns for Field Mobile Applications, Developer doc sites, and UI oversight over Drone to map interfaces. Not only is she a hands-on Design Lead at Esri but is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University, where she hopes to advance her personal research centered around empowering various members of her local community, specifically underrepresented and lower socioeconomic groups by the avenue of advanced technology. Whitney is the visionary and co-founder of Black Girls M.A.P.P.; a community-focused group to empower women of color and marginalized groups in the field of GIS.

Her vision through this initiative is to inspire a network of people, using GIS to solve community problems. She is recently the co-award recipient of the 2021 American Association of Geographers Diversity and Inclusion award, with Raynah Kamau, for work she performed co-leading 150+ volunteers in building election GIS information products to empower people to vote.

2021 GIS in Action Annual Conference 

Registration Open

April 19th-22nd 2021


Cascadia Region ASPRS and the Oregon-Southwest Washington URISA Chapter present the 29th annual GIS in Action Conference. The 2021 conference will be a virtual event held on the week of April 19th, 2021. More details are available on our website.

You’re invited to register for the 2021 conference. 

Registration for the 1st fully-virtual GIS in Action conference is intended to make attendance accessible. There is a flat $35 rate for the 4 half-days of conference. Students and anyone with financial hardship (as defined by working less than part-time) can attend the keynotes and presentations for free. Workshops will be held during the afternoon for an additional fee.

Sponsors help us make the conference accessible. We are offering two tiers of support in exchange for spotlight presentations and logo placement.

For more details see https://www.orurisa.org/GISinAction-Sponsors.

The preliminary conference schedule is available online. Check back in the coming weeks as more workshops and content are added to the agenda.

Topics of interest:

  • Social Justice & Critical GIS

  • Emergency Response

  • Planet GIS

  • Working with LiDAR

  • Emerging Professionals & Students

Keynote speakers:

  • Raynah Kamau works at Esri as Partner Technical Advisor helping maximize investments in GIS and is the co-founder of Black Girls M.A.P.P. - a non-profit organization to empower women of color and marginalized groups in the field of GIS. 
  • Whitney Kotlewski is leading Design Operations at Esri supporting high profile products with designs that embrace UX Principals, User Research, and Design System consistency and is the co-founder of Black Girls M.A.P.P.
  • Karsten Vennemann is the founder of Terra GIS, a Seattle-based consulting company that creates and supports Open Source Web GIS solutions. 

More information on Keynote speakers are on our website

Instructions for registration:

  1. Press the register button on the registration page.
  2. Enter your email address and the code in the window. (to prove you’re not a bot)
  3. Choose the type of registration.
  4. Enter the name of the person attending the conference.  When you pay you can enter the information of the person paying with a card.

Registration Pricing:

  • Regular Full Conference – $35.00 (Attend all four days of conference)
  • Student (Free attendance for students who are enrolled at least half-time)
  • Financial Hardship (Free attendance for professionals working less than half-time)
  • Sponsor Level 1 – $500.00 (Agency/organization sponsoring event includes 2 passes to the conference for your organization)
  • Sponsor Level 2 – $250.00 (Agency/organization sponsoring event includes 1 pass to the conference for your organization) 

For questions about the conference, please contact the GIS in Action conference committee .


Call for Maps!

Posters will be displayed in a web gallery with the option to enter a competition in one of the following categories:

  • Cartographic - the quality of the visual display.

  • Analytic presentation - communication of meaningful patterns in data.

  • Web Applications – such as StoryMaps, ArcGIS Online, Tableau, Mapbox, or Power BI.

  • Student - anyone who is enrolled in classes pursuing a degree or certificate.

Prizes will be going to the winner of each category determined by online voting. Submit your map using this form.

2021 GIS in Action Conference Hosts:

Share Your GIS Story

If you have a story to share, project to present, success to celebrate, comments or feedback please email Tara Kaur, Communications Director of ORURISA at: communications@orurisa.org.

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