Department of Geography and the Environment

Geography Alumni

Graduates from our Department are building amazing and varied careers. These alumni profiles are meant to inspire prospective and current majors in Geography, Sustainability Studies, Urban Studies and Environmental Science about potential career paths. If you're an alum of the Department, we'd like to hear what you're doing. Contact Dr. Molly Polk ( or Tiffany Swonke ( to share your career story. Please join the Department LinkedIn Group at 

Emma Hines

Emma Hines

B.A. in Geography and B.S. in Environmental Science – Biology, Spring 2017

Health and Air Quality Associate, RMI and Lecturer, Yale Climate Change and Health Online Certificate Program

I began a master’s degree in Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder immediately after graduating from UT. Following the completion of my master’s degree, I participated in a two-year fellowship with the Climate and Health Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. I am now an Associate in RMI’s Carbon-Free Buildings program, where I work on the climate, health, and air quality co-benefits of building electrification. I have also served as a member of the teaching faculty for the Climate Change and Health Online Certificate Program with the Yale School of Public Health for two years.

I started at UT as an EVS-BIO major, which is an excellent interdisciplinary program providing students with a strong foundation in the life sciences and training in field and research methods. However, I found myself craving a social science perspective and quickly added Geography as a second major. It allowed me to more holistically explore how humans interact with their environments, and understand the influence of cultural, political, and economic systems and processes. The combination of my majors certainly influenced my interest in addressing the mounting threat of climate change to human health and community resilience.

My Geography major definitely prepared me for a master’s degree and my current professional positions. In particular, I’m grateful for the topical expertise I developed in climate change and environmental health, and the training I received in GIS, remote sensing, technical writing, and science communication.

One of my favorite things about the department is the close-knit community of students and faculty. I was very lucky to participate in an excellent study abroad experience in Ecuador focused on nature, society, and sustainability. I was also a Geography Society member and officer for several years.

If you’re curious about Geography at all, sign up for a class and give it a try. You just might end up calling yourself a Geographer!

Libby Lenox

Libby Lenox photo

B.A. in Geography, Minor Anthropology, Spring 2017

M.S. in Conservation Leadership - Global Specialization, Warner College of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

City of Boulder, Open Space and Mountain Parks, Boulder, CO

After graduating from UT, I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado with the goal of enrolling in graduate school at Colorado State University’s Warner College of Natural Resources. During my first year after graduating, I worked for an environmental non-profit organization called Community for Sustainable Energy. I was the Grassroots Coordinator, a position that gave me experience with public education, outreach, and community support for local Colorado sustainable energy initiatives.  

From undergraduate studies in geography and this first position, I developed a strong interest in the human side of conserving our natural resources. I wanted to pursue this interest further with higher education. I found a fitting graduate program called Conservation Leadership Through Learning at Colorado State University in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources department at Warner College.  

I conducted my Master’s Capstone Project in Belize, which included studying protected area management through the creation of a new 5-year management plan for a significant protected area, Golden Stream Corridor Preserve. I worked and engaged with diverse partner stakeholders and Indigenous Mayan communities to increase buy-in and overall management effectiveness of the conservation area. After completing the program, I obtained my M.S. in Conservation Leadership - Global Specialization.  

After graduating with my Master’s, I began working for the City of Boulder’s Open Spaces & Mountain Parks in the Resources and Stewardship division, as the Human Dimensions Research Technician. With this position, I conduct and help manage various social science research studies and projects to further successful public lands management. I am currently at the beginning stages of my career and will continue working towards becoming a conservation leader. 

My B.A. in Geography exposed me to the human dimensions side of the environment. Learning on a global scale about how societies adapt to their natural environments and utilize their natural resources influenced my interest in pursuing my education in this sector even further. My geography courses sparked my interest in interdisciplinary environmental issues, leading me to receive my M.S. in Conservation Leadership - Global Specialization.  

Further, my track in sustainability influenced my belief that people are determinative of whether or not environmental protection endeavors will be successful. As a result of that belief, I chose to pursue a career path in the social side of conserving our environments through utilizing social science research, education and outreach, and working directly with diverse communities and stakeholders. 

My well-rounded education from the Department of Geography and the Environment prepared me for my current job by giving me both technical and critical thinking skills. For my current position, I have utilized GIS knowledge to produce effective maps and conduct spatial analyses in ArcGIS software and on-the-ground field mapping. I have also learned to appreciate the value of different cultures and societies ways of thinking and acting. This has given me an open-minded perspective, allowing me to think creatively and critically about complex and collaborative topics that arise at my work, for example, how to balance recreational use and ecological preservation.  

My studies about how humans and their environments are intertwined and affect one another has led me down my career path of conservation and sustainability. I’m thankful that my geography education has granted me a range of transferable knowledge and skills that I continue to develop and use every day in my profession. 

I really value the fact that I gained a well-rounded and pluralistic view of geography, being exposed to all aspects of the field. I learned that geography is an incredibly interdisciplinary and complex study that encompasses multiple aspects ranging from the biological to the social. Because geography is a vastly diverse study that leads to a variety of career paths and specializations, I appreciate how the Department requires students to take certain courses in various tracks, which can help you identify or further solidify a particular interest. With a B.A. in Geography, you have a well-rounded grasp of the field and the opportunity to dive deeper into a specific segment through following a distinct track.  

From my discussions with professors from my graduate program, co-workers, and partner organizations, they have all acknowledged to me that geography is a well-valued discipline. I even had one conservation practitioner tell me, if he could go back and do an undergraduate degree over again, he would have picked geography!  

The curriculum and knowledge in geography can be used for so many different job types. From my personal experiences, I would advise that anyone who is interested in the environmental sector, should consider a B.A. in Geography. I’ve learned that it is a sought-after educational background and practice in the realm of conservation.  

Kevin Strybos 

B.A. Geography, Minor Government, Fall 2017 

GIS Analyst, City of Pflugerville 

My first job after graduating was a full-time contract with Apple Maps and a part-time contract with a public health non-profit that I worked on in my free time. After a year and a half at Apple Maps, I left and took on various GIS contract roles within the City of Austin. I also moved to Guatemala for the Peace Corps, but that was cut short as a result of the pandemic. Upon returning from Peace Corps, I took another GIS contract. As many recent graduates will find nowadays (and has certainly been my experience), the workforce is dominated by contract positions; so when a full-time position was offered to me by the City of Pflugerville I was thrilled and began my role as a GIS analyst with them, where I currently am. 

My B.A. in Geography has enabled me to explore numerous career paths where GIS is used to analyze spatial data. Because GIS is a tool used in so many fields, I was able to use this technical skill in conjunction with my knowledge in other geography-related subjects (such as health and the environment) and explore what industries suit my interests the most. As a result, since learning GIS I’ve worked for public health, transportation, land development, and international aid focused organizations, each of which have had completely different initiatives.  

My education in geography and liberal arts prepared me for success in my career by teaching me the communication and analytical knowledge that is pivotal for working as a GIS Analyst for the government. As an analyst, it’s important to know how to manage data, but the ability to communicate your results and explore creative ideas with a team is just as important. Therefore, I always emphasize the cultural courses I took were just as integral to my education as my technical ones. 

The research experiences I was able to participate in, as well as the dedicated professors I was able to rely on, is what I value most about my experience with the Department of Geography. The University of Texas has an unending list of research opportunities for students to participate in, and I strongly believe had I not taken advantage of those I would not have lived the exciting experiences I have since joining the department. 



  • Department of Geography and the Environment

    The University of Texas at Austin
    305 E. 23rd Street, A3100
    RLP 3.306
    Austin, TX 78712