Student Stories: Steve Wiertz

Steve Wirtz

Major: Geography

Steve Wiertz had worked in the mapping industry for more than 20 years when he needed to upgrade his skills.

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With a previous associate degree from College of DuPage and a bachelor’s in Geography from Illinois State University, Wiertz saw an opportunity to add new skills to his resume through COD’s certificate program in geographic information systems (GIS).

“I had recently lost my job and felt that I needed to refresh my skills and learn new applications in the GIS world,” he said. “I found when reviewing job postings that I didn’t have many of the GIS skills that most employers were looking for. I liked what was covered in the GIS overview and program map at COD, specifically GIS subjects like data management, geodatabases and spatial analysis. These were areas that I felt I needed improvement in or had very little experience with during my previous career. I also felt the courses would provide me the knowledge on the technical capabilities within the GIS sciences that would make me more marketable in attaining employment in the GIS field.”

Wiertz also liked that the program worked within his schedule and budget. It also allowed him to network with other students.

“It slowly built up my skills and confidence beyond my core strengths in the mapping industry,” he said. “I felt that I could check off more boxes in job applications and relate to more projects during interviews from my knowledge learned from coursework presented during this program. The instructor, Joe Adduci, an expert in the field, is very passionate about GIS and will do what it takes to assist his students in every way, from learning through to job opportunities. The program provided me more ideas and examples of projects that could be applied to whatever work I decide to take on.”

The program provided me more ideas and examples of projects that could be applied to whatever work I decide to take on.

Steve Wiertz

After earning his certificate, he continued to take classes and helped create maps for the OER (open educational resources) textbook “The Western World: Daily Readings on Geography” written by COD geography professors Joel Quam and Scott Campbell, Ph.D. Wiertz then secured a position at Rand McNally as a senior GIS analyst. His work involves manipulating, editing and verifying points of interest data for navigation data within truck GPS devices. He also helps in the research, quality assurance and production of cartographic data for the atlases created and published from a mapping database.

“I enjoy working with both the traditional cartographic creation process and the GIS data side that incorporates many applications I learned and improved upon from my coursework at COD,” he said. “My passion and experience have been tied closely to mapping involving research, output, quality assurance and production. With the experience, knowledge and skills gained through COD’s program, I feel more valuable as an individual, which will allow me to be more beneficial to my team and company.”

Wiertz recommends the GIS certificate program at COD to anyone, even if they have no prior knowledge in the field.

“The program involved many real-life projects and studies that are not only introduced by the instructor, but also many times by students,” he said. “GIS is a great program that ties and explores the interactions among people, places, humanities and sciences and then displays it in a fascinating way. The program provides so many real-life examples that can be related and applied to many other industries. This type of knowledge and understanding of relationships in the geography-GIS world will always be in demand for decades into the future.”

Learn more about the Geography program at College of DuPage