Math and Science
Bachelor’s of Science in Social Sciences for Sociology, Anthropology, Geography
Masters of Arts in Geography
Geographic Information Systems Analyst Certificate
Human geography instructor
After one college geography class, Eileen O’Halloran was hooked. She majored in social sciences, covering geography, sociology, and anthropology at California Polytechnic State University, then went on to get her master’s degree in geography at San Jose State University. More recently, she obtained a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Analyst Certificate from Foothill College. She currently uses her GIS skills as a geographer for the U.S. Geological Survey. O’Halloran also teaches human and cultural geography as an online geography instructor with Lake Tahoe Community College and the College of Alameda, and as an adjunct lecturer at San Jose State University.
Why did you decide to geogr¨aphy? And why did you continue your education in the field?
I chose to study geography after going on study abroad in London. I was able to travel a bit over there and I met a young woman from Australia who was able to tell me all about the geography of the United States (specifically the Mississippi River area) and I was embarrassed that someone from another country knew more about the geography of my country. So I came back from study abroad and took my first geography course and loved it.
After obtaining my undergraduate degree in social sciences (geography, sociology, and anthropology), I worked for a while then decided to go back and get my master’s in geography. The reason I went back to study geography further was that the field of GIS was really emerging and I wanted to obtain those skills. Also, my work paid for my degree (even though it wasn’t related to my job at the time) so I wasn’t about to pass up that opportunity.
What have you enjoyed the most from studying it? The least?
I love knowing where things are located in the world (especially the countries) because it makes it so much easier to understand the news and I feel worldly and knowledgeable. The least enjoyable thing (that’s tough to say — I like it so much) is probably the frustration of the GIS software. It’s very complex and unless you use it often, it’s easy to forget something you just learned not too long ago.
What are the most valuable skills you gained through your education?
Map reading, a base understanding of GIS and its capabilities, and place locations.
What are your goals as an educator in the geography field?
To help students develop a base knowledge as well as a passion for geography. I want them to understand that [in addition to] learning place locations, it’s also essential to understand the relationships between people and the land (how people are using land and conflicts that arise due to misuse).
What advice would you give to potential geography students?
Learn your geographic locations. Take a variety of courses — intro, regional, technical, etc. — so you get a good feel for what aspect geography you would like to concentrate on in the future.