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Source: Massey University

Master of Public Health student Rosemary Mwipiko says meeting the other Wrsi Young Scholar winners at the San Diego conference was inspiring.

An analyst in the Environmental Health Indicators Programme and Master of Public Health student Rosemary Mwipiko has recently returned from the Esri Education Summit and User Conference in San Diego, after being named the 2019 Esri Young Scholar earlier this year.

Each year, Esri’s global partners nominate 25 university students for excellence in relation to a Geographic Information System (GIS) project. These projects include comprehensive research papers, software development, impactful maps, and apps that promote education, conservation, disaster response, and urban planning.

Her project, entitled An exploration of the effects of the Built Environment on Depression in the Wellington Region, focused on public health – an area of geospatial mapping that is slowly developing in New Zealand.

Ms Mwipiko’s study demonstrated an association between walkability and symptoms of depression in adolescents and demonstrated that a walkable neighbourhood may help to reduce depressive symptoms.

She says the networking aspects of the conference were the best part. “Being surrounded by more than 17,000 strangers, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. However, the organised social events really forced me to come out of my shell and meet new people,” Ms Mwipiko says.

The 25-year-old, originally from Choma, Zambia, says meeting the other Esri Young Scholar winners from a wide range of countries, was inspiring. “It truly enhanced my passion for GIS. Not only did we learn from each other about geospatial technologies, but we shared our cultures, experiences and adventures, which was equally rewarding.”

Ms Mwipikowas also fortunate enough to meet Jack Dangermond, the American billionaire businessman and environmental scientist who co-founded Esri (as the Environmental Systems Research Institute) in 1969 with his wife Laura.

“I also got to attend a talk held by primatologist and anthropologist Dame Jane Goodall, which was a major highlight as she’s one of my idols.”

The conference has also inspired Ms Mwipiko to pursue a career change. “After seeing how experienced everyone else was in GIS, I was inspired to branch out from my career in public health where GIS is very underutilised, to take up a junior GIS analyst role with the New Zealand Defence Force.”

She takes up her new role at the end of August.