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An Interview with Andrew Walz, GIS Intern at the Law Library of Congress

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This is an interview with Andrew Walz, currently an intern at the Law Library of Congress Information Technology Office providing Geographic Information System support.

Describe your background

I grew up in a small town in southwestern Virginia called Lexington. Growing up where I did has had a huge impact on who I am today.  Growing up in a small town makes you more aware of your surroundings, both physically and personally and this experience certainly influences the way I am now.  My parents were in the Peace Corps and have very open minds and allowed my brother and me to really investigate things for ourselves and form our own thoughts.  This intellectual freedom is a large influence on my outlook on life.

What is your academic/professional history?

My academic and professional background centers on what I have learned in my time in college.  I am a junior at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) in Fredericksburg, Virginia and plan on graduating in the spring of 2014.  I came into UMW intending to be a political science major but eventually shifted to economics and geography, with an emphasis on geographic information systems (GIS).  I have always enjoyed learning and Mary Washington has been a great fit for me and my interests.  My professional experience started in the summer after my freshman year when I interned with the local planning office in my county.  It was a good primer for the kind of work I would be able to do with my GIS skills and I learned a lot.  My other professional experience came in Samoa this past summer.  I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in Samoa last spring and it was easily one of the most important experiences of my life.  After my studies finished, I volunteered at a non-profit called Women in Business and this was another valuable experience.  It was great to see up close and personal how much positive change these organizations can affect for those who need it.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Andrew Walz seated with his host family around him in the front room of their home.
Andrew with a host family on a study abroad trip.

If I described my job to other people I would tell them I make maps.  More specifically, I make maps to analyze and project data.  A map can be a very useful way to display data and give it context that charts and graphs cannot provide alone.  I also use the map making software to analyze and manipulate a wide range of data.  This allows me to do both analysis and manipulation at the same time, which certainly has its advantages.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

I wanted to work at the Library of Congress so I could be around talented people and work in an intellectually challenging environment.  I am going to have the opportunity to work with specialists and experts in their respective fields and that is not something you can say about many other places.  I was also excited to be able to spend time in Washington D.C.  Being from a small town, traveling to the city represented an opportunity to get the more urban experience, while still going to a school in a relaxed small town environment.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

The most interesting thing I have learned about the Law Library of Congress so far has been that the Law Library actually does research for Congress.  Perhaps it was naïve of me but I did not know there was research done anywhere in the Library of Congress, I imagined more of a reference library but it has been a pleasant surprise and I am very happy to be a part of the Law Library’s operations.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

Something my co-workers at the Library probably do not know about me is that I was born in Malawi.  My parents had been in the Peace Corps and went back to Malawi to work.  I spent the majority of the first five years of my life in Africa where we lived in Botswana and South Africa for periods of time as well.  We eventually moved back to the United States in time for my brother and me to begin school in Lexington, which I call home.



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