Sylvia Kendra MPA’98
Pick an academic area that you know you will enjoy, something that will make you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to get to work!
Home: Washington, DC
UT Dallas Degree: Master of Public Affairs ’98, GIS Certificate
Profession: Associate Director, Facilities Information and Technology Administration, Office of Facilities Engineering and Operations, Smithsonian Institution
After graduating from UT Dallas in 1998, my first job was as the Geographic Information Services (GIS) Manager for the City of Richardson, Texas, where I led the implementation of the city’s GIS program that is in use today. I was responsible for establishing standard operating procedures for the new division, developing long-range plans, and hiring staff, interns and contractors. With the help of a small but strong technical team, we established approximately 120 city map layers for 27 square miles of city space and created numerous user-specific GIS programs that were designed to improve work functions in areas such as public works, emergency response operations, building inspections, tax assessment and health code inspections. I was fortunate to have the support of inspiring leaders who encouraged my ideas and initiatives and allowed me the creative freedom necessary to implement something brand new for the city.
In 2004, I accepted a position with the Smithsonian Institution and became part of the original team that founded the GIS program for facilities. Similar to my efforts in Richardson, this was a new geospatial initiative, but with very different goals and challenges. Our early efforts included reconciling and standardizing the Smithsonian’s floor plans, integrating the new GIS data with existing facilities information and publishing the new information online for staff to view and use. My work in this area continues and has broadened to include Building Information Modeling and Facilities Digital Archives.
The Value of My Degree
My MPA from UT Dallas has been very valuable throughout my career. I think my true education began in graduate school – UT Dallas’ classes had the perfect balance of practical application and theory.
While I was a student at UT Dallas, I held two internship positions that also proved highly valuable to my current profession. The first was with the Texas Department of Transportation, and the second was with the city of Richardson. My classes were well aligned with my internship assignments, and I was able to use work assignments as class projects. This helped me hone my skills at school and at work, and eventually helped me land my first management job right out of graduate school.
I still apply techniques I learned at UT Dallas, especially when working on projects related to policy development, complex analysis — and, of course, GIS.
My EPPS Success
My success at school had a lot to do with UT Dallas’ structure: the small classes, the supportive instructors and the flexibility of class schedules that allowed me to work and go to school full-time.
Advice for EPPS Students
It’s a competitive market, and you’ll do best by following your strengths and excelling in things that you are truly interested in doing. Once you start working, you’ll realize that you spend many, many hours each day at work. Pick an academic area that you know you will enjoy — something that will make you jump out of bed in the morning, ready to get to work! Always give 110 percent and don’t be afraid to fail; keep trying new things; keep one eye on the horizon to prepare for the next challenge coming up the road. When you learn something new, say in a training class, go to work the next day and use your new skill. Apply what you learn so it sinks in!