The Wisconsin Land Information Association is a large group and we may only interact with each other in person a few times per year. Considering this our opportunities to make additional connections and network is limited. In an effort to try and generate some additional discussion among our members and let you get to know to some of us better I decided to ask some members a series of questions. Hopefully this will lead to additional conversations between some of us and if nothing else provide a bit of amusement or provoke a little bit of thought. As a lead up to our Fall Regional Meeting I took the time to ask one of our presenters Shelley Witte, a GIS Technician with the State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), a few questions.
Jeremy: First off Shelley thank you or taking the time to answer a few questions and for being our inaugural presenter to answer a few questions. Can you tell us about yourself?
Shelley: I love science, teaching, cooking, listening to music, coming up with puns, mountain biking, seeking out good food in the places I visit, and being outside when it’s not hot and humid. I live with my partner of 9 years and our aging wolfdog, Hank.
Jeremy: Where are you from originally?
Shelley: Originally from Stillwater, MN and currently in Madison.
Jeremy: Did you attend UW in Madison?
Shelley: I completed undergrad and my GIS certificate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Jeremy: How long have you been in your current position, GIS Technician, with the Department of Public Instruction?
Shelley: A little over a year.
Jeremy: What are some of your current work related goals at DPI?
Shelley: I would like to work toward 100% accuracy of school district boundaries and/or maintaining an authoritative statewide layer for school district boundaries. Beyond that, I would love to incorporate some spatial analysis projects in my work.
Jeremy: Those are some very noble goals. Many people I have spoken to about work would also like to do more spatial analysis of our data. I think it is a shame we don’t reward ourselves by taking that data we work so hard upon and actually play around with it and see what it tells us more often. I think that might be an indirect poke at our members to analyze their data and map it and submit it into the Map Contest at our Annual Conference! Anyway I digress. I believe that school district boundary layers and their associated data would allow for some very interesting analyses.
Speaking of WLIA what is your favorite thing about being a member of the WLIA?
Shelley: The meetings allowed me to make connections with people who work at the county level. Not only is it helpful to be able to explain my work to them directly and to receive feedback and support, it’s also nice to be able to put a face and a personality with the people I interact with in my school district boundaries work.
Jeremy: Speaking of work what was your first real job and how did it prepare you for your current role?
Shelley: My first real job was as a “Smiling People Greeter” (hostess) at Ruby Tuesday. It taught me that there’s always more going on behind the scenes at any job than people realize. I remind myself of this every so often to try and be a more patient and understanding person at work and everywhere else!
Jeremy: Despite having never worked in the food industry I appreciate your sentiments and believe that people could stand to be a little bit more patient. Personally I am not in a hurry if I am dining at a restaurant along the lines of Ruby Tuesday I would rather take the time to relax with my counterparts, although if the dining companions are kids it can sometimes take the relaxation out of any restaurant experience. Anyway if people are in a hurry they should select a fast food option.
Speaking of food what is your fave?
Shelley: I would have no trouble eating tacos every day. There are countless ways to make them to maintain variety.
Jeremy: You know the only time I may have eaten at a Ruby Tuesday was while on vacation in the Charleston, South Carolina area. I recall it was next door to my hotel when we arrived after a long day of driving. Charleston is still my favorite vacation destination. That city has so much interesting history, the ocean, and many excellent dining options. Anyway what is your favorite vacation destination?
Shelley: I am planning to visit Charleston in the coming year. I’m very excited to explore the area. My favorite place for reoccurring visits is the Boundary Waters – it’s an amazingly beautiful place to disconnect and relax for a few days.
Jeremy: If one were to relax with a good book what would you recommend?
Shelley: I haven’t had much of an attention span for reading these days but in the past I’ve really liked reading memoirs by female comedians like Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Phoebe Robinson.
Lately, I’ve been doing audiobooks so that I can get a book in while also being productive. I’m currently listening to “So You Want to Talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. I definitely recommend it for people who’ve found themselves wondering why race is such a “hot” topic these days, what it means to “check your privilege,” or if you’ve looked around at a gathering of professionals and seen mostly people who look like you.
Jeremy: You said you like listening to music earlier, what was your first CD/tape/record that you owned?
Shelly: My first CD was Middle of Nowhere by Hanson. I was 11 at the time, don’t judge. (Also, they are still a great band.) My first record was a used copy of Meet the Beatles that I managed to find at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis.
Jeremy: I won’t judge. MMMbop was kind of the opposite of cool as I was in college at the time it came out, but some incoming freshman on my wing rocked it out all the time, at first we thought they were joking then we realized they were not. I will admit Where’s The Love which got some airplay was tolerable. I have heard that they still have quite a following and are a good live band for what it’s worth. Have you ever seen them in concert?
Shelley: I’ve seen them twice in recent years – they are great performers and definitely still have a strong, dedicated fan base.
Jeremy: What was your favorite game when you grew up?
Shelley: Clue – probably because I really liked the movie that was based on it.
Jeremy: I’ve never seen the movie. I also never had the game growing up but I have now played it as an adult and last year my kids got the Harry Potter version and I’ve played that and actually preferred it to the original.
Speaking of recalling the past. Would you rather travel forward in time or back in history?
Shelley: I would travel back in time to witness events to see how the retelling of them has been distorted over the years. I’d also like to experience the collective anticipation and excitement of the Apollo 11 landing.
Jeremy: I bet that the Apollo 11 landing was pretty exciting. Witnessing actual events would be interesting. I hope that modern events are told as they are instead of turned into folklore. Sometimes the real deal is a lot more interesting than the modified or embellished story.
Is there anything interesting you would like to share about yourself?
Shelley: I’ve been involved in education in some form or another since college: I was a fund raiser for UW-Madison as a student, an astronomy educator at the National Air and Space Museum, a high school Earth science teacher, and now doing I’m doing GIS for the Dept. of Public Instruction.
Jeremy: Wow that is a lot of variety in a career. Were you an educator at the one out in Virginia or in Washington D.C.?
Shelley: I worked at the museum on the National Mall. Seeing the space artifacts on a daily basis never got old.
Jeremy: I just got see the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles this year and it was amazing. I was chaperoning a group of 5th graders and it was our last stop on a whirlwind tour. They had no interest to keep looking at stuff at that point in time. I want to go back if I am ever in that area again it was so awesome and I am not even an aviation junky. Although I do love trying to take in eclipses, meteor showers such as the Perseids, and the Northern Lights when possible.
Shelley: The Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles is incredible – the Concord, SR-71 Blackbird, and the Space Shuttle Discovery are really cool to see in person.
Jeremy: How do those varied teaching experiences with topics that are literally out of this world shape your outlook on something more grounded like school districts?
Shelley: Education, GIS and cartography all involve finding the best way to communicate and share information with others. In teaching, people and their learning styles are the puzzle. In GIS, the data is the puzzle and it’s a fun new challenge for me.
Jeremy: Time for a wild question. If you could be any living thing other than a human what would it be and why?
Shelley: I’ve always loved cheetahs. I enjoy zooming around on things… on roller coasters, on skis, on my bike (but not in my car). It’d be cool to be as agile and fast as a cheetah.
Jeremy: Very interesting. Time for one more.
Two Truths and a Lie (In no particular order).
Shelley: I’ve seen all of the planets, Pluto, and the Sun through a telescope.
Duck Duck Gray Duck is superior to Duck Duck Goose.
I’ve never lived outside of Dane County.
Jeremy: Based on your past answers I am pretty sure I need to Google Duck Duck Gray Duck…thank you Shelley for giving us some interesting answers.
Shelley Witte will be presenting at our Fall Regional Conference in Sturgeon Bay. I hope to see our members there. You still have time to register. I will have another interview of sorts coming out after our next meeting.
More Info on the Fall 2018 Regional Meeting:
Browse the Full Agenda:
Founded in 1987, WLIA is a grassroots organization representing a collection of concerned professionals working to develop, maintain, and apply a network of statewide land information systems.
We are united by an interest in land records modernization, GIS, and related technologies, and by the need for government policies and programs that support their efficient and effective application.