Introducing Jake Steinberg – 2022 Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship Winner

Posted By: Carmen Novak Awards & Recognition,

Introducing Jake Steinberg, an accomplished student attending University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jake is working toward a master's degree in Cartography and GIS.

Jake is another deserving winner of the Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship! A few of his completed courses so far include, Intro to Cartography, Intro to Geocomputing, Intro to Geographic Inquiry and Analysis, Interactive Cartography and Geovisualization, Techniques in Geographic Inquiry and Analysis, to name a few.

Jake is a part-time teaching assistant in the Department of Geography, where he has provided instruction for Intro to Cartography and Intro to GIS courses. He also designed a K-5 cartography curriculum as part of the 2022 Design Challenge, which is a volunteer-driven event hosted by the UW Cart Lab. What an accomplishment! He is active in the NACIS community, including submissions to their biennial Atlas of Design and to a map projection trading card series. Furthermore, he has contributed to the hiring committee for a new cartography professor at Madison and assisted in colleagues' various research efforts.

Jacob Steinberg, 2022 Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship Recipient
Jake Steinberg, 2022 Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship Recipient

When asked how the last semester went, Jake replied:

Last semester was a busy one. I managed production at the UW Cart Lab, our cartography design studio at UW-Madison. The lab’s creative director of 14 years departed this summer. She gave me the opportunity to take over management of the studio’s eight student employees and something like 40 projects in production. It’s been an incredible honor. I’ve overseen client communication, budgeting and project organization, as well as provided mentorship to students in the lab. It’s also been a lot of work, so I’m looking forward to our new, permanent creative director taking over this spring.

I also took classes in geospatial databases and advanced cartography. Rob Roth’s Graphic Design in Cartography class provided plenty of opportunities for rewarding projects. I built my own website to show off my design portfolio. I designed a web map based on the aesthetics of one of my favorite pieces of art, Bon Iver’s 2016 album, 22, A Million. The album was made in Eau Claire, where Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is based. The album cover and promotional materials were designed by an artist with Minneapolis roots. Those local connections are important to how I experience and appreciate art. Geography is inseparable from the art it inspires. Finally, my final project originated from my interest in cartographic storytelling. I went to grad school to learn how to make the kind of compelling cartographic visual stories you see from media organizations like The New York Times and National Geographic. For my final project, I designed a speculative future news story about a pipeline that pumps water from the Great Lakes to the American Southwest. The maps and figures that drive the story necessitated some pretty ridiculous math: How much water is in the first 80 feet of Lake Superior? How do I account for over 100 trillion gallons of water? How big would a pipeline need to be to move that amount of water annually? It was important to me that this story be grounded in realistic proportions. The visuals are dystopian: Lake Superior is shriveled and plagued by toxic algal blooms, freshwater exports have become a major portion of the economy, the Grand Canyon has been transformed into a reservoir, Duluth and Superior are booming metropolises. I based all these elements on real proposals from the past, as well as projections for the future.

Last, but not least, I spent the past semester conducting research for my master’s thesis. I’ve been interviewing cartographers who work in the news industry to learn how they approach ethical mapmaking and geospatial analysis. What stories should we tell with our maps and how ought we be doing it? How do we minimize harm in the maps we make? How do we ensure our process is transparent and that we remain accountable to the public? It’s been a very interesting and thoughtful series of interviews, from which I hope to write about best practices applicable to all who make maps, not just those who work in the news. I aim to defend my thesis in May.

My semester ended on a high note. I was offered an internship with the graphics department at the Wall Street Journal. I’ll get to spend ten weeks this summer making maps and other infographics for the largest newspaper in the country. It is such an incredible honor, and really the culmination of everything I sought to get out of grad school.

Furthermore, we asked Jake for some favorite things about Wisconsin:

I grew up and did my undergrad in Minnesota, so I came to Wisconsin with a bias culturally rooted primarily in bad feelings related to professional sports. But as a lover of geography and the outdoors, Wisconsin has blown me away. I love learning about how glaciers have shaped the state. I always read the informational plaques I encounter while hiking. One plaque at Goose Lake Drumlins State Natural Area told me that the little valley between two drumlins is called a “dungeon” because it’s often cooler than the higher ground. I found this very amusing. At the time, I lived between the drumlins of Capitol Hill and Mansion Hill in a dingy old apartment building—a dungeon indeed. Another plaque at Governor Dodge State Park told me that the pine trees throughout the southwestern portion of the state were delivered by glaciers, which carried pinecones all the way from the boreal north down to Iowa. Even though the glaciers are gone, the pine trees remain, and the cultural identity of that region grew around that glacial legacy.

I’ve now done several bikepacking tours through the beautiful valleys and ridges of the Driftless Area. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve is a particular natural gem that we can enjoy due to a dam that was never built and the local organizing that stopped it. I’ve taken incredible canoe trips down the Lower Wisconsin River and the Flambeau River, the latter of which I sought out due to a particularly moving chapter in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

Some of Jake's plans for the future include using cartographic storytelling to bring vivid maps and unique geospatial insight to empower local news organizations.

Congratulations to Jake Steinberg on receiving the 2022 Damon Anderson Memorial Scholarship!