Student Association for Geospatial Analysis (SAGA)

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2018-2019 Student Leaders


President: Ben Gregory
Treasurer: Gordon Li
Event Planner: Alex Yoshizumi
Beaufort Representative: Raquel Bensadoun
International Representative: Sunny Qiao

Contact Info

Faculty/Staff Advisors

Faculty Advisor: Peter Harrell

The Student Association for Geospatial Analysis (SAGA) is graduate student organization for students interested in developing and sharing skills related to geospatial analysis (GA). The mission of SAGA is to provide the graduate students of Duke University with a resource to expand, explore, and build professional skills in the field of Geospatial Analysis. The term geospatial analysis is all encompassing, from Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to remote sensing; from cartography to field skills. SAGA will serve as an organization to inform students about emerging trends and techniques, as well as to develop skills not taught through Nicholas School curriculum. 

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SAGA aims to connect students not only with their peers but also with alumni working in this field. SAGA will serve as a liaison and advocator to the Nicholas School staff and administration. SAGA seeks to accomplish this mission by developing professional skills through seminars, symposia, and speaking events by cultivating professional relationships between students, alumni, and faculty through strong connections and inclusiveness.


Saga is built on 7 tenets. These ideas will guide the club’s direction and help in allocation of funding and planning events. Each event will meet one or more of these goals. They are: Collaboration and Connections

  1. Student to Student Many students are divided across concentrations and rarely have the opportunity to collaborate. SAGA is a club that will integrate and cross concentration boundaries. Peer to peer connections are important for collaboration, networking, and the sharing of ideas. This also includes collaboration and work between undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students.
  2. Student to Faculty First year students don’t have an easy opportunity to meet facility outside of classrooms – especially facility that teach higher-level classes. Greater connection to faculty will allow students to see how GA is used at Duke and these connections can foster a stronger and more responsive program.
  3. Student to Alumni and Community One of the greatest resources at the Nicholas School are alumni. This is especially true for second years that are job seeking. Currently, it is difficult to connect with alumni in GA positions because they are across all concentrations and aren’t used as a resource. SAGA will be an advocate to include GA in career opportunities as well as use alumni in our own events. Professional Development outside of the Classroom
  4. Developing Professional Skills While the academics at Duke are stellar, students often want to expand above and beyond the classroom in the topics they are interested in most. SAGA will serve to teach students these “softer skills” that can’t be put on a resume, but could be helpful for professional development.
  5. Developing Practical Skills SAGA will also serve to help interested students learn practical GA skills. These are skills that might not be relevant to a classroom setting, such as open source software, but none the less can be helpful in expanding the students’ portfolios and skill sets.
  6. Distributing Information and Opportunities Students at the Nicholas School are highly motivated but because of busy schedules or other restraints, might not be able to research and take advantage of every opportunity. SAGA will serve as type of “funnel” to collect information from the school and beyond and pass on information, resources, opportunities, and other materials to students.
  7. Strengthen the Presence of Geospatial Analysis at Duke and Elsewhere SAGA will serve to advocate for the students interested in GA and allow them a voice in the administration. SAGA will strive to highlight the work of students in a professional setting. SAGA will also serve to increase the presence of GA at Duke to the outside community.

Impact on the Nicholas School Community

SAGA is a relatively new student organization, forming in the spring semester of 2014; SAGA recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. But despite the organization’s young age, we have nonetheless made an impact on the Nicholas School community and Duke University as a whole.

We have exposed students to the wide range of career options available in GIS by bringing in scholars and guest speakers (especially during GIS Day) who use GIS to solve policy problems, perform scientific research, and create authoritative maps. We have given students opportunities to expand their GIS expertise by learning about non-Esri geospatial technologies and exploring ways to work with other “geospatially illiterate” colleagues. We have made sure our fellow students at the Marine Lab are benefitting from these activities too by using telepresence at our events and by having an executive representative at Beaufort.

One of our Spring 2016 events is being hosted at the Marine Lab, with the Nicholas School at Durham attending via teleconference. And finally, we have helped show students that GIS can be fun and rewarding; it’s not always long nights in the computer lab! We look forward to our continued work in bridging the gap between learning how to operate GIS and how environmental professionals actually use GIS in the workplace and for realistic applications. SAGA provides this vital service for the GIS community at the Nicholas School, and we are honored that our peers and colleagues have enthusiastically responded to our work.