Happy new year, everyone! My name is Maja Kucharczyk and I am a PhD candidate in Geography at the University of Calgary. This is my first blog post as an ECCE Student Associate.

I very much look forward to continuing my GIS journey in 2023, especially when I look back on the opportunities I had last year. In this blog post, I’ll share my experience as a 2022 Esri User Conference Student Assistant to encourage you to apply to this valuable program.

What is an Esri User Conference Student Assistantship?

The Student Assistant program has allowed hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to experience the User Conference (UC) as assistants and attendees. Student Assistants sign up to help with a variety of tasks, including setup, attendee registration, working at the Spatial Outlet Store, helping to run technical sessions, audio/video support, and more. The program has many perks:

What it’s like to be a Student Assistant

The 2022 Esri UC was my first GIS conference, and wow – the week truly flew by and left me feeling grateful, inspired, and sad to be leaving San Diego. The Student Assistantship is a 1-week program, which means I arrived in San Diego on the Friday prior to the conference and left the following Friday (the last day of the conference). The first couple days included a welcome dinner, orientation, as well as some pre-conference duties. At the welcome dinner, it was really neat to hear about the GIS career journeys of our Esri staff leaders as well as where each of the 56 student assistants were from (there were 2 other Canadians!) and what they studied. Naturally, the whole group quickly bonded and eagerly awaited the busy week ahead.

2022 class photo of the Student Assistants and Esri staff
2022 class photo of the Student Assistants and Esri staff

It was surreal to see the convention center transform from being quiet and calm during setup over the weekend to bustling with thousands of attendees on Monday (Day 1 of the conference). Each day of the UC usually consisted of a morning or afternoon shift with the remaining half of the day free for attending presentations, workshops, and the Expo. Truth be told, having the “Student Assistant” ribbon on my UC badge made me feel like a VIP and was a nice conversation starter.

The early evening was a great time to attend a social to meet others and devour delicious food and drinks. One particularly useful social was hosted by the Young Professionals Network, where various Esri department representatives were in attendance ready to give information and answer questions related to Esri careers. One of the most valuable aspects of the conference for me was the opportunity to talk to Esri recruiters, managers, and other employees – at this social and on the Expo floor – to find out about the various roles and opportunities within the company.

Wearing multiple hats at the User Conference

Many stars aligned and I got to experience the conference from a diversity of perspectives. My roles were:

Being a Student Assistant was my primary priority. Even so, the program leaders (Esri staff members) were extremely supportive and encouraging of our professional development at the conference, which allowed me to attend the events that were associated with my award and presentations.

As one of 23 Esri Young Scholar Award recipients from around the world, I took part in presenting my research poster at the Map Gallery Reception. I was fortunate to meet many kind GIS professionals, including a team from the US Army Corps of Engineers who are experts in post-storm roof damage assessment (the topic of my research). Sharing my work was also possible via a talk during a session titled “Hurricane Response and Recovery with GIS”. Another major highlight was the opportunity to attend the Special Achievement in GIS Award ceremony.

For more information about my experience at the 2022 Esri UC, check out this Q&A blog post by Krista Amolins of Esri Canada’s Education and Research Group. Also, stay tuned for a future blog post in which I will share my GIS workflow as described in my Esri Young Scholar story map!

How to apply to become a Student Assistant

A few months prior to the July UC, Esri publishes a job posting on their careers page that allows students to apply to the 1-week Student Assistant program. Visit the application website for complete instructions and required materials. To apply, you’ll need to fill out a form with your information and also attach a cover letter and resume. A letter of reference (preferably from a professor) will need to be emailed to Esri on your behalf. In your cover letter, be sure to state your motivation for becoming a Student Assistant, including the professional and educational benefits you’d seek from the program. Also, explain any experience you may have in event logistics and administration. Apply by April 7, 2023, for your chance to be a 2023 Student Assistant!