COSAM News Articles 2020 August Geography Alumnus Has Best Job in the World

Geography Alumnus Has Best Job in the World

Published: 08/04/2020

By: Melanie Vynalek

Auburn College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) alumnus Wardell Edwards ’06 switched his major a few times before landing in the Geography Department. He has the "best job in the world" now.

As a Senior Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ (ADECA) Office of Water Resources (OWR) division, Edwards provides technical assistance and support for programs concerned with the FEMA Flood Risk Management program. Much of his work includes producing flood insurance rate maps, conducting outreach and training programs for flood insurance risk, developing digital GIS data, securing federal funds for citizens, and providing community assistance for municipalities, towns, and counties.

Looking back, Edwards’ credits his COSAM education for equipping him with the proper skills and training to succeed in his career.

“My geography professors were forward thinking enough to train us on ESRI ArcGIS applications which have become the industry standard in GIS software. Their foresight gave me a leg up in the professional world,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ thanks Cyrus “Sonny” Dawsey for sparking his passion for geography. After completing Dawsey’s Latin America Geography class, Edwards was hooked.

“Dr. Dawsey taught me many other classes and was always there for me throughout my administrative struggles. He probably doesn’t even know the role he played in my life. He was an excellent geography professional and his passion for the discipline was easily transferred to me. The need for geography/GIS professionals exploded after I graduated, and I wouldn’t be here if not for Dr. Dawsey,” Edwards said.

Now, Edwards has been with ADECA for more than a decade, working with others to build up and maintain Alabama communities and their residents. Some days are spent in the office and others are spent traveling across the state.

Edwards’ office has been at the forefront of great endeavors for the state of Alabama, such as securing the first, complete, statewide Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) coverage of high-resolution topography data. Additionally, Edwards’ work with the Office of Water Resources has helped in the creation of new flood risk tools for constituents that have never been seen or utilized before in the state.

Edwards thanks Auburn not only for providing the path for his career, but for leading him to numerous alumni in the field, and for introducing him to his wife. He jokes that without Auburn, he would not have his two beautiful daughters. His oldest has been accepted to attend Auburn University for Fall 2020.

Edwards reminds current Auburn students to just enjoy the ride – “Try not to sweat the day-to-day of course work, class materials, scheduling, etc. Make a bunch of friends in and out class. Have fun, but with measured fun results.”

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