In the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, we have many remarkable students, young people who stand out in different ways. Jacob Fisher, one of our Econ students, recently won a Wheatley Institution award for his writing skills, for example. Ryan Shields, from our geography department, is student who embodies BYU’s motto to “enter to learn, go forth to serve” because of his passion for his major and his extra-curricular involvement in geographical activities. We recently had the opportunity to speak with him about his experiences at BYU:
FHSS: What’s your major?
Ryan: Geography with an emphasis in Geospatial Intelligence/GIS.
FHSS: Why did you choose it?
Ryan: I have always had a natural aptitude for geography and passion for global affairs. Growing up in rural Nebraska, I did not have a lot of global exposure so maps were a big part of how I experienced the world. As I learned more, the dots on [the] maps eventually became more to me than just locations of cities. They represented people and that helped me to relate to my brothers and sisters across the globe. I started to better understand what life was like for them and how it was similar and differed from my own life. When I found out there were many geography career fields that would allow me to use that perspective and passion, I knew geography was the right choice for me.
FHSS: Was there a particular experience that led you to it?
Ryan: When I started at BYU, I declared as a Chemical Engineering major. I had worked in an oil field for a summer after I graduated high school and thought a career as a petroleum engineer might be a good fit for me. I took one class and realized that was not going to be [the case]. I started browsing the major catalogue and came across geography and was surprised at the diverse career paths in that field.
FHSS: What are you involved in (i.e. extracurricular activities)?
Ryan: I’m the Co-President of Praemon, a student organization at BYU that provides a platform for students pursuing careers in intelligence to be published on. I’m also one of the Directors for the Foreign Service Student Organization and a member of the Geography Student Association Council.
FHSS: Any tips for getting involved?
Ryan: Attend lectures on campus, search for groups that share common interests and career goals. Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website where you can contact them. Just ask for opportunities!
FHSS: What do you like to do outside of school?
Ryan: I enjoy spending time with family and friends, traveling, and working on cars and motorcycles. I also manage ThinkSpatial (the cartography service at BYU) and work for the BYU Police Department’s security division. I’ve worked crowd security for multiple special events and dignitary/VIP protection for religious leaders, ambassadors, and other foreign dignitaries from around the world.
FHSS: Random fact or story about yourself?
Ryan: I’ve skydived, visited 18 US States, and traveled outside the mainland US every year since I started attending BYU.