Hunter Geography Alumni Focus


An Interview with Livia Betancourt Mazur, MA, Geography, 2015
Edited by Christina Santiago, Hunter College, English major


Livia Betancourt Mazur graduated with an MA in Geography and a GIS Certificate from Hunter College in 2015. She has held positions at the National Geographic Society, the New York City Department of Transportation, and most recently at the University of Minnesota in connection to GIS. Livia enjoys the challenges and fun GIS poses in different environments. She cares for her many plants and dreams of one day having a hobby alpaca farm. Livia is also thankful to Dr. Solecki’s Geographic Research Design class, where she met her husband.

Why study Geography?
I decided to study geography and GIS with the goal of obtaining a GIS job (but through the geography coursework, I discovered that I also loved human geography!). There had been a ten-year gap between my undergraduate and graduate programs during which I held many different jobs, mostly administrative, that I found unfulfilling. I craved some marketable, technical skills, but I was unsure in what field. Looking for inspiration for what to study, I visited the CUNY website and scoured each academic department’s webpage looking for something interesting. When I came across Hunter’s geography page and I read the class descriptions for GIS, I finally discovered what I had been looking for—something technical, and frankly fun sounding, that could be applied to a variety of interesting problems.

What was being a graduate student in NYC like?

NYC is the best place to be a graduate student, especially for those studying GIS! There are ample GIS internships available and because Hunter graduates work in so many city agencies, Hunter GIS students are very well connected to get those internships. While at Hunter, I had GIS internships at the New York Botanical Garden, the Office of Pupil Transportation (at the Department of Education), and at National Geographic in DC. The student body at Hunter is almost like a microcosm of the city—I really valued the diversity of my classmates. Also, going to school in New York allowed me to move back home with my family, making pursuing a full-time graduate program more economically feasible.

How has Hunter Geography helped shape who you are today/your future?

Completing my geography degree and GIS certificate at Hunter helped me to realize my professional goals, and much more quickly and easily than I could have hoped for. Before even completing the degree, I was offered a full-time GIS job at National Geographic where I had done an internship. I would recommend completing the thesis before beginning work as working full-time definitely made the thesis project more difficult! I think I might have been able to obtain GIS jobs with just the certificate, but I am grateful to have done the master’s in geography as well because it gave me a more solid foundation in geographic thought and theory.

Published: June 11, 2020