Sarah Moncelle ’14 graduated from Appalachian State University with a Geography (BS) - General degree and now works as a social science researcher at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). She specializes in geographic information science (GIScience), spatial analysis, geovisualization, demography, community geography, and participatory action research.
“I’ve always been interested in patterns of thought and behavior in society and nature through space and time. Geography provided me with a diverse set of theories and methods to best investigate the complex, intersecting phenomena that interest me,” said Moncelle, who double majored for a second degree in History (BS) - Applied and Public History.
Her time at Appalachian left her well-prepared for her career, she said.
“The opportunities I had to conduct original research and present at academic and professional conferences, in particular, helped me build an early network of professional contacts while readying me to conduct professional research after college.”
The research that she presented at academic conferences focused on applied geospatial technologies and how they served various social movements. While serving as a research assistant in the Department of Geography and Planning, Moncelle also worked as a field organizer and as an instructor at a residential alternative high school for young men recovering from substance addiction.
Since joining SCSJ, Moncelle has designed and launched the Election Collection, a community-based data collection initiative centered on a custom-made, location-based mobile application, which helped track voting irregularities in the 2014 General Election. She is also a member of the voting rights and criminal justice teams where she develops original projects that support each program’s initiatives and links the group’s efforts.
What advice does she have for students interested in this degree?
“I strongly encourage freshmen interested in pursuing a geography major to get involved with the departmental clubs and societies. Introduce yourself to a faculty member, take the opportunity to chat with them during office hours to learn more about topics that interest you both,” Moncelle said.
“My relationships with faculty mentors were instrumental in helping find my niche in the world and finding the confidence to own my space within it. I remain in contact with several faculty members in addition to many of my tightly-knit geography cohort.”