Alumni Corner: Amy Roust

Amy Roust, right, met Esri founder and president Jack Dangermond and his wife, Laura back in 2016. She ran into them at Balboa Park in San Diego while attending the Esri User Conference for work.

Geography Department: When did you graduate from MU and what degree did you acquire?

Roust: 2003, Master of Arts in Geography


Geography Department: What are your fondest memories of being a part of geography?

Roust: Without a doubt, the camaraderie of the other students pursuing master’s degrees. Whether it was a spirited seminar debate over how geography is distinct from other disciplines or the late-night antics at the annual field gig, we always had a great time together. My fellow grad students both challenged and supported me throughout the ups and downs of graduate student life.


Geography Department: What were some of the most important concepts you learned while taking geography classes?

Roust: Broadly speaking, my studies in geography taught me invaluable critical thinking skills. Prior to grad school, my academic successes largely came from my ability to memorize and regurgitate facts and definitions. Studying geography pushed me to apply my arsenal of facts and figures to problem-solving situations. I owe a lot of my success as a GIS analyst to those professors who forced me to look for the “so what?” in every situation.  


Geography Department:  Would you recommend the MU Department of Geography to other students? Why or why not?

Roust: Certainly. Mizzou has always had excellent geography faculty members who excel in their research, and the recent enhancements to the facilities are giving students opportunities well beyond what I had in the early 2000s. Geography is such a wonderfully interdisciplinary subject that there is something for everyone who studies in the field.


Geography Department: What have you done since your graduation? How did your education help with your successes?

Roust: My husband and I moved around quite a bit, living in Michigan, France, Ohio, and Illinois before finally settling in Kansas in 2014. The skills I developed at Mizzou gave me the flexibility that I needed to find great jobs while my husband developed his career in professional academia. While in Chicago, I transitioned from a geography teaching career to one in local government as a GIS specialist. I enjoy teaching, but I found my true calling in the GIS world. I genuinely look forward to going to work every day as a geospatial database administrator for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Oh, and in the middle of all of that, I was blessed with two beautiful children: Eleanor (14) and Bennett (7).

Geography Department: I understand you were a recent recipient of an ESRI award. Please tell us about that achievement, as well.

Roust: My colleague and I won a Special Achievement in GIS (SAG) award this year for our support of COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning efforts in the state of Kansas. We were tasked with quantifying and mapping the distribution of priority populations to receive the early supplies of vaccines. We reached out to organizations all over the state to ground-truth census data estimates in such categories as healthcare workers, emergency responders, and residents of residential care facilities. We merged all of that data into interactive mapping applications that allowed the Immunization Team to dynamically combine counties and get total population counts. While we are unable to share those applications because of the confidential nature of the data, you can see some redacted screenshots of our work in the Esri blog article It was a very hectic time for us, so we were thrilled to have our behind-the-scenes efforts recognized on an international level. You can see our award listing at


Geography Department: What advice do you have for other students who may be considering a geography degree or who are already in our program?

Roust: Take at least one GIS class. Even if your post-graduation plans do not involve a full-time GIS job, a basic knowledge of database management principles will serve you well in any line of work. Beyond that, be greedy in your quest for knowledge. Soak up every ounce of benefit that you can from each class and professor you have the fortune to experience. You never know when you will pick up a tidbit of information that will pay dividends for years to come.


Geography Department: Anything else you’d like to add?

Roust: I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Drs. Mike Urban and Gail Ludwig for guiding me to the finish line on my master’s degree. When I was ready to give up, Dr. Urban stepped in and gave me the encouragement and assistance I needed to get back on track with my thesis. Dr. Ludwig was a tough but fair advisor who patiently read through my “s--tty first drafts” and gave me the feedback I needed to revise until I had a viable product. It is no exaggeration to say that I owe my professional career to them. Having that degree in hand opened doors for me that led to where I am today. From the bottom of my heart, thank you both!