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August 22nd, 2022
URISA Announces 2022 Young Professional Scholarship Winners

URISA is pleased to announce that Adailin Lebron Bengochea and Sydney Fuhrig are the recipients of 2022 Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarships*. The scholarship fully supports young professional participation in URISA’s GIS-Pro annual conference, fostering their professional connections and educational development.

Selection Criteria

1. Demonstrated work and/or research within the GIS (or related) industry

2. Quality of responses to essay questions

3. Impact of work, contributions to the GIS field

4. Letter of recommendation

URISA established the scholarship program which selects up to two young professionals (35 years old or younger) to attend GIS-Pro in-person. The scholarship application is rigorous, and the evaluation committee appreciates the effort and detail with which all candidates presented their qualifications.

Meet this year’s winners:


Adailin “Adi” Lebron Bengochea, GISP is a GIS Engineering Specialist at the City of Grapevine, Texas. Prior to that she was a Business Intelligence Analyst/GIS II for the City of Plano, and a GIS Specialist for AECOM. She was a Graduate Assistant and a GIS Intern and even served in the United States Coast Guard. She earned a Master’s in Geographic Information Sciences from Texas State University and a Bachelor’s degree in GIS and Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Adi is extremely active in the URISA Texas Chapter, currently serving as Chair.

Kristina Deitz worked with Adailin for almost 3 years with 2 different companies and noted, “Adailin truly was a pleasure to work with. When she joined our team at AECOM, she was extremely ambitious. She not only came in with a great deal of GIS knowledge from her schooling, but she was always proactive in learning new skills. She picked up Python like it was nothing along with new GIS analysis skills. When I joined her at the City of Plano, she was spearheading a massive project for the Fire Department and maintaining the public safety data for the respective departments. She moved over to the City of Grapevine where I have only heard great things about the improvements she’s making in the Public Works Department. I think this would be a great opportunity for Adailin to get the opportunity to travel to the GIS-Pro conference and be exposed to the variety of session topics. Not only would she bring that knowledge back to her City of Grapevine co-workers but to our URISA Texas members as well. This would be a great networking opportunity for her to meet fellow URISA members outside of our humble state of Texas.”


Sydney Fuhrig is an Intermediate GIS Technician in the Long-Range Planning Division of the Tennessee Department of Transportation in Nashville. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with Honors in Environmental Science at William & Mary, where her thesis focused on A Study of Urban Green Space Composition in Richmond, VA. She was the Managing Director of the geoBoundaries Team at the geoLab at W&M, and also a Geospatial and Big Data Student Research Analyst at the geoLab. She had some interesting internships as well at the Center for International Earth Science Information Network and also at the World Bank Group.

Scott Pouder, AICP Candidate and Planning Supervisor recommended Sydney, noting, “I have managed Sydney for over a year at the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Since assuming the role of a GIS technician, she has exceeded all expectations within her position. The Roadway Data Office is going through a transitional period, maintaining and editing route information in a new ESRI environment – Roads and Highways. With this ArcGIS extension, there are new methodologies and procedures including complex edits, multiple use of tools, and use of workflows. Sydney has quickly become an expert within the Roads and Highways environment. Her ability to absorb information, document processes, and apply it in real-world situations is beneficial and critical to the office. She has quickly assumed a role as a team leader. She met with staff individually and trained them. She also empowers team members, allowing them to make decisions on-the-fly and complete jobs in their entirety. Sydney has a bright future with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and is more than a deserving recipient of the Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarship.”

Adailin and Sydney will join Josiah Burkett at GIS-Pro 2022 in Boise. Josiah was awarded a scholarship last year but was unable to attend the conference because of travel restrictions. Josiah is a GIS Analyst for GeoTechVision in Kingston, Jamaica. He is an active member of URISA’s Vanguard Cabinet and serves as a volunteer on URISA’s Community Resilience Committee and the Climate Change & Climate Equity Working Group. Most recently, he was elected by the URISA membership to join the Board of Directors following the conference.

Valrie Grant, GISP, director at GeoTechVision, noted: “I directly supervise Josiah and I am always very pleased with the quality of his work and his voluntary spirit. Josiah is very professional in the way he conducts business. He has strong personal and stellar technical competencies: passion and drive, solid interpersonal skills, critical thinking, robust analytical and problem-solving skills, ability in time management and multi-tasking, which makes him an ideal graduate student. Working with such a young, dynamic and professionally competent individual with a focused regional outlook is refreshing. It is always a pleasure to recommend and refer Josiah to opportunities that will bring him greater exposure and deepen his appreciation for the geospatial industry… I have no reservations in recommending Josiah for the Dr. Marilyn O’Hara Ruiz Young Professional Scholarship to attend GIS-Pro in person. I believe that this would along him to interact with like-minded individuals and have the opportunity to evaluate offerings from the industry. This would be an extra-special in person event especially given the fact that it would be one of the first such events since the global pandemic.”

URISA is pleased to support these young professionals, along with so many others who are the future leaders of the organization.

A core strategic goal for URISA is to support GIS professionals at all stages of their careers. URISA has established a number of programs to support young professionals and has active participation through programs such as GISCorps with abundant, diverse and rewarding volunteer opportunities, the URISA GIS Leadership Academy, and the Vanguard Cabinet which collaborates with URISA leaders and committees to create programs and opportunities geared toward other young professionals. Learn more about the scholarship, and consider donating to support future winners, here:

*This scholarship fund was established in 2018 and honors Dr. Marilyn Ruiz. During Dr. Ruiz’s career at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she provided her undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students with excellent research experiences in her laboratory which helped them to have successful careers in academia, government, and industry. Marilyn was passionate about her role as a mentor of graduate education.