Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree, Geography
Development engineering manager, city of Flagstaff
Blake Berner found more than he expected in an elective class at COCC. In the Geography course, which covered concepts of urban planning, he tapped into an interest he didn't know he had.
"It immediately caught my attention," he recalls. "I became interested in learning about the relationships and methods of incorporating both the built and natural environment into communities." The experience helped Berner map out his academic plans and, ultimately, his career track.
His COCC education allowed him to explore a broad range of topics within geography, planning, and geographic information systems (GIS). "It was eye-opening to experience how much professional opportunity there is," he says. "I remember receiving a ton of personalized support from the faculty as I was nearing graduation…it led me to a place where I was able to not only further my education but to begin my career."
"I got the impression that many of the instructors at COCC didn't just have book knowledge about various subjects but had firsthand experience of the topics being taught."
After earning an associate degree that focused on Geography at COCC, Berner attended Northern Arizona University and received a bachelor's degree in geographic science and community planning, with an emphasis on geospatial science.
Berner has worked on a wide range of projects involving GIS data-collection and analysis, transportation planning, and utility infrastructure planning and design. Today, as a project manager with the city of Flagstaff's office of development engineering, he manages development and redevelopment projects of various sizes and complexity where he is able to pull from his professional and educational background on a routine basis.
Looking back, he remembers finding real-world texture in his COCC studies, an element of his education that helped him identify his key interests. "I got the impression that many of the instructors at COCC didn't just have book knowledge about various subjects but had firsthand experience of the topics being taught. I think this drew me into many of the subjects I became most interested in."
COCC Elementary Education student
"I had always thought of geography as only requiring memorization of countries and states, but I learned that was not the case," says Marstine Alexander, a student in COCC's Elementary Education programs. "Geography is connected to everything. One of the moments that has really impacted me happened in my Cultural Geography class. My instructor assigned us to pick any topic and relate it to geography. I was able to connect my studies in this course to my language studies in Mandarin. Knowing that I can apply what I am learning in one class to another course I am taking is amazing. My studies in Geography have helped me broaden my understanding and I hope to do the same for my students someday."