César J. Garrido Lecca ’18 calls himself a “location intelligence evangelist.” It’s not just a clever way to sign his emails; one of his life’s missions is, in fact, to teach and inform others about the importance of geographic information systems (GIS).
It all started when, as a student in Peru, he took part in a Peruvian-Canadian government program called Geomatics, whose focus was to use GIS to manage Peru’s natural resources. His newfound interest in spatial studies prompted him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science. “I wanted to learn how GIS software worked internally,” he said. After graduation, Garrido Lecca broadened his GIS knowledge by working for Telematica, an Esri software distributor in Peru. He was first a systems analyst, then a solution engineer, then a solution architect.
Garrido Lecca witnessed firsthand how useful GIS could be in helping others. In 2015, Peru experienced the worst floods in its history. Millions of citizens were displaced. The government created the Center for National Disaster Response, which integrated all Peru’s emergency relief systems online using GIS. Garrido Lecca worked on this project and volunteered with a nongovernmental agency to help bring aid to affected Peruvians.
Garrido Lecca’s experience working with various agencies on disaster relief led him to create the Peruvian Geomatics Association, a nonprofit organization that helps government agencies understand GIS—and how to use it—to better manage their resources. “There is a lack of GIS professionals in South America and a lack of understanding of what GIS is, in general. So we train people through videos and through web classes. I gave GIS webinars throughout South America.”
Despite all his work in Peru, Garrido Lecca felt there was more to learn. Because of the dearth of GIS programs on the South American continent, when he began searching for master’s degree programs, he looked abroad.
Garrido Lecca, who was awarded U of R’s Dangermond Graduate Fellowship for highly qualified international applicants, chose to come to Redlands, drawn by the great weather, U of R’s close relationship with Esri, and the fact that, as he says, “It is impossible to find faculty more qualified to teach GIS technology elsewhere in the world.”
The beauty of University of Redlands MS GIS program, Garrido Lecca says, is that the same people who create the software are also teaching the students how to use it. At the same time, students are able to establish their professional networks—not just with those at Esri, but with the diverse members of their class, who are from all over the United States and the world. “It was, as you say, killing two birds with one stone.”
Along with his efforts in disaster relief, Garrido Lecca says the MS GIS program taught him the various ways GIS can directly impact and help people. “That was the kind of education I wanted to have,” he says.
Garrido Lecca’s capstone project was informed by both his experiences in Peru and his time at U of R. He created a complete GIS framework to work with Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response (CASPER), an epidemiologic technique developed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) designed to get quick and reliable community health information. To do this, he collaborated with the Esri Human and Health Services Department and worked directly with Esri’s Chief Medical Officer and Health Solutions Director Este Geraghty.
Garrido Lecca calls his Redlands experience “a blessing from God.” After graduation, he will gain more experience creating GIS solutions as a solution engineer for the Health and Human Service team at Esri. Eventually, he would like to be a top-level GIS consultant in South America, helping companies match their business goals and their current technologies with GIS.
“In my previous positions, I was very busy explaining to people how they can use GIS for banking, for financial resources, for utilities, and for government,” he says. “I want to keep doing that.”