Women in GIS: Nancy LaVigne, Crime Mapping Research Center

By Directions Staff

What is your position at NIJ?
I am the Director of the Crime Mapping Research Center, National Institute of Justice, U.S.Department of Justice, and have been for the past four years.

Nancy LaVigne
How did you arrive at this position?
I first became involved with GIS during my doctoral studies at the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University.When I started working at the National Institute of Justice I noted that, while we had funded a number of grants pertaining to the spatial analysis of crime and criminal behavior, there was no central resource or leadership in this area at the national level.I met with the director of the Institute, made a pitch to establish a center on the subject, he agreed, and the Crime Mapping Research Center was born.

What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor's in Government with a minor in Economics from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts; a Master's in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin; and a Ph.D.in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Most of my training--including GIS--has been on the job, through engaging in and directing research projects.

Would you recommend GIS to other women? How should they start?
Absolutely yes! It is still a growing field and the key is to find a area that represents a new or emerging GIS application.

What is the accomplishment of which you are most proud?
I am blessed with the most wonderful, talented staff imaginable.I realize that most of that is a reflection on the staff themselves.But in establishing the Mapping Center, I was able to make all the hiring decisions to compose such a stellar team!

What does your workday look like?
I get about 50-70 emails a day.Sometimes it feels as if I could do nothing else but sit at my computer and respond the emails, and that would constitute a full-time job! We also have many meetings and we have lots of visitors, mostly from other countries, who come to see the Center and get a crime mapping demo.

A big part of my job is supervising the staff; learning to delegate was my biggest hurdle in this position.That achieved, sometimes I'm on travel for an entire week and things run so smoothly in my absence it's as if I had never gone!

Travel is a huge part of my job.Because the Center is relatively new (as is the idea of crime mapping), I give presentations all over the country--as well as abroad--to professional organizations and law enforcement agencies.When I can, I try to find time to do some research and get some more publications under my belt.Sadly, the research seems to the first thing to go when the work piles up.

Why is GIS an exciting industry in which to participate?
GIS has so many applications and promotes collaboration across such a wide variety of disciplines.It also attracts very thoughtful, creative people, which makes it a wonderful industry in which to participate.

What is the most important "next thing" that will happen in GIS?
In the criminal justice arena, it is already starting in the form of information sharing and GIS analysis across agencies and jurisdictions over a secure intranet environment.We've found that law enforcement agencies that collaborate and share data and analytic capabilities with other criminal justice and law enforcement agencies have been very successful in developing strategies to fight crime.

Before you came to GIS, what career did you contemplate?
My career track has always been in the area of criminal justice research.What GIS has offered me is an opportunity to carve out an area of expertise and promote a valuable analysis tool for crime fighting efforts.

Email: Nancy LaVigne
Crime Mapping Research Center

Women in GIS

Published Saturday, October 9th, 1999

Written by Directions Staff

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