Surveying Professor Jessica Hess stokes students’ passion in high demand industry

Surveying Professor Jessica Hess stokes students’ passion in high demand industry

Jessica Hess observes her Surveying Technology students in the field

May 25, 2022

By University Relations Student Journalist Josie Kidder

Jessica Hess is teaching Vincennes University students how relishing in the fresh open air of the outdoors and calculating geographical data is just another perk of the wonderful world of surveying. 

The Surveying Technology Program Coordinator gets to do what she loves best while sharing her knowledge and passion with others. As a spirit of nature, Hess loves to be outdoors.

“I like the outside aspect, but what I didn’t realize about surveying, in the beginning, was the problem-solving bits involved like the mathematical calculations and the boundary determinations. We are usually trying to solve problems with surveying, and I liked the puzzle part of it,” Hess says.

VU is the only institution in Indiana that offers an associate degree in Surveying Technology. The University also offers a bachelor's degree in Surveying Management.

After being a part of VU's first Surveying Management bachelor's degree graduating class in 2009, Hess was ready to take on the world, having plans to get professionally licensed and start her own business. 

As the Vincennes native was getting work experience under her belt, an unexpected proposition propelled her to accept her current position at VU.

“I worked for a private company in town for a few years, and then I ended up going and working in a coal mine, and I liked the larger atmosphere, working with a lot of people, and working toward a bigger goal. When this opportunity came up, I felt ready to share what my experiences have been and what I had learned to help the industry grow,” Hess says.

Throughout her time in the surveying field, Hess discovered that the predominantly male industry is just as accepting of women as they are of men.

“Starting off, it was intimidating, but the more you work with people, you start talking to them and realize that they aren’t that different. I realized that both women and men are having the same struggles and the same successes work-wise. You find common ground, and the whole gender thing isn’t quite as alienating anymore.”

Ever heard the saying "the student becomes the teacher"? Well, that's exactly what Hess did.

Jessica Hess inside the Technology Center

As an alumnus and a professor, Hess has a unique perspective of what VU's programs are truly about. Surveying is a high-demand field. VU's Surveying Technology program boasts a 100 percent graduation placement rate.

“Students get a lot of support, probably more than they would get at a bigger college," she says. "We also have a lot of opportunities within our surveying program to really be able to put students in great experiences and help connect them with people higher up in the industry, and they get to grow. It’s a unique opportunity."

During her six years teaching at VU, Hess has gotten to know each of her students very well by building camaraderie with them and watching that progression grow.

Hess has her students from their first day as a freshman to their last day as a graduate. 

“We start with a brand new group of students every couple of years. Around mid-year, students start to lighten up, and whenever they come back from summer break, it’s like we are old friends. It’s fun to see them again and go through one or two more years together depending on if they go for a bachelor's degree.”

Hess said she even makes it a point to follow up with VU graduates in their careers. She likes to hear about their experiences and see them reach their full potential.

Hess shared some valuable advice for students looking to work in the riveting industry.

“Be open to different experiences," she says. "The surveying field is very broad. When I worked in the industry, there were times when we might be in a town, then another few days when we might be in the middle of the woods. If you're the type of person who wants a different experience but the same type of job, then surveying is a good choice. In general, the surveying industry is at a point where we want to welcome people in. Whether they are fresh out of high school or have been at another job for 10 years, there are many opportunities to come in and grow, and we need people. There is a lot of support in this line of work for people to be successful in the industry."

VU's Surveying Technology and Surveying Management programs offer an abundance of opportunities, including a bachelor's degree, associate degree, and certificate.