Lifelong Love of Maps Drives Ex-Military Mother of Three to Pursue Successful Career in GIS

Maps Fanatic Loved GIS Even Before She Knew There was GIS

Aurora, Colo. – October 18, 2012 – You never forget your first love. When Shaylene Caffey was a little girl, one of her favorite things to do was get out the atlas and plan out her family’s road trips.

“Most teenagers had posters of heartthrobs on their walls. I had maps all over mine,” Caffey admits. “I think I loved geographic information systems (GIS) before I even knew there was GIS.”

After growing up in northwestern Missouri, Caffey enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18 to fulfill her passion for making an impact.

At first, she chose a job in military intelligence, but when she found out that she could work with maps she jumped at the chance. Caffey became a terrain analyst for a year and a half before being discharged in fall 2005 due to a hip injury.

From Career to Motherhood
Later that year, Caffey and her new husband and baby girl moved to Kansas City, Mo., to be near family. There, she landed a role as a GIS technician for a large oil pipeline, creating land parcel files for all 1,200 miles of the pipeline.

Several years into the job, she decided she wanted to go to school and came across American Sentinel University, one of the only colleges offering an online bachelor’s degree in GIS.

“We prepare students for a variety of careers such as GIS technicians, GIS analysts, cartographers and mapping specialists,” says Dr. Stephen McElroy, GIS program chair at American Sentinel University. “Since so much data is collected with geographic coordinates, careers related to the mapping sciences are among the fastest growing and most in-demand professions.”

Dr. McElroy notes that becoming an expert in GIS qualifies you for a wide array of jobs that use spatial information. This includes the fields of engineering, recreation, health care, city planning, environmental and earth sciences, real estate, local, state and federal government.

“With the help of the G.I. Bill and the flexibility that American Sentinel provided, it just fit into our family’s life,” says Caffey, who started her B.S. Information Science (GIS specialization) in February 2009 and became pregnant with her second child later that year. “American Sentinel’s platform was easy to use and getting an education was portable. I could take my college anywhere.”

Meeting Challenges Along the Way
In early 2010, Caffey was laid off and she and her husband decided that she would stay home with their two young children – and focus on school. But the down economy had a major impact on Caffey’s husband, a machinist, who had also been laid off several times.

Despite financial and other challenges, Caffey was determined and had her husband, mom and student success advisor, Cheyenne, cheering her on.

“I was going to get my degree,” she says. “I want an education for myself, but I also see this as an opportunity I’ve been given. I was awarded the gift of education from the military and it would be a great disservice to the people who have fought to earn that right not to pursue it.”

Victorious and Proud
In June 2012, Caffey graduated from American Sentinel and she and her family traveled to Denver so she could walk in her graduation. She is a first-generation college graduate and the only grandchild of 25 in her family to hold a degree. But she’s not done yet.

“I want my Ph.D. one day,” says Caffey, who also will begin American Sentinel’s new Master of Geospatial Information Systems in 2013. “It might take me until age 50, but it will happen.”

Also in June, in a fortuitous turn of events, Caffey landed a contract position in the drafting and mapping department of a water company that provides water to more than 400,000 people in the Kansas City area.

As a working mom with a hard-earned degree – she had her third child in October 2011 – Caffey says she is proud to show her children what is possible with hard work and dedication. “I want them to see that women can be strong and persevere,” she says. “And I want them to know that education is so important.”

Learn More About American Sentinel University’s GIS Degrees American Sentinel is one of the few higher education institutions to offer an accredited, online Bachelor of Science Geographic Information Systems degree. The bachelor’s program prepares students to analyze, interpret and effectively communicate spatial date while providing insights into GIS to solve workplace problems.

Learn more about American Sentinel University’s GIS degrees at

About American Sentinel University
American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited associate, bachelor’s and master’s online degree programs focused on the needs of high-growth sectors, including information technology, computer science, GIS masters programs, online GIS certificates, computer information systems and business intelligence degrees. The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.