Schreyer Scholar alumnus maps out dream career while seeing the world

Jeff Rice
September 28, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Many of Patrick Stephens’ early interests — traveling, hiking, mountain biking — necessitated the use of maps.

Not surprisingly, then, maps themselves became one of those interests, and served as a constant reminder of how much of the world he has left to explore.

“I always liked traveling,” the Penn State and Schreyer Honors College alumnus said. “I never wanted to be tied down to one place. I told myself that if I could make maps, you can make them anywhere in the world. That was always kind of the goal.”

Stephens, a 2016 graduate of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is currently a technical sales support specialist for TerraSim Inc., a company based in Pittsburgh that creates software that is used to develop three-dimensional terrains used primarily in military simulations. His job is located in TerraSim’s parent company’s office in Prague, Czech Republic, which allows him to work closely with European customers to develop solutions to their 3D terrain-modeling needs.

Stephens also runs his own freelance cartography business, offthemaps.com, developing a map and guide for the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail and a cycling map for Bucks County, among others.

He went to Penn State to study landscape architecture, but after taking a geography class as an elective, developed a love for cartography. One day, his roommate came home with a Purple Lizard Map, the creation of Penn State alumnus and then-staff cartographer Michael Hermann. 

“I bet I could make that,” Stephens said to himself.

Stephens continued to develop his map-making skills by taking geographic information systems courses and by learning programs like Adobe Illustrator. He mapped the local community during a study-abroad trip to Quito, Ecuador, and stylized a map of it for his host parents. He wrote his honors thesis on how to use modern technologies to create a paper map. 

Stephens accepted an internship with TerraSim’s Pittsburgh office during the summer before his senior year, researching how to create 3D models of airports, airfields, runway lines and taxi lines. When he asked the company’s director of database engineering for a letter of recommendation this past spring, TerraSim offered Stephens a newly created position — part sales, part software training — that supported its parent company, Bohemia Interactive Simulations.

He has enjoyed the challenge of carving out this new role for the company, which he said fits his mindset.

“If you’re just given a set list of things to do, you’re not guaranteed to be good at them,” Stephens said. “But if you’re given the needs of something, you can help develop the solution to make it happen. That works for me. I like developing processes and looking at problems to address them and developing solutions rather than just looking at tasks that need to be done.”

About the Schreyer Honors College

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars total more than 2,000 students at University Park and 20 Commonwealth Campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.

Last Updated October 01, 2018