Max Wyman, an Arizona State University alumnus and former faculty member who earned his PhD in geography in 1994, was recently selected as the recipient of the 2020 Social Science Distinguished Alumnus Award.
The award, given by Elizabeth Wentz, social sciences dean at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recognizes alumni from the social sciences who personify the ASU Charter through significant contributions to society, business and commerce and the greater community.
“I am pleased that Max Wyman was selected as this year’s distinguished alumnus of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning,” Wentz said. “His ongoing commitment to the success of ASU students, his pursuit of innovative solutions and his notable contributions to the community make him stand out as a true visionary in his field.”
Wyman’s successful career in geography didn’t initially begin with a strong interest in pursuing a profession in that field. After earning his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, Wyman went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force. He then returned to Arizona and worked in real estate while pursuing his master’s degree in building design. Upon completion of his master’s degree, he was encouraged by faculty to pursue geography.
Wyman’s involvement with ASU has gone far beyond graduation. After completing his PhD, he worked as a senior scientist at ASU for several years, focusing on geographic information science and engineering. He later took a position with GIS/Trans, Inc. where he consulted with state Departments of Transportation around the country and other Departments of Transportation around the world. Through this work, he developed many areas of GIS and software expertise that fostered his creative proclivity toward creating alternative solutions.
Today, Wyman continues to find creative solutions to societal dilemmas through his consulting company, TGI Systems. Wyman founded TGI Systems with his wife, Josephine, in 1997 with the goal of harmonizing the environment, engineering and socioeconomic systems through proactive design centering on technology and the use of location to store and integrate information. He maintains a close relationship with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, often hiring recent graduates of the GIS programs.
“Max Wyman has had an outstanding impact on the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Arizona,” said Trisalyn Nelson, director and Foundation Professor of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Other alumni credit Max’s commitment as a teacher’s assistant to their own career success. We are proud of his success and lucky to have his continued support.”
The award is scheduled to be presented to Wyman at the 2020 Social Science’s Evening of Innovation this September.
Wyman shared more about his experiences and what winning this award means to him.
Question: How does it feel to be honored with the Social Science Distinguished Alumnus Award from The College?
Answer: To be recognized by their well-grounded values is both humbling and satisfying. ASU is an institution of knowledge and innovation and they’ve been a very key part of my life — I've become what they made me. I’ve found satisfaction in following a career using the tools and methods ASU and its faculty taught me.
Q: What interested you in geography when you were pursuing your PhD at ASU?
A: Upon completion of my master’s in building design, my interests centered on solar energy and sustainability. A class taken in support of this degree was in the Department of Geography, stressing energy and environment. It was well formulated, direct and seemed to highlight a methodology for a better future. My PhD adviser, Michael Kuby, was able to convey what it is they do, and that really sparked my interest. When I initially signed up for the program, I did not have a goal in mind until then.
Q: How did The College and university help prepare you for success?
A: Graduate study is stressful but I’ll never forget three of my professors who took it upon themselves to help boost my perseverance and confidence — Malcolm Comeaux, Robert Mings and Ray Henkel. Michael Kuby became my mentor, spending a dozen Saturdays in a row teaching me the math and tools I didn’t know, but would so desperately need on this new path. The dedication of the faculty really helped me along in my journey. They offered programs and extracurricular activities that got me deeper into the subject material and out and practicing in the field. As an engineer, I did not expect to find a home in geography — only additional tools. Nevertheless, a great adventure awaited me in geography with a variety of topics blended together and faculty on different quests of common purpose inviting me to come join them to accomplish great things together.
Q: What career advice would you offer students and alumni?
A: Planning for your career is important, however, always leave the opportunity open for a career to select you, which is what happened in my case. My experience has been that life will find you. Take each day and do the most with it. There is a cadre of really smart people out there who want to help make you all that you can be — seek them out and stay open to them. Most importantly, when the time comes, pick up their torch and prepare the next generation. ASU was my teacher, its people opened the road and helped light the way for me.
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