This Q&A is the third in a series of profiles of Data Driven Detroit staff members.
David Mieksztyn came to work at Data Driven Detroit after working on his urban planning capstone project in 2010 at Wayne State University with Assistant Director of Projects, Erica Raleigh. He primarily focuses his attentions on spatializing data with Arc GIS programs; projects at D3 often involve a map or two or two hundred (see our Student Dispersion Tool), so David frequently provides his experience in mapping. David has intermittently volunteered with Elevate Detroit, a community barbeque held every Saturday at 2nd and Cass Avenues in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
Where did you grow up? Clinton Township, MI
Where did you go to school? Wayne State University for undergraduate and graduate studies.
What is your degree in? Why did you choose your degree? I have a BA in history and an MA in urban planning. At the time, the urban studies major was only available as a co-major, meaning I still needed a major to successfully complete my undergraduate degree. That freed me to study something I liked but otherwise may have passed up. I studied history and got to answer others how I was not going to become a teacher/librarian/museum curator (which resulted in a lot of confusion and sympathy). Ultimately I was projecting towards a master in urban planning, which I completed in 2011.
Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us? I have been playing the guitar since the age of 7.
What is your history with Detroit? Growing up in the suburbs, I would come down for sporting events and the Auto Show as a child. The urban setting captivated me when I went for a visit to Wayne State University prior to selecting a school for my undergrad. I have studied, lived and/or worked continuously in Detroit for nearly a decade.
What did you do before working at D3? I worked as a code enforcement officer for the city of Roseville, just north of Detroit (sorry if I wrote you a ticket!). Just prior to joining D3, I was a full time graduate student and had finished an internship at a local architecture firm.
What do you like about working at D3? How do you think the work you are doing benefits the city/region? Putting data to use for people, be it maps or otherwise, can be a life-altering experience for those who have a plan and concept, but want to be able to target the greatest needs. Visualizing data helps remove vague concepts or assumptions that were the basis of prior decisions. It is important for our regional story to be shared and decision-makers to be better equipped, from the neighborhood group to the state government.
What is your favorite D3 map or data visualization? The student dispersion project turned out to be a very eye opening tool. We utilized specific GIS functions to make this possible, and we now have a map series that raises important questions about student commuting distances to schools in Detroit.
What is your favorite type of data? Housing data.
Who or what inspired you to take the path to Detroit, data or both? Becoming an advocate for those who are in the greatest need motivates me, and in Detroit there is no shortage of challenges to overcome. Data can help us discover underutilized assets and diamonds in the rough. To solve the big challenges in Detroit we must approach at all levels, helping in the communities, volunteering, becoming a great neighbor, and informing the public with data.