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What Is a Sirvayur?

December 18, 2003
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Editor's Note

"A sirvayur is some[one] [who] grubs around in the woods looking for little sticks and stones. When he finds them, he does some kind of weerd dance around them with a funny looking 3-leg crutch which he leans on and looks at. When he don't find them he walks around all day like he's lost"¦ He can't read because he measures between things and then puts down a number in a little book which is difrint then what his littel map says. He always measures to a stick or stone, stops near it, and puts in another stick or stone"¦ People stare at him, dogs chase him and he always looks wore out. I don't know why anyone wants to be a sirvayur."

This description of a surveyor, written by an unknown author, may deserve a chuckle, but it certainly shouldn't be the preface to the digest of the many duties a surveyor performs. It's also outdated. Today's surveyor, although still much the outdoorsman (and woman), is involved in a much more complex process. Advanced technology, including GPS, robotics and machine control have changed the way a surveyor works. GIS, forensics and 3D data on construction sites offer today's surveyor many more opportunities than years past.

"¦ And still, much of the public and our future-children-do not know what a true surveyor is. That's where you come in.

In last year's June issue, I broached the subject of nominations for Sam the Surveyor, a representative for the profession of land surveying/geomatics. I've received some fine "applications" for the "position," which I will pass onto you. Later in the year, I'll ask you to vote for the candidate you think is most appropriate to represent the profession. Once decided, I will do my best (and encourage you) to get the profile out to every appropriate place I can to begin spreading the word about the great profession of surveying. So, who will be Sam the Surveyor?

On page 87, you'll find some brief information about Jan Van Sickle, PLS, our first candidate. I asked Jan what he thinks about this campaign.

"I think Sam the Surveyor is a great idea," Sickle said. "The profession needs a higher profile among the public. Not only do we have a long, distinguished history, but our work is expanding, changing and becoming more interesting all the time. Still lots of people just think of us as the guys [who] hold up traffic. We need an image adjustment, and this campaign is a big step in the right direction."

I hope Jan is right, and I hope this effort does prove fruitful for the industry. It's well past the time when surveyors should be known and recognized as a profession, not a trade. When I created the "application," I thought of various items to make up a wholesome, well-rounded representative. I asked each candidate for his or her personal philosophy, why he or she sees him or herself as a role model, and asked his or her advice on how surveyors can ensure future success in this industry. I knew these questions would cause candidates to dig deep inside themselves for answers. And from this, we all could better decide who the right candidate is.

Take Jan as an example. His personal growth includes work in film, radio and TV. He is or has been involved in SAG (the Screen Actors Guild), AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Equity (Actors' Equity). I think it shows how diverse the personality of a surveyor can be.

I also asked Jan why he thought surveyors aren't recognized by the general public. Jan said that the surveyors he's known have not been those to "˜toot their own horn.' "In general, we are a reticent bunch. That doesn't play too well in today's media world. This is one of the reasons that a spokesman like Sam is a good idea."

But, for a profession as old as surveying, why don't people know a surveyor when they see one?, I asked Jan. Why don't kids know that surveying opportunities exist and can be fruitful?

"In a way people do know a surveyor when they see one, but maybe not in the way we would prefer. And in a peripheral way people do know what a surveyor does, but what we do has changed so much, those perceptions are far behind reality," he said.

Let's change that. You and me. We have the power and the passion to let the world know the answer to the question, "What is a sirvayur-er, surveyor?"

Let the games begin!

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