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  • Dara Carney-Nedelman, Communications Specialist

Have you met the new communications specialist, Dara?

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Well now you have, at least virtually!


Hello, I’m Dara Carney-Nedelman, and I’ve recently joined the YouthMappers team as your communications specialist. I graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in May 2019. My major was honors communication studies and my research focused on group communication.

How did I hear about YouthMappers, you may ask? Starting in 4th grade I began using GPS units in 4-H activities. 4-H is a youth development program in the United States. Then in 8th grade I became a charter member of the Unicoi County 4-H GPS/GIS Team. From 8th to 11th grade I was a member of the National 4-H GIS Leadership Team and was able to attend the Esri International User Conference. Below is a picture of the Unicoi County 4-H GPS/GIS Team with our third map.

This team lead me to faraway places including Bolivia. In 2014, I was selected as a delegate for the Global Connections and Exchange My Community Our Earth Youth TechCamp in La Paz, Bolivia. Which is where I met Dr. Patricia Solís and Marcela Zeballos and established my link to YouthMappers. While in Bolivia I became more aware of global issues, found that this ‘mapping thing’ could really take me places, and that I could leave a mark on my world! I discovered that I love learning about different cultures and meeting new people. The below photo is a picture of me with the Bolivian students bowling on July 4th (U.S. Independence Day). While I was thousands of miles from home, the Bolivian students took extra care to make me feel at home!

My trip to Bolivia jumpstarted my global awareness, since then I’ve looked for opportunities to travel more and learn about other cultures. The summer after my first year in college I studied Spanish in Santander, Spain for six-weeks. Then the summer after my junior year in college I traveled to Bali, Indonesia to study Indonesian. While I am not fluent in either language, the experiences I had getting to know my host families and the locals will always be memories that I treasure.

Photo of me with my host mother (Bu Puja)

after my Pencak Silat demonstration

I was in Bali when the earthquakes shook Lombok. Due to my experience in the earthquake I started thinking about how I could support disaster preparedness. This idea led me to join the American Red Cross disaster action team, where I learned about the Missing Maps program. This training was my first in depth experience using open spatial data for mapping, and I was hooked!

Now you that know I’m a huge mapping supporter and I love to travel, there are three other things that were developmental for my growth - that I’m very proud of from my time at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).

First, I served as a resident assistant in Massey Hall. There I worked with an awesome team to develop community and be a support system for our residents. I was able to help students make a home away from home! Many people supported me at UTK and this role allowed me to give back to others, all that I had learned.

Second, I served as Global Studies Club president for two years. In this role I helped to plan three trips to Washington D.C., we were able to meet with organizations such as: United States Agency for International Development, Greenpeace, American Foreign Service Association, Human Rights Watch, Department of Defense, and the list goes on. The group learned things we could do in our future careers to support our world. This club was a way for me to get my head out of the books to discuss and learn about the real humanitarian issues happening in our world.

Thirdly, my experiences and education at the School of Communication Studies will always be a resource for me. The conversations we had in our classroom made me really understand others’ perspective and helped me become a more compassionate individual. Additionally, my senior thesis titled ROTC Acronym Usage in Groups: The Relationship of Socialization and Identification with Dr. Emily Paskewitz, made me aware that I enjoyed research and am fascinated with group interactions.

Today I’m living in Washington D.C., U.S.A. I’ve enjoyed learning about each of your stories thus far and am proud to be a part of a network of students making a significant impact in our world. My goal as communications specialist is to capture the student voice and share your voice with others. With the focus being that we don’t just build maps, we build mappers!

I’m here to listen to your experiences, help you develop/grow your individual chapter, and support you in sharing your stories with your community. Feel free to contact me at

with any questions, and please send your blogs my way!

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