People, Places, and Puzzles

“What’s amazing about the world is that it persists,” says Jen Ziemke, Associate Professor of Political Science at John Carroll University. For Ziemke, the problems that affect society should be approached like a puzzle. Plugging into the natural curiosity of her students, she fosters an environment where connections can be made through discovery. Posing a compelling question invites students to the conversation, an “all hands on deck” call to untangle the issue and provide solutions. She wants students to be active participants, not passive consumers.

Dr. Ziemke sees herself as a lifelong learner. “I don’t feel like I’m at my endpoint,” she says. “My career is still evolving.” Her flexible schedule has allowed her to participate in activities that challenge her and keep her connected to the community. She recently took a test to become an amateur radio operator and joined Team Rubicon, a veteran-led organization that provides disaster relief and assistance. Joining Team Rubicon was a personal call for her to respond in a physical, rather than a digital way.

It is easy to see how Ziemke has impacted the global disaster response community digitally. She is the founder of Crisis Mappers, an organization that uses technology, crowd sourcing, geospatial platforms, and scientific data to create networks during humanitarian crises. Ziemke has traveled the world making connections in the scientific and educational communities. Since 2009, Crisis Mappers has grown into an international network of 9,300 members in over 160 countries. Her experience has broadened her outlook, giving her a sense of hope in overcoming the biggest challenges plaguing the world. “Horrible things happen, but life still keeps moving. I always get it wrong. I wake up and something keeps the world turning. We haven’t recognized the force that we have in complex systems.”

Though she encourages students to pursue a career in higher education, she realizes this is not always a reality for most people. Only a small percentage of individuals with PhDs get tenure track positions. Success, to Ziemke, doesn’t have to be defined by employment. It is possible to work to pay the bills and find fulfilment through hobbies and activities. She values the importance of finding balance, a little time for the mind, a little time for the body, a little time for meaningful relationships with others. There is never enough time to do everything, but her satisfaction can be found in taking her good life and making it better for herself and those around her.

To learn more about Dr. Jen Ziemke and Crisis Mappers, visit  

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