Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tyler Schwartz - Ayres Associates

Name: Tyler Schwartz

Major & Minor: Geography / Political Science

Year Graduated: 2012

Current Employer: Ayres Associates, Geospatial Division, Madison
Length of Employment: 2 months
Interests and Hobbies: Skiing, Camping, Hiking, Kayaking, Live Music, Volleyball

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation and/or in your career path (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I was very torn after school on whether to continue on for my Master's degree or enter into the work force. As an older student I ultimately decided to get a job after graduation.  I applied for a Lidar/Photogrammetry Technician position (and got it) after an extensive job search following graduation.  I didnt really have that much of a choice on where to work or what career path I wanted to pursue, as my main priority was to simply find a decent job.  I would encourage students who are younger however, to continue on to graduate school as I think it will ultimately open more doors and increase your ability to get a decent paying job.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? I got an edge in a number of ways. First, be an engaged and hard working student.  Forge relationships with your professors. Doing so will create solid references for prospective employers or graduate school. In addition, build those relationships with your professors through student faculty research, then present it at student research day, AAG or WLIA (among other organizations).  This will give you a big leg up on your competition.

Secondly, when you do get that interview, be engaged and come prepared.  Know what the company does, who they are and what some of their past projects have been.  Come prepared to answer questions about past projects that you have done and what your strengths (and weaknesses) are as a person.  Come with questions to ask about the company.  And above all, be enthusiastic, engaged and interested about the position.  Ask questions and dont be silent.

Describe your typical day at work: I spend most of my day either doing stereo compilation (digitizing in 3D) or Lidar processing (cleaning raw data, preparing for delivery to client)

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Hopefully still at Ayres or pursuing a Masters Degree
What advice can you give to those who are still in school? If you have the drive and motivation, go to graduate school. The job market right now is highly competitive especially for entry level jobs.  Having a masters will not only get you into a more specialized and higher-level position, but it will also hopefully allow you to make more money.  Its a wise investment if you enjoy doing research and are a focused student. 

Most of what you will do in the real world after you graduate will not be anything like what you did in school (especially capstone). So if you like research and analysis, the masters degree is the sure fire way to make sure you can get a good research/analysis type job after school (as opposed to something less interesting).

Bethany Bobek - Garmin International

Name: Bethany Bobek
Family: Clint (husband) and Ethan (son)
Major & Minor: Comprehensive Geography
Year Graduated: 2009
Current Employer: Garmin International
Length of Employment: almost 4 years
Interests and Hobbies: being a good mom, disc golf, volleyball, rock climbing, camping, hiking, ultimate frisbee, canoeing, board games, kubb

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I felt like I didn't need to go to grad school in order to get a GIS related job so I decided to try to get a job, and I did.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? Having a good GPA and doing well in the interview. Also student research and an internship.

Describe your typical day at work: I work in the recreation group of cartography. We make maps that are used in Garmin's GPS units. I work on a variety of different projects so my day varies depending on what deadlines we have. Garmin does not use ESRI software. For the topographic map products, my group hosts data to the Garmin database and edits/cleans up data from different sources. We work with hydro data, roads and trails, DEMS, points of interest, park polygons etc... We do a lot of QA for each of the products we develop, including testing in the hand held GPS units. I also work with golf data that includes digitizing golf course features from imagery. Also, I work with aviation data that involves geo-referencing features from airport diagrams and charts and digitizing and performing quality assurance tests. If you get an interview at Garmin and they ask what group you prefer to be in between Marine, Automotive and Recreation, definitely say Recreation. The recreation group offers a lot more variety and challenge than the other two groups.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Unsure

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Try to get as much experience with anything GIS related, whether it's an internship or student research or just more GIS classes. Although it's not necessary for working at Garmin, it would be helpful to have some programming knowledge too.

I am happy to answer questions about working at Garmin. I can be contacted at

Trevor Peterson - AmericCorps

Name: Trevor Peterson               
Family: Nothing’s legal
Major & Minor: Human Geography & English Literature

Year Graduated: 2010
Current Employer: University of Wisconsin – Stout / AmeriCorps VISTA
Length of Employment: 2 years 7 months
Interests and Hobbies: I am interested in food systems and the intersection between urban and rural population. I believe in the Charter of the New Urbanism, agrarian urbanism, and most of the writings of James Howard Kunstler. My hobbies include biking, fishing, KUBB, gardening, foraging, and rooting for the Green Bay Packers.
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps Volunteer In Service To America (VISTA) in Menomonie, WI because this program allowed me to follow my passion for food sovereignty in the already familiar setting of western Wisconsin. AmeriCorps is similar to Peace Corps, except we are tasked with fighting poverty domestically. My site in Dunn County was asking VISTA members to organize food security initiatives through the Involvement Office at UW – Stout. I read the application – which called for service through organizing community gardens, nutrition education, and outreach to local farmers – and decided this was my path. While the living stipend is 10% above the poverty line, all my student loans are deferred during my time of service and I receive an education award when I’m finished that will erase 1/3 of my college debt. Also, the experience I’ve gained as a community organizer has exceeded what I could have hoped to attain in graduate school. Overall, I’ve learned to live on very little while maintaining meaningful employment in a field relevant to my interests.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? My student engagement and research separated me from the other candidates for this AmeriCorps VISTA position. The narrative of my written application and stories I told during my phone interviews included anecdotes from my engagement on campus with the FOODLUMS. I recounted this engagement with such vividness and enthusiasm that my interviewers wanted me to duplicate my efforts at their site. Also, I had a research project on food access in the Twin Cities from my final semester fresh in my mind. This project, with research goals from my Advanced GIS and Geography of Race and Ethnicity courses, had methods and models that I could relate to my service as a VISTA. My interviewers recognized that I had the right combination of passion and discipline to meet their expectations of a VISTA member at their site. 
Describe your typical day at work: As a community organizer, it’s my role to listen to the needs of the partners at my site and connect them to the assets in our county. I’ve become adept at one-on-one interviews where I listen to the needs of a community member and help them realize their individual strengths. I’ll leave these interviews with a notepad full of ideas and projects they would like to see happen. My next task is plugging these ideas into existing programming in the county or gathering enough like-minded partners to launch a new program. To accomplish this task, I maintain a large asset map of community partners and their affiliations. This map allows another service member to follow my flow after my term ends. While some of my time is spent on building new relationships, a larger portion is spent on maintaining existing relationships at my site. My philosophy is to check-in with partners regularly with little or nothing to ask because it increases their likelihood of agreeing to support a large initiative when the time comes. Finally comes the direct service; which includes garden installations, nutrition education, film festivals, and local food summits. Any given workday could end with participating in one of these service events.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In five years, I hope to be mildly employed in a meaningful field with the opportunity to continue my development as a place maker in western Wisconsin. I look forward to years living in the Twin Cities learning from institutions, co-ops, and organizations there for the benefit of opening their ideas to rural Wisconsin farming populations. I’d like to slowly build a self-sustaining farm property in the town of Sherman or county of Pepin that uses the principles of agroforestry and renewable energy for the benefit of my family and neighboring community.
What advice can you give to those who are still in school? Find a meaningful service outlet that helps you develop your professional strengths. Draw from your service experience while developing your research interests or capstone project. Collaborate with the department faculty when you can and seek multiple faculty perspectives on your projects. Finally, don’t overschedule your semester. Too many course credits hamstrings your social and civic development.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Chad Ronchetti - Burns & McDonnell Engineering

Name: Chad Ronchetti
Family: Kara Ronchetti (Spouse), Merlot (Cat)
Major & Minor: Comprehensive Environmental Geography
Year Graduated: 2011
Current Employer: Burns & McDonnell Engineering
Length of Employment: 1 year
Interests and Hobbies: Hiking, cooking, and making my wife smile

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? My age. I was a non-traditional student at the age of 30 when I graduated. I was eager to start a professional life, so I could retire with some pep left in my step. As for the type of job, I wanted variety. I didn't want to be behind a computer every second of my professional life.

What do you think gave you the edge to get your current position? I would say that is three fold. Having had professional experience in the way of internships and student work, the references that come from performing at my best in those positions, and a solid GPA.

Describe your typical day at work: As an environmental specialist, working mainly in a GIS support capacity for the Environmental Services and Permitting division within Burns & Mac,  my job is wide ranging in tasks. Though much of my work revolves around GIS and data management responsibilities, 25% of my time is spent in the field collecting support data for analysis.  A few examples include: finding estimated sediment load within a reservoir utilizing bathymetric and sediment-core data; calculating the impacts of potential high voltage electric transmission lines on environmental, engineering, and civic factors; thermal variance studies that analyze temperature variance in water-bodies near power generating facilities; and assisting with wetland delineations and soil surveys.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I see myself ushering in an expansion of GIS support directly within my division, and if I am lucky, managing the GIS workflow as a section manager.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?  Take school seriously. Not only is it expensive, but it is the foundation for everything you will do professionally going forward. Our professors dedicate much of their lives to creating an environment that is conducive to learning, understanding, and excelling, but they can only give you the torch. It is your responsibility to take that torch and run with it. Study, research, experiment, and learn from failure. Also, do everything in your power to get boots-on-the-ground internship experience. What you learn in an internship can be in-valuable, but what's more is the networking and references you gain in the professional world. A solid GPA will get you an interview, but good references can get you the job. Finally, appreciate your professors. They do so much to give you a leg up, the least you can do is say thank you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

David Hon: Wisconsin DNR

Name: David Hon
Family: N/A
Major & Minor: Geography, Environmental Emphasis
Year Graduated: May 2012
Current Employer: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Job Title: Hydrogeologist and Storm Water Specialist
Length of Employment: Since May 2012

Interests and Hobbies: On an average week, you’ll find me doing something active every day, whether it’s going for a long, hard run outside, going for a leisurely bike ride around town, or swimming at Gold’s Gym. I cook all the time and love it. Spending time with my friends and meeting new people are very important things on my to-do list as well! I also enjoy reading, travelling, and playing piano.

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
I wasn’t sure exactly what direction my career was going to take, although I had a general idea. Working with people was on the forefront of what was important to me in the job search, but I also enjoyed working with GIS, research, and water resources. I thought gaining some experience was important before doing anything else so graduate school was not part of my short-term plan. I wanted a job that was challenging, had lots of variety, and outside my comfort zone.  

So, I decided that my best course of action was to explore what jobs were out there and send out as many resumes as possible. I learned a lot about what careers were available to me based on my experience and education just from the job hunt.

Describe your typical day at work: As a hydrogeologist, I have two basic duties: reduce the liability for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during roadwork by scouting potential hazards (petroleum contamination, hazardous waste, etc) in southwestern Wisconsin, and coordinate cleanups of petroleum and heavy metal contaminated soil and groundwater in Jackson County. The typical day involves gathering buried information, meeting with City Boards, negotiating, interviewing local officials, calling bluffs, composing and sending technical notices, and occasionally I’ll sample a private well or use GIS to visualize a large site.

As a storm water specialist, I review construction, industrial and municipal properties to convey permit coverage to them. Any time a property over an acre is under construction, the owner needs a storm water permit. I review their plans to reduce suspended solids and pollutants into surface waters and wetlands and make sure their best management practices (BMPs), like detention basins or bioswales, are adequate. I also inspect the sites once we convey coverage to make sure the BMPs are functioning properly. Many of these properties are frac sand mines in Western Wisconsin. Knowledge of geomorphic features, watershed properties, and physical geography is certainly key to success in this position.

Needless to say I have the variety, challenge, and intellectual stimulation that I was looking for.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?

I took 15 credits of coursework in hydrogeology, as well as some coursework in physics and chemistry, which gave me the background knowledge to be a hydrogeologist. I also had an interest in working with people and had a fairly large amount of experience doing just that. I was a Peer Educator for the Center for Alcohol Studies and Education for 3 years; a caregiver for a young man with Down’s Syndrome for 3 years; a crew leader for a team of volunteers surveying invasive plants in the Eau Claire County Forest; and I was actively involved in the Eau Claire County Parks and Forestry Citizen Advisory Committee. By the time I graduated I was well-versed in negotiation, persuasion, and patience.

I also was a research assistant for three different projects, where I worked closely with several professors in different departments (Biology, Geology and Geography). I enthusiastically was involved with each project, which gave me several more good references. I had a master resume prepared with my entire work history and spent close to 10 hours perfecting the resume I sent into the WDNR. I had a lot of practice interviewing during my college career, so I was relaxed and confident in conveying my experiences when I walked in to interview for my current position.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Gosh, I’ll be 28? Old! There are a number of ideas floating through my head, but hopefully starting a family and either go into the consulting industry (aka the private sector) or attend to a graduate program for environmental law.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? 
GIS might be one of the hottest careers out there right now, and it’s a good option for our major. But it’s not even close to the only option for geographers. Find any way you can to do what you’re passionate about. That way, you’ll gain skills and knowledge quickly in things you’re interested in. Also, when you’re enthusiastic about something, you make lasting connections with people, so your network will grow naturally.
Take your curiosity by the horns. If you are creative and self-directed, independent studies, research assistantships, and internships are all great options to explore your interests further.
Get a job even if you don’t need one. There is nothing like real world experience. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in school, but work keeps you grounded.
Keep a master resume with all of your experiences on it (not just jobs!), as well as a template industry-specific resume and cover letter. That way you can just copy and paste what you need out of the master resume onto the individual resume. Be meticulous when you are designing your final resume.
Start a quality LinkedIn account. If you get a business card from someone or talk to someone who may have an opening later down the line, it’s a great way of following up with them if you’re interested. If they show interest, they can look at your profile, which is essentially an expanded online resume.
Ignore any pressure from anybody to become something you’re not. While their observations may be helpful, if you don’t do what you want to do, you’ll regret it later.
Work hard but also play hard. Be active. Meet new people. Explore new hobbies. Keep a journal or diary if you want to find inspiration. Leave some room in your day to think – block off at least an hour with absolutely nothing planned. Creativity often comes in a flash when you’re least expecting it. 

Blog Overview

Hello UW-Eau Claire Geography Community! The purpose of this blog is to foster communication and relationships between current students and alumni, especially those who have entered the workforce or continued on in academia as geographers! We hope to hear from alumni with a variety of backgrounds: physical geography, human geography etc. 

We would all love to hear what everyone is up to and we hope this blog can be the forum for keeping in touch. We also hope that valuable information and advice can be communicated to our up and coming graduates and to those recent graduates who are still looking for a job and trying to make the same tough decisions you have already made.  

Please contact Dr. Christina Hupy at with an entry for the blog. Please fill out the information below and answer the questions. And please include a picture. Feel free to include your company’s website and contact information if you’d like to be contacted by alumni or students with questions. 

We are all really looking forward to hearing from our alumni!  Please pass the blog website along to other alumni as well.

Major & Minor:
Year Graduated:
Current Employer:
Length of Employment:
Interests and Hobbies:
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation and/or in your career path (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?
Describe your typical day at work:
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
What advice can you give to those who are still in school?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beth Ellison - Southern Illinois University

Name: Beth Ellison
Family: Been together with fellow-UWEC Geography Alum, Blake Christenson for 3.5 years and we are expecting our first little one this July!
Major & Minor: Comprehensive Geography Major in International Studies

Year Graduated: 2008
Current Employer: Southern Illinois University - Carbondale
Length of Employment: 2 years
Interests and Hobbies: What aren't I interested in?  Down in Southern Illinois there is fabulous hiking (believe it or now we are VERY hilly down here - we are approximately 12 hours from Eau Claire), wineries (30+ within 30 miles of my house), and biking.  Basically if I can get outside, I will (at least on the days where we are not 100+ heat index).
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
Immediately after graduation I attended Miami University (OH).  I had a research assistantship (RA) with MU- Geography Dept. and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  For my RA, I developed a historical flow synthesis for Ohio Reservoirs to understand fish populations.  This work was heavily GIS-based and hydraulic modeling, currently a paper is in review for publication.  Currently, I work for Southern Illinois University as a Staff Researcher and Project Manager.  I work specifically in hazards, more or less flooding.  I have the fortune of working with some fantastic individuals across the state: from local community members, state politicians, the US Army Corps of Engineers and with some of the heads of FEMA in DC.  My current project is working on proactive flood mitigation activities in Alexander County after the 2011 Mississippi River flooding.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? My expansive research history, both undergraduate and graduate work.  Also, my willingness to network and ask questions. 
Describe your typical day at work: Depends on the season and the current projects.  Right now, our focus is proactive mitigation on the Mississippi River.  I am project manager for a major flood recovery effort to relocate residents off the floodplain and determine best-practices for floodplain management within this given community.  Check out our project website at  When I'm not working on this project, I'm busy working on Hazard Mitigation Grants across the state and doing various research/consulting on the side.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Good question.  During my time at SIUC, I will be working on my PhD in Environmental Resources & Policy.  After we finish, Blake and I hope to find great post-doctoral opportunities and eventually find a school, similar to UWEC to begin teaching and research.  (Blake is working on his PhD in Criminology and Criminal Justice focusing on spatial analysis of crime and how to effectively use this information for policing, etc.)
What advice can you give to those who are still in school?  Get in all the opportunities you can, including some level of student research.  The experience is fantastic and it is amazing how those skills will help you in any career path.  My biggest tip would be to have exceptional communication skills.  The varieties of mass-communication sometimes can confuse and halt the progress of work-related tasks.  Make sure you can use these various communication lines to efficiently and effectively communicate what you want to say.

Please feel free to contact me at the information below.  We are also always looking for graduate students.  Please shoot me an e-mail if you are interested!

Beth Ellison
Staff Researcher and Project Manager
Southern Illinois University
(618) 453-7349