Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lindsay Olson - Graduate School at Missouri State University

Name: Lindsay Olson
Family: Walter the cat
Major & Minor:  Geography – Resource Management (comprehensive, no minor)
Year Graduated: Jan. 2010
Current Employer: Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute (OEWRI)/Missouri State University (Graduate Assistant)
Length of Employment:  5 months – I began my GA and graduate education in the summer 2011 semester.
Interests and Hobbies:  My academic interest is in assessing and restoring fluvial environments including watersheds, stream systems, and lakes that have been subject to pollution or other forms of degradation. Human-environment interactions, resultant problems, and human’s approaches to solving these problems are topics I enjoy researching and learning about. Lately I have focused on the effects of excess sediment to river geomorphology as that is a major component of my thesis, which is based on the Big River, part of the heavily mined Old Lead Belt in Missouri. The best part is the field work – who wouldn’t want to spend the hot and humid Missouri summer in the river staying cool and having fun while working, versus sitting at a boring stuffy desk for eight hours a day?!
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? Although I was encouraged by my professors to apply to graduate school right away, I was unsure of what I wanted to do career-wise as I was nearing the end of my undergraduate education. I chose to accept a full time position with a local GIS firm I had interned for leading up to graduation. I worked full time for about a year before I decided I was ready to take on graduate school and set myself up for a career that I will truly enjoy. I am now pursuing a Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences in Geography and Geology at Missouri State University with a plan to graduate in May, 2013.
What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? I have a full graduate assistantship at MSU which means that in exchange for 20 hours per week of research work for OEWRI my tuition is waved and I am provided with a living stipend.  GAs of this caliber are very competitive. I definitely attribute the combination of great grades during my undergrad, a good GRE score, strong recommendations, my internship experiences, undergraduate research and presentations, and a strong application letter as reasons I was awarded this GA.
Describe your typical day at work: Graduate courses are much more self-paced than undergraduate courses. I currently have courses only on Mondays and Wednesdays, but devote time each evening and weekend to work towards the course requirements. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays I put in 20 or more hours doing research and/or field work for OEWRI. I also squeeze in a few hours per week to work on my thesis research, which at this early stage involves gathering data in the field, doing some preliminary GIS analysis, and reading 3-5 (sometimes more) relevant scholarly articles per week as I prepare to start writing my first few thesis chapters towards the end of this semester.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? In five years I see myself in a resource conservation position with a government organization such as a county conservation department, the DNR or USDA NRCS. I would like my job duties to include grant writing, field work, reporting and analysis, and working with the public to implement conservation efforts. Overall I want my career efforts to be focused on working towards a healthier and properly managed environment.
What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
1.       It’s not a race to finish school. Take your time, explore and develop your interests.
2.       Get involved in undergraduate research – it’ll take you far, especially if you decided to go to graduate school. You’ll get real-world experience when you present it at conferences such as AAG or GSA and it also builds your repertoire with your professors, who provide you with recommendations and advice as you move forward with your career or education.
3.       Try to do an internship or two to see how you enjoy working in an area of interest on a daily basis. You might find out that it’s not something you enjoy doing in the long run, or you might discover you have an interest in an area you didn’t recognize at first.
I am a person with a wide variety of interests in all sorts of disciplines, so I was never that kid who said “when I grow up, I’m gonna be a ______ (fill in the blank)” and it  took me a long time to finally figure it out – and there is nothing wrong with that. When I was 18 I started out pursuing interior design. I switched to and finished an Associate’s Degree in marketing, and then drastically changed gears to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in geography. I learned the most about my interests through the three internships I completed in my undergrad – one with a planning commission as a GIS technician, one with a county conservation department as a resource inventory technician, and one with a private business providing web-integrated geospatial solutions to county governments and other businesses. These internships gave me the experience I needed to recognize what was going to make me happy doing every day. I couldn’t have known that without the internship experience, so that is why I am such a huge proponent of them.
The more experience you can get during your undergrad, whether it’s through course work that goes above and beyond, research, or internships, the better it will help you narrow down where your real interests lie and set you up for an enjoyable career in a field you love.

Matthew Sackmann - Garmin International, Inc.

Name: Matthew Sackmann
Family: None
Major & Minor: Geography and Economics Major
Year Graduated: 2011
Current Employer: Garmin International, Inc.
Length of Employment: 3 months
Interests and Hobbies: Traveling, Snowboarding, Paintballing, Fishing, Hunting

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? Garmin introduced itself to me as an excellent way to start my career

What do you think gave you the edge to get your current position? Going to UW-Eau Claire, classes completed, independent studies, and a professional resume

Describe your typical day at work: As a marine cartography technician my day is composed of examining the quality of hydrographic office maps from around the world.  I also complete map interpretations and interactions, fixing gaps, and viewing charts in Garmin GPS units.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Becoming a senior cartography technician at Garmin and potentially taking some classes on management to help make advancements in my career

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? If taken seriously, four years of studying hard and careful planning will reward you with excellent opportunities

Tom Koehler - Applied Data Consultants Eau Claire, WI

Name:  Tom Koehler
Family:  Nope
Major & Minor:  Comprehensive Geography - International Studies
Year Graduated:  2010
Current Employer:  Applied Data Consultants
Length of Employment:  Just over a year now
Interests and Hobbies:  Traveling, reading, movies, and camping
What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?  I wanted to get a job in GIS right away in order to see what a career in GIS had to offer me. I guess I figured that I could always do grad school at a later date.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?  I started at my company as a limited term employee. Basically they had a particular project they needed help with, and I was told there might be work available after that. I was up against some tough competition for the job, but I think I came out on top because of the research I worked on as an undergrad. From there I worked as hard as I could each day and was offered a more permanent position as a GIS Technician. I've jumped at every opportunity to lead projects and come up with unique solutions to problems, which has helped me get to my current position where I am currently in the transitioning over to a GIS Consultant position.

Describe your typical day at work:  It depends quite a bit on what sort of project we are working on. Usually the bulk of my day is taken up with working on a particular aspect of a project (data processing and development), along with some impromptu brainstorming sessions for our projects ("what is the best way to do this?" type of questions). From time to time there are meetings thrown in to plan out future projects, as well as training other employees or being trained on new things.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  I'm not sure right now, actually. I'm sure I'll still be doing GIS, but where that puts me depends on a lot of factors.  I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up at graduate school either.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?  Look into summer internships for GIS companies. It can be a pretty valuable experience to get a sneak peek at what lies ahead. Also, don't be afraid to challenge yourself. Take the more difficult classes if you think you will learn a lot from them, when you are looking for a job or just starting a new one you will be a step ahead and hopefully stand out. 
Feel free to contact me at tkoehler@adc4gis.com

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jenna Christian - Penn State

Name: Jenna Christian
Family: No kiddos or spouse!
Major & Minor:
At Eau Claire I was a Comprehensive Geography Major. I’m at Penn State University now, doing a masters degree in Geography, with the plan to also doing a dual degree in Women’s Studies.
Year Graduated: 2008
Current Employer: Penn State University/NSF
Length of Employment:
I am in the second year of my masters at PSU, and was being paid last year via teaching and research assistantships, although this coming year I am lucky to be on a fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
Interests and Hobbies:
Academically, I’m interested in issues of gender, war, and peace. More specifically, my research looks at how women’s peace movements change and transform through various phases of ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’, with particular attention to the way that peace and peacebuilding are defined and practiced in both public and private spaces. I am currently doing my masters research on these topics in Liberia, West Africa, which is a country rebuilding from fourteen years of war. I am also interested in feminist and postcolonial approaches to issues of power, representation, and agency, which help guide me as I struggle through trying to become a good researcher in a place where researchers (and westerners more generally) have not always been a positive presence.
…Of course I do have interests beyond academics, and when I’m not trying to work through the things above, I love to cook with friends (good Midwestern potlocks!), ride my bike, explore new areas, and paint (prior to becoming a Geographer, I considered being an art major). Part of why I liked geography is because studying it felt like traveling, so even beyond school, I love meeting new people and seeing/learning about new places whenever possible.

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?
I learned as an undergraduate that I really liked to do research—talking with people about their lives and ideas, coming up with questions about why and how things work, exploring different ways to think about the world, and sharing what I learn in the process. Graduate school was a place where I would be able to do this, while taking on larger, more in-depth projects. I have also always been drawn to the idea of teaching, and being a part of an academic community, so it felt like a natural direction for me.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?
Definitely doing undergraduate research projects helped me get admitted to Penn State, and helped me to hit the ground running once I arrived. For example, I know I would not have been prepared to write a proposal last fall for the National Science Foundation fellowship I received if had I not already had the experience of applying for a UWEC Student-Faculty Research Grant or conducting research in Liberia as an undergrad. It gave me a least a better idea to start from with respect to how a proposal, and a research project more generally, might be formed. I have also been lucky to have good advisers and teachers who encouraged me to do these things, and advocated for me as I applied for grants and graduate school.

Describe your typical day at work:
Well, as I write this, I am in Monrovia doing my master’s research on issues of gender politics and peacemaking in postwar Liberia. My typical day here involves fighting to get transportation (shared taxi) into town, doing interviews with many different interesting people, making phone calls to schedule more interviews, and (ideally!) meeting friends to share some food and talk in the evening. I’m learning about my research topics both in town at meetings, as well as more informally in the house and community where I stay, so (in a way) it’s all work—but it’s (mostly!) enjoyable work…
…Back at Penn State, my typical day at work involves getting up in the morning, heading to campus with some coffee. I’ll do some reading or writing in my office (shared with three other grad students). Some days I have class, other days I don’t. When I was a TA, I taught four 50 minutes discussion sections of Intro to Human Geography per week, with about 20 undergrad students in each section. Planning course material for that can take a good amount of time… Grad school is similar to undergrad in some ways (you’re a student, go to classes, have an adviser, etc), but different in many others. As a grad student I spend much less time in class, and classes are generally smaller, with a large amount of reading (at least for the Human Geographers, I know less about the way classes work for the other sub-disciplines). While course grades are important, the real focus is your research, and ideally your courses help contribute ideas or skills directly to what your research will be. We are expected to be pretty self-motivated in designing and implementing research plans, and meeting our academic deadlines, although different advisers may be more hands-off or hands-on. I end my day in the office any time between 3pm and 3am, depending on what I’m working on. Some people are more disciplined with their time than I am and never end up in the office so late, but I like to work at night. I guess I would say my ‘typical’ day varies a lot. I have the big scale ( J ) goal—the master’s thesis—to complete, but at the small scale I have a good amount of control over how I spend my time.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Completing a Phd, (hopefully!) and just entering the job market. At this point the plan is an academic track job, but we’ll see…5 years is still a ways in the distance.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?
If you’re at Eau Claire, take advantage of the opportunities to do undergraduate research. Not every school gives undergrads the chance to design and implement research to the extent that is possible at UWEC, and particularly in the Geography Department. If you’re considering graduate school this will give you a big leg up both in applying, as well as in succeeding once you are there. Also, take the opportunity to go and present at the AAG. If you are thinking about grad school, it’s a great way for you to get a sense of what type of work graduate students in Geography are doing (i.e. everything under the sun!) at both the MA and PhD level—as well as a way to see which schools might be good fits for you (based on who is doing work that resonates with your interests). It’s also a good place to meet and network with potential graduate advisers if you are really on top of it. Finally, I would say don’t jump into grad school too fast if you aren’t sure about it. I took some time off in the middle of my undergrad, and took advantage of some other opportunities to travel and study abroad, which really helped me figure out what type of work/research I would want to do once I actually started a graduate program. The experiences that you get from travel, internships, jobs, etc are things that will help you get into better programs and do better work when you get there.

PS: There is a good book Ezra lent me when I was heading to grad school. It’s geared toward the Humanities, so it’s a bit different than a Geography program works, however it still gives a decent sense of what you might expect in a grad program—from time management to department politics: http://www.amazon.com/Graduate-Study-Twenty-First-Century-Humanities/dp/1403969361

Anyone call feel free to get in touch with me about whatever:

Jenna Christian
Masters Student
Pennsylvania State University
Department of Geography
302 Walker Building
University Park, PA 16802

Tracey Grubb - TechniGraphicS, a CACI company

Name:  Tracey Grubb
Family: n/a
Major & Minor:  Human Geography with Spanish Minor
Year Graduated:  2009
Current Employer:  TechniGraphicS, a CACI company
Length of Employment: 2 years
Interests and Hobbies:  Baking, knitting, traveling, and geocaching.

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)?    I wanted to gain career experience before grad school.  I am also aiming to find an employer that will assist in paying for my master's degree.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position?  Christina Hupy's advanced GIS course and Joe Hupy's Military Geography course secured my position.

Describe your typical day at work:  I validate and correct data created at a digitizing level due to client specifications.  I use multiple features within arcmap to find errors within the database.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?  I see myself climbing the ladder in the GIS world in a large city (preferably DC) and potentially working on my master's part time.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school?  A lot of GIS employers are looking for some coding experience.  I would take some Computer Science courses to get an extra edge.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Welcome to the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Geography Alumni Blog

Hello UWEC 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 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 hupycm@uwec.edu 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 (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?