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 https://sites.google.com/site/alexcomitigation2011/.  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

Darin Mertig - Applied Data Consultants

Name: Darin Mertig  
Family: Ruger( my Dog)
Major & Minor: Geography Resource Management (Comprehensive, No Minor)
Year Graduated: May 2010
Current Employer: Applied Data Consultants
Length of Employment: August 2011-Present
Interests and Hobbies: Hunting, Fishing, Shooting, Football, Baseball, Beer Tastings

What helped you decide what route to take after graduation (i.e. graduate school or type of job)? I had contemplated Grad school after graduation, and even looked into a career in the Military, but after seeing the number of entry level position’s in the GIS field all around the country, I decided that joining the work force and gaining professional experience was the best decision at the time.

What do you think gave you to edge to get your current position? My knowledge of the GIS programs and the ability to be very flexible in what I was able to do with the program. Also, having strong recommendations from the Geography department was a big help. I also think the relationship between ADC and the Geography department helped in the end, they know what UWEC Geography students have for GIS abilities and it makes it easy for them to take students who graduate in the same city as the employer.

Describe your typical day at work: My typical day of work varies quite a bit, I can go from making maps for the delivery of telephone books, creating the information that is needed to start creating the maps, even to working for the Army Corp of Engineers doing various projects. All of variation gives me a lot of different knowledge and job skills, it also helps keep the day from becoming monotonous.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? I can see myself working as a project manager or a division manager, but still in the GIS field and dealing with technology, the more it changes the more there is to do and the more people they will need to run different positions.

What advice can you give to those who are still in school? I would say to take any classes which GIS, LIDAR, GPS and any other technologies offered. You can never have enough knowledge of one program and the more that you know the better off you are. I would recommend choosing projects that challenge your ability and present them at multiple conferences and events as possible. You can never get your name out there enough.  Also, I would recommend that you build your resume early and update it often.