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?