UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
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The Alumni Spotlight features our alumni working in Geography, GIS or a related field. If you would like to participate, please send the following information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Geography Major/GIS Minor
Current Position: GIS Mapping and Outreach Corpsmember placed with the International Water Institute
How did you get there?: After a year and a half of searching for and applying to way too many GIS positions after graduation while working (and even working a contract position for 3 months), I was encouraged to apply to this one year long position through the Minnesota/Iowa Conservation Corps by my girlfriend. We were lucky enough to both be offered unrelated Conservation Corps placements within Crookston, MN and made the move up! I'm currently loving my job working for a nonprofit organization helping to perform hydro-conditioning within the Red River Basin, driving around taking water quality samples, and giving classroom visits to 4th graders teaching them about their watersheds. The hydro-conditioning portion models the flow of water across the surface of the land in the event of a heavy rain event, which is then used for flood damage reduction and to aid in surface water quality management.
Advice for graduating Geography/GIS students: Take all the advice and help from your professors as you can and keep in contact with them after graduation, they really are wonderful people and want to see you do well. Build a portfolio during college, get as much experience as possible, consider learning to write code, enjoy your time there! Once you begin applying, don't be like me and apply to 100+ jobs you might be okay doing, you will get burnt out as applications are typically lengthy. Apply to jobs you know you will love and be passionate about, the desire comes through on the cover letter and interview. They want someone who wants to be there. Personal connections are also huge, I grew up along the banks of the Red River as a child which provided a personal connection to the region in which the International Water Institute is based. I believe this helped to set me apart from other applicants for the position. http://iwinst.org/
Environmental Conservation Major/ GIS & Biology Minors
Current Position: GIS Consultant at ERM
How did you get there?: After graduating from UWRF I was hired as a field biologist for a small environmental consulting company in St. Paul. After working for the company for the summer I realized that I had more GIS experience than anyone else in the company. I discussed how the company was using GIS and how we could better employ the technology. After discussions with my employer I became the GIS guy. I spent 5 years at that company (4 years as the GIS manager....with only a minor). I received my Masters in GIS while working and then took a position at my current employer, ERM, which is a large company with lots of GIS resources and staff.
Advice for graduating Geography/GIS students: Start to learn a little bit of Python and SQL...a little can go a long way. I had no experience with computer science or programming while working on my undergrad. After taking an online course in Python I realized how much more GIS had to offer in automating tasks and batch processing using a little bit of Python. In addition, build a portfolio, even if it is small. It will show future employers your drive and motivation for creating maps as well as your ability to use the software to convey a message.
Geography Major, Cartography/GIS Minor
Current Position: I'm working at Land O' Lakes (Winfield United) as an Ag Tech development specialist, where my responsibilities are working on new proof of concept projects in the Ag Tech space.
How did you get there? I've been working at Winfield United for 5 years, and have spent a lot of time working with our Precision Ag applications where we use satellite imagery to monitor field variability. A lot of our new projects are around different imagery techniques, soil and land use for conservation, and different ways to monitor crop health. Before that I spent 7 years with Xcel Energy in a variety of GIS positions.
Advice for graduating Geography/GIS students: Learning advanced techniques is helpful, but I've had a good amount of success by learning how GIS softwares work. Testing, documentation and troubleshooting skills all have been very helpful along the way, and being able to see how stuff happens before it happens will take you a long way.
Geography Major/ History Minor
Current Position: Retired from the Minnesota Department of Transportation
How did you get there?: Retirement? Hard work and saving lots of money. I started working for the DOT as a travel information supervisor and moved into training and development mostly because of my military experience. During my 35 year career I also worked in emergency management where I wrote emergency response plans and once in a while would staff a position in the state or department Emergency Operation Center. In the early 2000s I got a GIS certificate from UW-Superior which helped with my emergency planning. We still live in Cloquet MN. We are enjoying some travel, volunteering and the grandchildren.
Geography Major/ Metro Region Studies Minor
Co-Founder of Student Geography Organization
Current Position: Retired cartographer from the US Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
How did you get there?: Started in 1980 with the US Defense Mapping Agency (now National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency) where I got more skills, and then took a break for world travel for 2 1/2 years; returned then to Federal service at the US Geological Survey and then to USDA/NRCS, where I gained more skills and also took time away for more world travel.
Advice for graduating Geography/GIS students: Above all, travel! Find employment, pay back debts, but also eat a little dessert first and plan at some point for some overseas travel while you're still young. Save for awhile and then take a longer, trip perhaps a sabbatical, leave-of-absence or break between jobs. Don't lock yourself down to mortgages and commitments too soon -- those things own you!
Geography Major/History Minor
Current Position: Professor and Holder of the MN Chair in Real Estate; Director, Binhai 2+2 Finance Program, St. Cloud State University
How did you get there?: M.S., Real Estate and Regional Science, Southern Methodist University; Ph.D., Texas A&M University