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New geospatial internships helping Blugolds build skills

Q&A with Matthew Brueske 

A $418,869 grant to support geospatial education at UW-Eau Claire already is making a difference in the lives of Blugolds with an interest in geospatial fields.  

Among other things, the Geospatial Education Initiative grant dollars have allowed UW-Eau Claire faculty to invest more time and resources in developing new internship opportunities for students. 

The increased internship opportunities come at the same time the U.S. Department of Labor has listed geospatial technology and its use as one of 14 "high-growth, high-demand and economically vital sectors of the American economy" and estimates its growth rate to be almost 35 percent annually. 

Geospatial refers to the technology used in global positioning systems, geographic information systems, computer cartography, remote sensing and field sensors that help in acquiring, storing, processing, analyzing and communicating information connected to a specific location. 

Matthew Brueske, a senior from Plainview, Minnesota, is among the Blugolds benefitting from the new internships created as a result of the three-year GEI grant, which was awarded to UW-Eau Claire in June 2014 by the Growth Agenda for Wisconsin Grants Program. 

UW-Eau Claire's GEI team invested some of the grant dollars in video conferencing technology, making it possible for students like Matthew to pursue internships outside of the Eau Claire area while continuing to take classes on campus.

The technology-supported internships give students real-world experience without delaying their time to graduation or adding to the expenses of relocating. 

Matthew, who is pursuing a degree in environmental geography with an emphasis in GIS technologies, spent the spring semester as a GIS intern with Polaris Industries, a Twin Cities-based company that makes off-road vehicles. He's continuing the internship with Polaris this summer at their Minnesota location.

Matthew took a few minutes early in the summer to talk about his internship and interest in the GIS field.

How did you become interested in the geospatial field?

My interest in the geospatial field became evident during my freshman year. I took a few introductory geography courses, which I really enjoyed. I wanted to learn more about what a major in geography offered. I met with Dr. Ezra Zeitler to talk about the different opportunities available. After our discussion, I decided to change my major to geography. 

Please share a little about your impressions of UW-Eau Claire's geospatial initiative. 

The entire UWEC geography faculty is incredibly friendly, welcoming and helpful. They have always been more than willing to answer any of my questions and help with projects or assignments outside of class. The classwork is very hands on too, which I like, and allowed for a smooth transition from the classroom to my responsibilities as an intern.

Tell us about your internship. What are the highlights so far? 

The internship began in January of 2015 and will conclude in August of 2015. I worked remotely from school during the spring semester and am working at Polaris' headquarters in Plymouth, Minn., during the summer. My internship consists of working in the RiderX Department, where I contribute to the development of Polaris' RiderX App.  

A highlight of my internship is being part of a team responsible for an app that will help many outdoor enthusiasts across the United States. 

What skills/knowledge did you bring to the internship that is helping you succeed?

Digitizing and geo-referencing images were some of the larger tasks I encountered during the internship. I acquired these two skills while studying at UWEC, which benefited me during the internship. I also worked with data in different formats than what I would normally see in a classroom setting. This allowed me to be more comfortable working with many different datasets.

How will your internship help you succeed after you graduate? 

Since all of the data I was presented with during my internship was not consistent, being able to problem solve was a must. Continuously improving my problem-solving skills in many different settings and situations will help me to succeed in both my work and my life after I graduate. 

What kind of job do you hope to get after you graduate? 

Ultimately, I would like to get a job within the GIS field after graduation. I've always had an interest in wildlife and natural resources and would like to use my GIS skills in one of these areas.