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Blugolds discover new opportunities with geospatial analysis and technology degree

| Glen Mabie (story + video)

Students preparing to graduate can find themselves looking at a new landscape filled with the excitement of new possibilities and, sometimes, the uncertainty of wondering what comes next.

UW-Eau Claire students earning a degree in geospatial analysis and technology are surveying that landscape only to find it is filled with the possibility of, well, surveying a landscape, or a variety of other opportunities. And it is all thanks to the experience they get both in the classroom and in the field.

Haley Christianson and Ian McDonald are two students getting some of that valuable experience. As part of a geospatial field methods class, they spent time in the field with Eau Claire County surveyor Dean Roth and members of his department, learning how to use high-precision GPS for mapping projects.

Christianson appreciated getting hands-on experience with some of the technology she will need to be familiar with in her career.

“I’m hopefully going to get a job doing something with GIS [geographic information systems] or remote sensing,” said Christianson, a senior from Independence. “If you can put on your resume that you’ve had experience doing some of this, you already have a leg up over some of your competitors, which can really help in getting a job.” 

Roth, a 1995 Blugold geography graduate, says it’s not just learning about the technology that is important. The fieldwork gives students an opportunity to meet people involved in careers to which they aspire.

“I think seeing the equipment in use and seeing professionals in their area of study adds pretty high value to the student experience,” Roth said. “They actually know that their studies are going somewhere, and they can end up at a destination, doing a cool job.”

Dr. Munshi Rahman, a geography and anthropology faculty member, said the goal is to make students feel comfortable with the evolving technology involved in geospatial analysis.

“Our students are getting hands-on training so they can be better professionally in the field,” Rahman said. “They collect the data using new technology, and then transform that information into maps and other visualization.”

The opportunity to work alongside professionals in the community and learn from experts within the geography and anthropology department has prepared Ian McDonald, a senior from Berwyn, Illinois, for that next step.

“As a senior, I’ve started to look for jobs in geography, and at the different skills required,” McDonald said. “And there are a lot of different technologies we use that help me feel prepared to go out into the job market.”

As for Christianson, as she begins to map her career path after college, she looks back to the time when she discovered her love for geography.

“I wasn’t sure I was even going to be a geography major,” she said. “So I’m really glad that I found this, because I love what I do. It’s really cool.”