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Career Snapshots Our Graduates in the real world

See what the graduates from the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment have been up to! Wondering what possibilities await once you get a degree in Geography? Take a look below!

Ashley Langen

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 2012

  • Occupation: Field Technology
  • Employer: Wilbur-Ellis Company
  • Location: Canyon, Texas—West Texas
  • Internship: Dow AgroSciences, Kauai, Hawaii

Though my home office is in Canyon, Texas, I travel around the Texas panhandle supporting 14 ag-retail branches for Wilbur-Ellis. Using the company’s precision ag-based software (AgVerdict) and other technologies, such as satellite imagery, historic controller data, and geo-referenced soil samples, I am able to help sales staff make knowledgeable recommendations and the growers make educated decisions regarding their farming practices.

Even before graduation, my career started to take shape—thanks to the Geography’s internship capstone project. I landed a life-changing internship with Dow AgroSciences on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, mapping the 3,000 acre seed corn farm. After the internship ended, I was asked to join the company following graduation. I would then return to Kauai to continue the GIS work I had started and take on the Improvement Engineer and Parent Seed Coordinator roles. After three years on the island and with the Dow/DuPont merger on the horizon, my husband and I decided to move back to the mainland and search for new opportunities. I found the Field Technology Specialist role a perfect match for my Geography and Agronomy degrees and it allows me to continue to learn about and utilize new technologies available in this field.

Brad Szedlar

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 1989

Southern Illinois University, Geographic Information Systems, M.S., 1998

  • Occupation: Site Lead
  • Employer: National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA))
  • Location: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Internship: Illinois Department of Transportation, Springfield

I cannot believe that I have over 29 years with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) since receiving my B.S. in Geography at Illinois State University (B.S. 1989)! It seems like just yesterday I was Orienteering from a hard copy map or learning how to make a map "the hard way" by either creating text using a Leroy Set or scribing contour lines late at night in the GIS lab.

Nearly 10 years after graduating, I was fortunate to be selected for a competitive "Long-Term Full-Time Training" program allowing me to continue my education while working at NGA. Upon completion of the program, I received my M.S. in GIS/Remote Sensing at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in 1998. Since then, I've assumed many analytical and managerial positions both at the St. Louis and Scott AFB locations. I have been fortunate to represent NGA at various international venues in locations such as, Prague, Lisbon, Melbourne, Stockholm, Greenland, and recently at The African Union Headquarters located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This picture is at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium where I represented the USA at a Border Security Conference. I would have never thought in a thousand years I would ever be sitting in the same room with over 28 African countries discussing best practices to conduct border security ensuring safe economic passages between AU countries!

In the fall of 2018, I returned to Camp Lemonnier as the NGA Site Lead. Camp Lemonnier, a United States Naval Expeditionary Base, is home to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa of the U.S. Africa Command.

I can remember visiting ISU's Geography's Department the beginning of my junior year without the "faintest idea" of what I should major in. The Geography Program’s staff not only sparked my interest in cartography and economic geography, but knowledgeably guided me down a path of well-balanced curriculum. I can positively say ISU's faculty enabled me to confidently "dive into" the job market and progressively advance throughout my years with NGA. Thank you!

Brooke Schumacher

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 2018

  • Occupation: Sustainable Development Associate
  • Employer: Covia
  • Location: Weldon, Illinois
  • Internship: Starved Rock State Park, Utica, Illinois

Traveling primarily in the Central Region of the United States, I work with our mining facilities, plants, and corporate offices to ensure they meet sustainability goals set at the beginning of the year. These 12 goals range from Business Innovation and Safety to Clean Water and Recover, Reuse, and Recycle. Sustainable Development inspires and motivates our business to operate in a way that is environmentally, socially, and financially responsible – and I get to be at the forefront of this!

I claimed my major as Geography as I was arriving at Illinois State University after receiving my associate’s degree from a community college, and I never looked back! Not only is Geography a broad discipline but the rate at which geography graduates are being hired is above most majors, and for me, geography just made sense. Not only was I able to act upon my passions, such as sustainability, I’ve also used my geographical education in my career and everyday life!

Christy Graser

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 2005

  • Occupation: Environmental Education Supervisor
  • Employer: Red Oak Nature Center of the Fox Valley Park District
  • Location: Batavia, Illinois
  • Internship: Wild Bear Center for Nature Discovery, Nederland, Colorado

I am responsible for all the programming at the nature center which includes, but is not limited to, school programs for pre-k-Adult, Scout Groups, family programs, adult learning series, special events, and more.

All programs have an environmental based curriculum that correlates to current NGSS and CORE standards required by our local school districts. The Fox Valley Park District is the second largest park district outside Chicago and we have a wide reach into 4 counties and multiple communities. As a local nature center, it is our responsibility to show interactions and connections between us and our environment and an understanding of geography, earth sciences, conservation efforts, and speaking abilities are all required.

The path for someone to become an environmental educator is never the same. The hard part is understanding that not everyone is as passionate as you are about nature and our environment. It is difficult figuring out how to create an awe-moment and inspire people to get engaged. My job is to inspire folks to see their world in a new way, understand the connections big and small, and encourage them to continue caring after they’ve left our facility. There are never two days that are the same and I spend half my time at the computer writing programs and the other half of my time outside teaching. Creativity, teamwork, and a love of ecology and the outdoors are a must for this kind of career.

Before graduating in 2005 I was required to complete an internship which I did in Nederland, Colorado, at Wild Bear Center for Nature Discovery. I learned all about environmental education which incorporated my two passions of teaching and the environment. After two seasons, I moved back to Illinois and taught environmental education at a private facility, Max McGraw Conservation Foundation. After two years, I interned again for a park district in Ohio, the Columbus Metro Parks. Finally, I moved back to Illinois and started working at Red Oak Nature Center where I started as part time naturalist. I was promoted to IMRF-Part time Naturalist, and then finally full time as the Environmental Education Supervisor.

Jodi Becker

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 2014

  • Occupation: 911 GIS/Addressing Specialist
  • Employer: Macon County Emergency Telephone System Board/Central Illinois Regional Dispatch Center
  • Location: Decatur, Illinois
  • Internship: Sugar Creek Nature Center, McLean, Illinois

I started working for the ETSB in 2014 after I received a call from Dr. Sublett, the internship advisor, advising me the Director was searching for somebody who knows GIS. My qualifications, resume, and interview skills I gained from the Geography Program landed me at the top of the list for the GIS Specialist the ETSB was looking for. I would not be the successful GIS Specialist I am today without the guidance and support of my professors at Illinois State. They not only taught me about Geography; they also taught me to believe in myself.

As the 911 GIS/Addressing Specialist at the Macon County ETSB/CIRDC, I am solely responsible for maintaining all of the GIS layers for 911 purposes. This includes address points, streets, and several polygon layers showing jurisdiction for Law, Fire, and EMS for all of Macon County. My layers tell our CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) System which agency should respond to each call, whether it be police officers, firefighters, or paramedics. Occasionally, dispatchers or officers will find discrepancies on the maps and contact me to fix. I also make district maps for the Rural Fire Agencies as some of them do not have computers in their fire trucks. Additionally, I issue addresses when a new house or business is being built in the county, making sure it meets 911 Addressing Standards.

Brent Brazan

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 1993

  • Occupation: Professional Land Surveyor
  • Employer: Farnsworth Group
  • Location: Bloomington, Illinois
  • Internship: Kane County Development Department, Geneva, Illinois

I am a licensed Professional Land Surveyor for Farnsworth Group here in Bloomington, Illinois. I have been working as a land surveyor for over 24 years here in Illinois with approximately the last 10 years as a Licensed Professional. I work on a wide variety of projects from small individual lot surveys to large wind energy projects. I am licensed to practice in 5 states: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Texas.

Surveying has been the perfect fit for me since I can combine two of my favorite things: math and maps. I always enjoyed Dr. Sublett’s courses while at ISU. I learned so much from him.

Joe Kezon

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 1983

  • Occupation: GIS Manager for Public Safety
  • Employer: Office of Emergency Communications andManagement (OEMC) for the City of Chicago
  • Location: Chicago, Illinois

Geography? What are you going to do with that? I remember my mom’s words from almost 40 years ago. I began my studies at ISU as a math major, but by the end of sophomore year I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me because every math class met at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday. During those early semesters, I had taken a few geography and geology courses and thought, why not consider a degree in geography. I am happy to say that my decision to pursue my BS in Geography was a great decision. I am currently the GIS Manager for Public Safety at the Office of Emergency Communications and Management (OEMC) for the City of Chicago.

During my 34 plus years in GIS, I have worked at the federal level (Defense Mapping Agency, now National Geospatial Intelligence Agency), county, city and the private sector. I have been exposed to virtually every aspect in applied geography: remote sensing, photogrammetry, cartography and GIS. My background in math has been beneficial for the analytical aspect of the job.

As GIS Manager for Chicago, I am involved in the support of the hundreds of citywide events and building applications that are managed by OEMC. Throughout my career, I have supported several large projects with the City of Chicago. In 1995, I was directly involved with the switch over from manual call taking to E911. We are currently preparing for the upgrade to NextGen 911, the latest advancements in 911.

The group I manage was awarded a Special Achievement Award by ESRI for our GIS integration of the world’s largest Law Enforcement database. We continue to support police with new applications and analysis. We also are currently building apps and providing analysis to the fire department.

As a GIS professional, I have received invitations and had many opportunities to make presentations at geography related conferences both inside and outside of the U.S. I have always enjoyed the experience of learning and sharing at the conferences here in the U.S., but the international opportunities are most memorable. In the fall of 2005, I was invited to Melbourne to give the GIS keynote address at the Australian National Police Summit. In June of 2011, I was invited by the State Department to discuss GIS for Law Enforcement at a government conference in Panama. In May of 2013 I traveled to Abu Dhabi to present at the Geospatial Intelligence Middle East conference.

The endless stream of data used in analysis, application development, configuration of dashboards and web maps which are consumed by public safety personal provide for fast paced and fulfilling days. The geography degree that I received from Illinois State University has served me well. I am grateful for the mentoring I received from my professors, the late Dr. George Aspbury and Professor John Foster, and believe their support was a key factor in my success.

Lisa Schmidt

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 2003

  • Occupation: Remote Sensing Senior Technician
  • Employer: Quantum Spatial
  • Location: Portland, Oregon
  • Internship: North Cascades National Park, Sedro-Woolley, Washington

My company specializes in environmental solutions in geology, hydrology, natural resource management, oil and gas, electricity, and other disciplines. We provide geospatial data collection via LiDAR, aerial photography, hyperspectral, thermal, as well as other survey and imagery formats. We then clean, process, and analyze the data via GIS, PLS CADD, Microstation Connect, Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, and other software.

My specific team specializes in LiDAR and aerial photography/video for electrical transmission line management. We provide accurate and precise x, y, and z coordinates of every physical item in space. Using national and local weather information, we can compare our data and analyze criteria like weather effects on wires and towers, physical anomalies of wires/towers, location of nearby hazards. For instance, we can represent the daily changes of the wire heights based on temperature influences and electrical currents. We can also identify each tree to their species and their height and girth to better analyze if the tree is a grow-in or fall-in hazard to the wires/towers within the next few years.

We hire people with diverse backgrounds, but much of what I use in my day-to-day practices (understanding weather and climate, big data management, geographic coordinate systems and projections, and how to make stellar maps) were all provided to me in my Physical Geography degree at Illinois State University. This was an invaluable start to my career and I imagine that the solid foundation in the department's teaching, resources, and technology has grown tremendously since I was there 15 years ago.

Madison Meyers

Illinois State University Geography, B.S., 2018 Biology, B.S., 2018

  • Occupation: Aquatic Research Technician
  • Employer: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Internship: United States Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District as a Fisheries Biologist Intern

I Graduated in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Biology with a concentration in conservation biology and a minor in Environmental Studies. During my time at ISU I was part of a biological sciences research lab, worked with several professors in the Geography department and became a member of Gamma Theta Upsilon. I have previously worked for the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District as a Fisheries Biologist Intern through the internship course requirement in Geography, and as a Fisheries Biologist Technician for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in Gibson City, Illinois.

My position supports the Stream Habitat Investigations research program within the Aquatic Research Section at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Current research projects are focused on stream restoration, habitat enhancement, fish passage, whitewater parks, and application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Field work includes topographic surveys, electrofishing surveys, hydro-logic and hydraulic measurements, and operation of RFID systems. Data analysis includes processing and analyzing survey data with ArcGIS and R to characterize changes in channel morphology and aquatic habitat. Data collected is used to configure one-dimensional and two-dimensional hydraulic models for evaluating habitat suitability and fish passage at select study sites.

The faculty in the geography department reinforces critical thinking habits, inside and outside the classroom. They encourage personal and professional development which allows a student to succeed in their endeavors after leaving Illinois State University.

Joseph Fluder

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 1999

University of New Mexico, Geography, M.S., 2002

  • Occupation: Chief Executive Officer and Director
  • Employer: SWCA Environmental Consultants
  • Location: Lombard, Illinois
  • Internship: Natural Resources Conservation Service, Champaign, Illinois

The Chief Executive Officer of SWCA Environmental Consultants came to Illinois State in the fall of 1995 expressing an interest in the environment and a preference for the name that his family called him, Joey. Today Joseph J. Fluder III is a key component of a nationwide firm that prides itself on providing solutions to environmental permitting and compliance challenges for private and governmental entities, solutions that allow for the maintenance of tomorrow’s resource capability while permitting completion today of significant projects.

Joseph’s career trajectory at SWCA Environmental Consultants has been impressive. He began working three-fourths time for SWCA in its Albuquerque office, in 2003, as an Environmental Scientist and soon grew to be a Project Manager, handling the largest clients and projects in New Mexico. Next came his role as Natural Resources Program Director where he saw revenue and sales growth double in the Albuquerque office during the years 2005 to 2011. As Office Director, 2008-2009, he was responsible for revenue of over $3 million per year and staff of 35. SWCA made him the Albuquerque Principal in 2009, and his numbers grew to $4 million in revenue as he also took on the Durango office in southern Colorado. His elevation in 2012 to Rocky Mountain-Central Regional Manager, first out of Albuquerque and then Warrenville, Illinois, saw his revenue generation grow to $40 million and staff to roughly 300, in 11 different offices. Most recently, out of the Lombard office, in his role as Chief Executive Officer, he and his 1100 or so staff (32 offices) are generating over $120 million in annual revenue and over $150 million in sales. He has come up through the ranks, using his love for the environment and taking his scientific point of view into the business world, rather than earning an advanced business degree and then trying to learn about the company and its industry. Few scientists have the wherewithal to do what he has done, whether it is setting up new SWCA offices, smoothly integrating acquired companies/offices into the system, or mentoring junior members of the firm in their careers.

Joe Lehnert

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 2012

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, M.S.

  • Occupation: GIS and Data Manager and Small Business Owner
  • Employer: Cropsmith, Inc. and Longbow Geospatial, LLC
  • Location: Farmer City, Illinois
  • Internship: United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Champaign, Illinois

After graduating from Illinois State, I spent several years working in the construction industry, building and remodeling homes. Having an interest in further education, specifically within the context of vegetative remote sensing, I subsequently pursued graduate study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in Geography and minoring in Agronomy. My wife and I moved back to Illinois while finishing the program and, shortly after, I entered the agricultural research space with a job at Cropsmith. In the summer of 2018, we saw the need for further research and fielding of remote sensing technologies, leading us to create a small-business focused in this area.

Geography as a discipline is a unique field of study; it allows one to connect the dots between a range of concepts and theories in a truly meaningful fashion. I believe the Geography Program at Illinois State is one of the best; the faculty and coursework provide a solid foundation for those entering the workplace or pursuing higher education—I would highly recommend it.

Joe Wojtas

Illinois State University, Geography Teacher Education, B.S., 2010

Concordia University Chicago, Curriculum and Instruction, M.A., 2014

  • Occupation: Social Studies Teacher
  • Employer: South Elgin High School
  • Location: Elgin, Illinois

Studying geography education at ISU was the single greatest professional decision I have made. The rigorous coursework and high expectations demanded my best, but provided me with the necessary skills and confidence to successfully transition into my career immediately after graduation. The habits I developed as a undergraduate geography education student were essential for me as I pursued additional education as graduate student while balancing my personal and professional responsibilities.

Marc McLaughlin

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 2004

  • Occupation: Land Entitlement Manager
  • Employer: Taylor Morrison
  • Location: Schaumburg, Illinois
  • Internship: McHenry County Planning and Development, Woodstock, Illinois

I was in the public sector for nearly 14 years, where I went from an intern (the internship was mandatory for graduation) to the Director of Community Development. During that time I received certifications as a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) and an American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).

Most recently I took a position in the private sector as the Land Entitlement Manager with Taylor Morrison, the sixth largest homebuilder in the U.S.

The skills and knowledge I learned as an ISU geographer have helped me rise to where I am today. If the internship has not a requirement for graduation, I don’t know where I would be today.

Maria Wilson

Illinois State University, Geography Teacher Education, B.S., 2005

  • Occupation: National Board Certified Teacher Physical Science
  • Employment: Lincoln-Way East
  • Location: Frankfort, Illinois

My time at ISU prepared me for the great life I enjoy every day. I am fortunate to be a National Board Certified Teacher of Adolescence and Young Adulthood with the focus of Earth Science and along with that accomplishment I am currently teaching Physics while also the Science Department Chair at Lincoln-Way East High School.

During my time at ISU, my love for my content strengthened and I was the first of the department to take the Earth Science content test. Afterwards I was fortunate find a job quickly and have been at the same district since 2005. While at that district, I have kept in contact with the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment and became a leader teacher for Skip Nelson's EarthScope program. That program helped me create our Griffins Growing STEM program as well as become the Teacher of the Year at Lincoln-Way North in 2012.

Beyond a fulfilling career I have the department to thank for the other half of my life, as I met my husband in the halls of Felmley. He as a Geography major and myself a Geography Education major never shared a class together but got to know each other in the computer lab at the end of the hall. Still happily married for ten years and with a daughter that wants to be an astronomy or art teacher and a son that want to be a robot lion or a science teacher, I couldn't be happier.

So thank you, ISU for helping me find a career I love along with the love of my life.

Kris Kuzera

Illinois State University, Geography, B.S., 1998

Clark University, GIS, M.S., 2004

San Diego State University-University of California, Santa Barbara Joint Doctoral Program in Geography, Geography, Ph.D., 2011

  • Occupation: Teaching Assistant Professor and Internship Program Director
  • Employer: Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
  • Internship: Mapping Specialists, Limited, Madison, Wisconsin

As a graduate of the Illinois State Geography Program, I have gone on to become a professional cartographer, and more recently a PhD in Geography serving as a Teaching Associate Professor and Internship Director at the University of Denver. I write in full honestly that the education and support I received from ISU as a student and the years following have put me on a successful career path in Geography that I would not have been able to achieve otherwise.

As a student, individual attention from dedicated faculty guided me through coursework to become a well­ rounded Geographer. They facilitated a familial environment by supporting a very active Geography club, and gave recognition to students when it was truly deserved, continuing the Alpha chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon. The department continues to express their commitment toward successful employment upon graduation by requiring internships for every student, giving them professional experience with employers before leaving the academic setting. This is a program I have rarely seen outside of ISU, and I consider it to be one of the program's strongest assets and a model for other departments to follow. My own personal career started with the assistance of this department keeping strong connections with local industry and providing active internships around the country.

The faculty's commitment to students has continued beyond graduation as many members have written countless letters of recommendation for me as I applied for graduate school years after leaving the University. And more recently, the Department invited me back to campus as a Distinguished Alumni to meet with the current students and give them insight into potential careers in Geography after graduation.

Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment has continuously demonstrated a strong commitment to Geography education, the student experience, and the discipline as a whole that has been rarely matched by the numerous universities with which I have since been involved.

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