The last two years can only be described as fulfilling and rewarding for Gustavus Adolphus College senior Megan Wika ’14. After earning a scholarship in 2012 that allowed her to study for a semester in Freiburg, Germany, Wika started pursuing geographic information systems (GIS) internships for the summer of 2013 and was excited to be offered a position at Barr Engineering in Minneapolis.
Barr provides engineering and environmental consulting services to clients across the Midwest, throughout the Americas, and around the world. The company’s 700 engineers, scientists, and technical specialists help clients develop, manage, and restore natural resources. The company’s project sites range from iron-ore mines in South America to wind-power farms in South Dakota, from manufacturing facilities in California to oil-sands fields in western Canada.
The GIS team at Barr provides technical expertise to employees throughout the company on various projects. Wika’s responsibilities this past summer included making field maps, researching data, processing GPS data that others had collected in the field, and preparing GIS figures for proposals.
“This internship has given me so much technical and work place experience. Working extensively with GIS software made me very confident in my ability to use GIS and also helped me understand just how much GIS can be used for,” Wika said. “Prior to my internship at Barr, I did not realize the breadth of opportunities available in GIS, but now realize that GIS is a viable career for me to pursue. This internship also connected me with an exceptional company and very talented people. Whether there are positions at Barr or elsewhere, my experience at Barr will provide a definite advantage in the application and hiring process.”
Like so many Gustavus students before her, Wika was qualified to pursue the internship at Barr because of specific coursework within her majors (Geography and Environmental Studies) and other research opportunities afforded to her by Gustavus faculty members.
“I took a GIS course at Gustavus which gave me an excellent technical foundation, however it was additional support from the geography department that truly prepared me for my internship,” Wika said. “Anna Versluis has been an outstanding advisor, and she helped me gain additional GIS experience by offering me a position as her research assistant two summers ago. Mark Bjelland also organized a GIS internship for me last January at Nicollet County Environmental Services. Both of these experiences improved my GIS skills and ultimately helped to make me qualified for my internship at Barr.”
Wika is on track to graduate this spring and she has plans to obtain a master’s degree in either geography or environmental studies. She will definitely consider applying for full-time work at Barr Engineering and is also thinking about returning to Germany to teach English for a year. Whichever path she chooses, she seems destined for success.
“My education at Gustavus, but in particular my classes through the geography department, have helped me develop essential skills,” Wika said. “The liberal arts focus of my classes has been especially important because in order to succeed, I have become a more effective communicator, speaker, and writer. For my internship at Barr, these capabilities were just as important as having specific technical knowledge. The geography department prepared me very well for a job and a career.”
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