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Alumni newsletter

Where are they now?

Brian Baskerville  

SNR "Alumni Spotlight: Staying Grounded"  by Elyse Watson

While some of our past graduates like to look up to the sky, Brian Baskerville, a 2013 masters graduate in geography, knows it’s important to stay grounded. 

“I attended graduate school at UNL to become a geographer. After several years trying to combine history, politics, economics, and natural resources into one field, I discovered that geography could do that for me. Although I'm a physical geographer in both training and trade, I believe my real interests are in human geography and geopolitics,” Baskerville said about why he chose geography.

Throughout his time here, Baskerville not only succeeded in academics, he was extremely active in on-campus activities. President of both the UNL Geography Student Organization president and Gamma Theta Upsilon Geography Honor Society, he also participated in the Great Plains National Security Education Consortium (IC Scholar), Golden Key International Honor Society, and the SNR Student Association. When asked about what helped him be so successful here in the School of Natural Resources, he pointed to four faculty that made big impacts.

“I owe a lot to my adviser, Dr. Jim Merchant," he said. "He advised me well and demanded a lot from me. I won't say that I had a lot of 'fun' while working under him (tongue in cheek), but he did prepare me very well for the rigors of the knowledge economy! I also owe him for the opportunity to be a teaching assistant and teach/manage the geography labs."

Also on the list were: 

  • Dr. David Wishart: For always being available to students, even those who weren't his direct advisees. "He kept me interested and enthusiastic about geography," Baskerville said. 
  • Dr. Jim Brandle: For the chance to teach in SNR (recitation sections and the lecture, Agri/NRES 103 for undergraduates). And for hosting great socials for SNR faculty and staff at his home.
  • Dr. Becky Buller: For the enthusiasm and excitement she brought to the Geography Student Organization.

So what is Baskerville up to today? He is currently the technology coordinator for Area 1, the western third of Nebraska, for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

“I received a call one day from Neil Dominy, the state soil scientist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service here in Lincoln," Baskerville said. "They needed someone to do GIS work for the agency. I started contracting in the Fall of 2013, initially for experience and a little extra income. But, that grew into a full-time position in the Spring of 2014. I'm still there today.”

Baskerville also shared his three big takeaways from being in graduate school at SNR. 

  1. Experience as much as you can while still in school: academics, extra-curricular activities, sports, travel, etc.! You can draw upon those experiences for the rest of your life, so really, it's the best investment you could ever make.
  2. If you're an undergraduate - STUDY ABROAD! Also, don't go to graduate school just to delay getting a "real" job. Graduate school should be a catalyst for a career path you've already chosen. So find that career, fall in love with it, then go to graduate school. 
  3. If you're a graduate student: Imposter syndrome is real. But it's all in your head, trust me. Just keep going. Charles Darwin and Angela Duckwork are right - it's not always the strongest or most talented who succeed. In the end, it's those who are willing to adapt and persevere. Just keep going.

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Mele Koneya developed maps for Fire Headquarters, Emergency Operations Center, and Hydrant maps for Scottsdale, Arizona. The maps were featured in the Esri Map Book.

"As part of my conference experience," Koneya said, "people asked how I got into this field. I told them it all started in Nebraska and UNL was key to my success. I am very proud of how my Geography background at UNL has led to my GIS career."

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John Jackson IV: "I graduated from UNL in December 2013 with a degree in geography. Upon graduating, I was interning at GIS Workshop Inc. as a GIS Technician Intern in Lincoln while waiting for admission to graduate school for the fall of 2014. I attended the University of Oregon for graduate school, and received a masters in Community and Regional Planning from UO in June 2016. While at UO, I interned with the US Department of Transportation - Federal Transit Administration. I received a job offer right before graduation from engineering firm AECOM in Los Angeles, CA and was with AECOM for a year and a half before obtaining another position at a smaller firm in Downtown Los Angeles as an Environmental Planner. I attribute my success thus far in my career to what I learned in geography department at UNL as well as the connections and tools I obtained in order to succeed. My academic advisor at CAS played a big part in that success and I owe her everything for that. I love the geography department at UNL, and owe people like Dr. Wishart everything. They are truly an important and meaningful part of what makes the department and CAS special."

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Brooke Bolin: "I loved my time at UNL in the Geography program. The classes and professors helped me discover who I am and my curiosity for the world. I'm employed with City of Lincoln Parks and Recreation and work on prairie restoration. Geography plays a part in my job by using GIS, GPS and other tools to monitor the status of prairies. Personally, geography makes me want to learn new things every day about the world around me. Thank you, UNL Geography!"

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Kevin Pflager: "I love the UNL geography program. It has given me a passion to learn and shown me what I want to do with my life. I can honestly say I don't know where I would be without geography."

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Jonathan Kusy: "When I first started out at UNL, I was unsure on what the future was to have for me. I was convinced that I wanted to be a teacher because I enjoyed learning and teaching kids. I had always found myself to be good with maps and directions so I was set on the path of becoming a Geography teacher.

"When I began take my geography classes to complete this requirement, I saw myself wanting more and more to find a career path in the geography field. I decided to take a GIS course as an elective and I quickly became enthralled with map creation and cartographic principles. I immediately changed my major to Geography and found myself excited to go to my GIS classes and my future as a geographer.

"I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Geography and Geology as well. Within the next 6 months I held the title as Cartographer at a natural gas pipeline company in Omaha.

"I am convinced that without the help of my geography professors and UNL's dedication to the geography, I would not be in the position that I am in today."

Michael Forsberg is a well-known conservation photographer and Nebraska native. He recently delivered the Lavin Seminar and received a national award from the Sierra Club.

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Jacob Lambert, a senior global studies, political science and geography triple major, will be working with Teach for America.

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Major Rolando Perez graduated from UNL in 2005. He commissioned as an Air Battle Manager in the USAF, and has served on several platforms utilizing the geographic knowledge he obtained at UNL. He has over 2,200 flight hours aboard the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft serving as an Air Weapons Officer (AWO), Sensor Management Officer (SMO) and Senior Director (SD). As a SMO, Maj Perez utilizes the remote sensing/GIS/cartographic skills he learned in UNL's Geography Department in the application of a Moving Target Indicator/Synthetic Aperture Radar. Those same skills were applied managing/piloting the ScanEagle UAS in combat operations.

As a Senior Director and Wing Plans Officer, he actively applied skills obtained through physical, cultural and urban geography classes.

Maj Perez has nine deployments in support of OPERATIONS IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, NEW DAWN and INHERENT RESOLVE.

His history as a secondary educator through UNL enabled him to become an Air Force flight instructor and evaluator in minimum time. Those skills enabled him to graduate the United States Marine Corps Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, where he has served as a joint augment instructor.

Maj Perez currently serves as the chief of Air Battle Manager training at the 129th Combat Training Squadron at Robins AFB, GA. In these duties, he instructs and evaluates over 100 student AWOs, SMOs, and SDs annually as a full-time member of the Georgia Air National Guard.

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Jesslyn Brown: "I was conferred the degree Master of Arts in Geography from UNL in December, 1990. That degree, so valuable to me, led directly to an incredibly interesting and fulfilling career in Geography. In my current position, I have the title "Research Geographer" with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of Interior. I have worked at the same USGS facility since I started here as an intern while pursuing my degree in Lincoln.

"My geography professors at UNL provided me not only with a fantastic base of knowledge of the field (the theory and application of Geography) but also taught a way of looking at life through the geographic lens, where space and location are valuable information to expand understanding of how the world works. In my career, I have been a contributing member on diverse projects involved in mapping the world's land cover, monitoring the impacts of drought across the United States, characterizing spatial change and related water use in irrigated agriculture, and tracking seasonal dynamics in natural vegetation. I have collaborated with many esteemed colleagues from different disciplines and traveled across the world to share research results. I have no doubt that my degree from UNL in Geography was extremely instrumental in my career.

"I feel fortunate to have chosen Geography as my career path. A recent Editorial in The Guardian says that Geography is soaring in popularity in this era, that it is "a subject for our times" and is inherently multidisciplinary "in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences." They also state that because of the broadness of geographic study, Geographers are "eminently employable". I have absolutely found this to be true myself."

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Bob Harding ('86) reflects on how Nebraskaland Magazine enticed him to attend Nebraska—and where it led afterward.