Gina Szablewski; Featured Alumni
- Hometown/High School?
- Where do you reside now?
- What degree(s)did you obtain from UWM and when?
Master’s of Science in Geology 1996
- What was your field of interest in Geology at UWM?
I initially intended to study hydrogeology at UWM, but I honestly didn’t like it very much and couldn’t think of a topic for a thesis. Tim Grundl was kind enough to point me to John Isbell who had some money to support a student to do research in Antarctica on sedimentology. So, my field of interest was sedimentology, but I did take enough hydro classes to be considered a hydrogeologist in the state of Wisconsin.
- What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your degree?
I honestly went to grad school because I wasn’t ready to get a job after graduating from college. I think I only applied to two schools and was fortunate that UWM accepted me. I visited the school and really liked it and the people I met in the department. It just felt right. Serendipity.
- What did you enjoy most about the department, UWM, and Milwaukee?
I went to college in a relatively small city three miles away from where I grew up, and my mom worked on campus. It was fun coming to Milwaukee to a big city and a big campus. It wasn’t too overwhelming, because the department was not too large. There seemed to be a lot of different opportunities for me both in school and personally that hadn’t been available before. A lot of it seems such a blur, even though it wasn’t that long ago.
- What is your current job (or field of study) and how would you describe it to one of our current students (e,g,m what do you do, how rewarding is it)?
My current job is that of a senior lecturer in the geology department at UWM. I teach large classes of undergraduates in introductory geology and environmental geology. I feel so fortunate to have this job. Prior to my teaching career, I worked in consulting for over 10 years and became increasingly dissatisfied with my job. I seemed to be doing less and less science and more and more business work, which is something I have never desired in a career. Serendipity strikes again, as I had lunch with my former thesis advisor, John Isbell, and he asked me if I was interested in teaching. Nine years and thousands of students later, I have found a very happy and satisfying career, one that I enjoy immensely. I like coming to the office, meeting new students, and having fantastic opportunities. I get paid to go on field trips and do something I love! This job can also be very frustrating, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
- Why did you choose this career?
I like and am good at math and science, and I enjoy travel and the outdoors. A part-time teaching job is also excellent for someone like me who still wants to be the primary care-giver for her children.
- What's been your best experience in geology (or your career) so far?
Traveling to Antarctic twice to do research for my master’s thesis probably tops the list. And the trip to Iceland last summer wasn’t bad either.
- In your career, have you gotten the opportunity to travel or to work with people as part of your job?
For geology, I have traveled to New Zealand, Antarctica, Iceland, California, South Dakota, Wyoming, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New York, and probably other places I just can’t remember. I have met the most interesting scientists, mountaineers, and support people on these trips. I love the travel and making new friends, including former students.
- What trait or thing(s) that you learned while in Geosciences at UWM has allowed you to succeed in your career?
That you need to take care of your own destiny. And be flexible and open to new opportunities that come your way.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to our current students about their education or in selecting a career once they graduate?
Do something you enjoy. Ultimately, you will be miserable with a job that you don’t have fun doing even though you make money doing it. Accept other people’s advice but use it wisely and let the final choice be your own. And realize that you aren’t going to be good at everything, that you don’t have to be good at everything, and you can change your mind later.
- What is/was the hardest thing that you had to do in your career?
Quit the consulting business. It is also always hard to give students a failing grade when I can see they gave it all they had and it just wasn’t good enough.