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Liberal arts on the job CTMOMENTS


“So,” said the interviewer, “why do you want to work here?” This was what I was hoping to be asked, because it was an invitation to tell him something non- trivial about myself. “I believe in scientif- ic answers to our problems,” I responded, “and I want to apply what I’ve learned in school to solving those problems.” He must have liked that answer, and my subsequent ones, because I was hired.


My work as an envi- ronmental remediation consultant has been equal parts technical skills, problem-solving, logistics, and business dealing, with a dash of good old manu- al labor. I came to the job competent in the hydrogeology, cartog- raphy, and sedimentology I needed. But academic knowledge was only part of it. I’ve been able to keep up because of my whole Skidmore experience. In many ac- tivities at Skidmore, I had to modify my approach as I encountered obstacles and new information, and I do the same in my work—for example, developing new testing methods to respond to changing envrionmental regulations.


gling with the analysis. “Wait a second… if this method is only miscoding a few land-use types, why don’t we make a composite?” I asked. “That could work,” my partner said. And it did. A little bit of lateral thinking allowed us to derive a reasonably accurate map by properly combining different results.


THE DEPTH OF OUR PROBLEM-SOLVING AND CREATIVE THINKINGWAS INVISIBLE TO THE END VIEWERS, BUT IT WAS NO SMALL SATISFACTION FOR US.


Final adjustments completed, we now had maps showing changes in land usage over a 20-year span. Paired with census data, they showed some in- teresting results, which we later presented to stake- holders in the local com- munity. The depth of our problem-solving and creative thinking


“I finished running the analysis, and parts of it are working better,” my re- search partner told me. We were in Skid- more’s GIS lab, running a land-use analy- sis on satellite data of Saratoga County to generate maps for our environmental- science senior projects. “Hey,” I said, “this seems much more accurate on the roads and urban areas. But I see what you mean that it’s miscoding the open water.” After a number of false starts, we had obtained a good dataset and were strug-


YOUR MESSAGE HERE


Got your own story of how Creative Thought Matters? Submit your


“CTMoment” to srosenbe@skidmore.edu or to Scope, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway,


Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.


was invisible to the end viewers, but it was no small amount of satisfaction for us. Data visualization combines art, design, and science; cracking our analysis riddle tested our abili- ties in all three. My Skidmore ad- visor once warned me about doing too many different things, saying, “More isn’t better; better is better.” He was right, but my wide range of student activities served me well. Learning


workarounds as a techni- cian for the media ser - vices office prepared me for troubleshoot- ing complicated


screening devices in subfreez- ing temperatures during my fieldwork. As manager of SkidTV,


BY MATT SHRENSEL ’09


organizing a half-dozen people on an hour’s notice to record an event came in handy when I had to organize and over- see three subcontractors all on the same day. Tutoring students in geology paid off when I was training coworkers. Help- ing Skidmore’s communications office launch a new video operation was good practice for starting and directing proj- ects. Producing a weekly TV show helped me develop operational consistency. The list of work and life skills that I honed at Skidmore and found useful af- terward goes on too long to do it justice here.


These days, a college education is often thought of as an invest- ment. As with any invest- ment, putting more into it will yield better returns. I found that there was no limit to what I could get out of my time at Skidmore, just a limit to the time itself. The result wasn’t a specific guaran- tee of em- ployment when I re-


ceived my degree, but something better: the training and expe- rience to go wherever I wanted to go.


Matt “Strudel” Shrensel ’09, an environmental studies and geosciences major, is a staff geolo- gist at Langan Engi- neering and Environ- mental Services in Pennsylvania.


4 SCOPE WINTER 2012


CHARLIE SAMUELS


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