Coming from the University of Connecticut, I was expecting more or less of the same environment here at UW-Stout. My university is located in Storrs, a very rural area of Connecticut where our school constitutes the majority of the town. Upon arriving in Menomonie, I was happy to see that this wasn’t the case. With a downtown area and weekly community events such as the Farmer’s Market and Ludington Guard Band, the campus feels much more intertwined with the local community. It was a nice change to have a local coffee shop within walking distance to do work in rather than just a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised this first week by the level of community engagement in the LAKES program. The amount of local involvement has made working on the project even more exciting. Meeting the residents that this research will directly affect has helped put the project into perspective and emphasized the impact it will have on the local community.
Although I have previously done research at UConn, it was under the guidance of a single professor and we only met once a week, sometimes less. In addition, I did the majority of the work on my own time. The work environment we’ve had for the LAKES REU has been a much more enjoyable experience for me. I’ve found that meeting every day of the week has really helped keep the continuity of the research and helped me maintain focus on the work. It’s also a nice change to be able to focus 100% of my attention on the research rather than having to split my time between research and schoolwork. In addition, I’ve really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of our research. As a double major in economics and geography, the research for the LAKES program spans both of my disciplines. Although I’m working on the economics research under Dr. Ferguson, he has been very open about incorporating geography into the research using GIS software. Being able to include both of my areas of interest in one research project will be a very rewarding experience. My time in Menomonie has already exceeded my expectations and I greatly look forward to learning more about the community and how we can help it.