Member Spotlight: Douglas Miskowiak

Posted By: Emily Sudar Member Spotlight,

We've brought back the Member Spotlight series so we can all get to know each other better.  Do you know a WLIA colleague that you think people should know?  Let us know at and send us their contact information.  We may not get to everyone, but we'll try!

This month we’d like to introduce you to a member who you may be familiar with from the lecture hall if you attended the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. Doug Miskowiak has been an Instructional Administrator there for over 14 years and in the last year has also become the Department Chair of Geography and Geology at this esteemed institution where many focusing in Environmental GIS/Geography have graduated from.  He’s been a long-time member of the WLIA, and his experience in education has been a boon to the organization. Enjoy getting to know Doug, who lives and breathes earth sciences and geography.

How did you come to your current profession or job?  
Here’s a condensed version of an otherwise long story.   In 2009 I was working for the Center for Land Use Education at the College of Natural Resources.  I was grant writing to enhance the college’s GIS capabilities, unaware that folks across the parking lot held similar aspirations.  Dr. Keith Rice beat me to the punch, landing $1.7 million for UWSP and the College of Letters and Science.  The grant generated two new positions.  I interviewed for the Instructional Administrator position (then Instructional Outreach Specialist), met with my future colleagues, and found Geography and Geology to be a great home for me.   The position allowed me to continue working outreach education with Wisconsin communities, but it also provided me an opportunity to teach GIS and Geodesign.  Now 14 years later, I’m still working with wonderful people, still teaching, and now championing GIS, LIS, Remote Sensing, Sustainability, Geodesign, Geography, and Geology in the capacity of Department Chair.       

What’s your most favorite part and least favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job is working with the youthful imaginations of students on special GIS and Geodesign projects.  They come up with ideas for GIS that I don’t otherwise tackle in my typical outreach. They challenge me to help them find tools and solutions capable of addressing their tasks.  This semester students created GIS data schemas to track the unhoused for the U.S. Census, developed a 3-Dimensional rock climbing application, and developed GIS forestry applications, among other notables.   As it turns out, older Dougs learn new tricks all the time.  

My least favorite part of the job is grading papers.    

What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?
I walked into UW-Madison as an undergraduate student in the Department of Horticulture.  My advisor thought my described interests better aligned with Landscape Architecture, and he convinced me to double major.  Without that advice I might never have met Ben Niemann or taken a GIS course.  

That counsel led to advice Ben Niemann gave me a few years later.  As I recall, Ben walked into my LICGF office, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “Doug, I think you should go to grad school.”    I did not take his advice until the second time he offered it.  I thought about the opportunity he offered me, and didn’t want to waste it.  Grad school gave me purpose and a challenge.  

What do you like to do for fun?  (Hobbies, volunteer work, etc)
Fishing is my favorite hobby.  This year I finally was able to take my son to Canada.  His first Canadian cast caught a walleye, and that walleye was bitten by a colossal northern.  That northern held the walleye in its mouth like a dog chawing on a large bone.    

What’s something most people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have three grandchildren with my wife Tara.  Ivy (3), Aspen (2), and Oliver, born this past December.  

Do you have a favorite class you teach? If so, why is it your favorite?
Geog 341 – GIS1.  It’s my opportunity to introduce a large body of students to GIS technology and a new way of looking at the world.  Many students enter the course convinced they won’t like it, or thinking it doesn’t apply to them.  Afterward, many love it and some add the minor, certificate, or even change majors.  

You’ve been a member of the WLIA since 1995. Care to share any highlights from past WLIA conferences?

My first memory of WLIA is of Jerry Sullivan administering the map competition and talking to colleagues about the finer points of a modern land information system.  That fella has passion.  I remember questioning my own abilities after listening to him talk.  

I also recall when the UWSP GIS Center purchased three vendor booth spaces for our 6 foot by 10 foot map of the Stevens Point Flowage and boat display.  Christine Koeller nailed her presentation on that same subject and a bunch of us (WLIA members) helped her celebrate.