Member Spotlight: Emily Sudar

Posted By: Kim Meinert 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!


I've known Emily for a few years from the GIS community and was lucky enough to snag her for my own team as one of our LIS Analysts in the past year.  I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her more over the last few months, and now you can too!  Introducing Emily Sudar (formerly Berth) - a graduate of UW-Milwaukee, lover of dogs, good art, and a great Facebook Marketplace find, especially if it has a map on it.

How did you come to your current profession or job?  

My journey began like most of ours did – in art school. If that doesn’t sound like your story I’m not surprised, but I do I love the answers I’ve seen to this question because there are so many diverse paths into the GIS field.  Specifically, though, I originally studied painting at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. After a few semesters, I realized I wasn't on the right path and decided to take time off to work, travel, and explore different career options.

Ultimately, after spending a lot of time reviewing the US Department of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, I decided to become ‘A Geographer’. I was drawn to geography because it integrates design, technology, and culture. I went back to UW-Milwaukee as a returning student, began sitting in the first three rows, raised my hand too often and never looked back.

Working in the public sector aligns with my desire to contribute to my community, which led me to GIS roles at Milwaukee County, the Wisconsin DNR, the City of Waukesha, and now Waukesha County. I enjoy working at the County level because it offers the challenge of creating unique solutions for diverse stakeholders and coordinating across various organizations.

What’s your most favorite part and least favorite part of your job?

My favorite aspect of my job is designing – whether it's data, workflows, applications, or maps. I thrive on problem-solving, uncovering all the elements involved, and figuring out the most effective way to integrate them. It’s really rewarding to see how all the pieces come together.

My least favorite part of my job is encountering overly complicated processes that I can’t help improve. I tend to ask a lot of questions to understand how things work together and why certain legacy elements persist. It’s frustrating when there is resistance to examining issues or considering changes.


What’s the best advice someone has ever given you?

Two pieces of wisdom stand out as particularly impactful in my career. The first comes from Glen Fredlund, a professor at UW-Milwaukee. Early in my return to school, he emphasized the importance of asking questions and thinking critically, a lesson that resonated deeply and shaped my approach to challenges as a geographer and as a person.

The second piece of advice is simpler but has been invaluable to me. My husband once described emails to me like a game of tennis, and that he always wanted to keep that volley going and the ball off his side of the court.  This appealed greatly to my competitive side, and it has helped me keep momentum on projects and requests.

What do you like to do for fun?  (Hobbies, volunteer work, etc)

I have a laundry list of things that I could go through, and most of them are pretty nerdy. A standout for me is playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game I've enjoyed since high school. A chance to iprov with your friends, problem solve with mechanics, all while eating snacks? Count me in.

I also love hiking, foraging, reading, and playing video games. Spending time with my dog, Vilas (named after Vilas County), is another favorite activity. Honestly, I’m only mentioning her so I can justify including all these pictures I have of her in her many hats. Yes, I’m crazy dog owner. 


Does Vilas County have some significance to you that you named your dog after the place?

It’s a beautiful county that my family has visited at least once a year since I was a kid.  My partner and I took a few trips up there early on in our relationship and we’ve always enjoyed the time we get up there. I think since we both work for county governments, we often think of things from county perspective too. When it came to naming our dog, we wanted it to be something we both loved, and Vilas just fit.


What’s something most people wouldn’t guess about you?

While I’m generally an open book (evidenced by my collection of dog-in-hat photos), one thing people may be surprised by is that I’m decent with American Sign Language.  I don’t have many opportunities to practice or use it anymore, but I’m always happy to converse with a fellow signer.

Where are you from originally and did you have any foreshadowing in your childhood that indicated you might end up here?

I’m originally from Green Bay, Wisconsin, but I’ve always had family that lived in the Milwaukee and Waukesha area. My family visited often growing up, so I felt familiar with the area when I moved to Milwaukee for school. I ended up loving the area and couldn’t see myself moving anywhere else.

Where would you most like to travel to and why?

If I had to choose three destinations, they would be Seoul, the Croatian coast, and Scotland. I haven’t visited any countries in Asia yet, and I feel a strong affinity for Korean culture. I’m part of a small (two person) Korean-appreciation club with a friend, where we enjoy Korean food, K-dramas, and talk about fashion. The Croatian coast is appealing because my husband’s family is from there, and I’ve heard wonderful things about it. Lastly, Scotland holds a special place in my heart.  I visited last year with my husband, and we had a blast hiking, visiting distilleries, and learning about the history. We agreed that when we finished the last bottle of whiskey, we brought back we would begin planning our next trip there.


Where else have you been besides Scotland?

I’ve been to a fair share of countries in Western Europe due to a long backpacking trip I took when I was in-between degree programs. In order, the countries I’ve visited are Ireland, Wales, England, France, the Netherlands, Czechia, Italy, Spain, Ecuador, and Scotland. I don’t think I’ve traveled enough around the U.S. to be honest. That’s a goal of mine for within the next decade; travel more in the U.S. and take a few road trips.