Falling into the wastewater business leads to a lifelong passion
Autumn Fisher, Master of Science in Project Management student and STEM Scholar, didn’t always dream of working in the wastewater business. Eight years ago, after finishing her bachelor of science in Chemistry at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Fisher applied for a lab analyst position at Fond du Lac Wastewater Treatment Plant. “At that point in my life, it was convenient and it was a job with normal hours. I often joke that I ‘fell into wastewater,’ but I have become passionate about understanding the process more thoroughly and contributing to advancements in an industry which is all too often taken for granted,” said Fisher.
Over time, Fisher moved into an Operations Research Coordinator/Lead Chemist position at the treatment plant. In this position, Fisher realized that she enjoyed not only working in a laboratory setting, but also leading planning, research, and technology innovation processes. With that realization, she began to set her sights on continuing her education.
“I had contemplated graduate school for quite some time but had not found a program that seemed to encompass what it was I was looking for and needed — that is until I found UW-Platteville’s MSPM offering. Once I discovered the STEM Scholar Program, I knew I had to take a shot at applying given my science background and history. It seemed like such a phenomenal opportunity and one that was too good not to at least try for,” said Fisher.
Now that Fisher is in the Master of Science in Project Management program, she is enjoying learning project management approaches and principles. As part of the STEM program, students are paired with a mentor and a champion. These industry professionals share their years of experience to guide the students in the classroom and in their careers. In particular, her one-on-one work with her mentor, Dr. Scott Wright, has helped her apply new-found knowledge to projects directly related to her field.
“Autumn is a pleasure to work with, both as a student and as a mentee. She and I are both experienced in water treatment—mostly on the wastewater side for her, and I’m experienced in that and in drinking water treatment and quality,” said Wright. “Autumn’s work in my class focuses on understanding the requirements necessary to complete a project and to appreciate the circumstances of the project environment as they relate to stakeholders, contracts, risks, and communication.”
Upon completion of her program, Fisher hopes to move into upper management and to specialize in water reclamation. “I feel confident my Master of Science in Project Management as well as the STEM Scholar program will help me to achieve these goals by guiding me with the mentoring and enrichment process offered by the STEM program, as well as the curriculum offered in the MSPM program,” said Fisher. “With a demanding career coupled with two children who are three and five, it is a new balancing act, but the challenge is worthwhile.”
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