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Internships & Engaged Learning

Students majoring in Geography and Meteorology participate in a wide variety of internships, research experiences, and other forms of engaged learning

Internships 

Internships provide a practical experience to the skills and knowledge students develop in the classroom.  For both geography and meteorology, the Northern Illinois region offers outstanding opportunities for internships during the academic year and also during the summer.  

Students interested in internship opportunities should discuss their interest with the Geography or Meteorology undergraduate advisor.  Elective credit for an internship may be earned under GEOG 391.  Up to 3 semester hours of GEOG 391 may be applied to requirements for the degree in geography or meteorology; another 3 semester hours may be applied to the total credit hour requirements for the undergraduate degree.

Employers seeking an intern are welcome to contact the Department of Geography.

Our students have interned as:

  • Conservation assistants; Ecologists; Environmentalists; Parks ecologists; Soil conservationists; Soil analysts; Zookeepers
  • GIS technicians; GIS analysts; GIS specialists; GPS technicians; Drafters; Database specialists
  • Meteorologists; Aviation meteorologists; Weather analysts; Weather broadcast producers; Weather forecasters; Weather warning coordinators
  • Planning officers; Researchers; Transportation planning technicians; Zoning enforcement assistants; Engineering technicians;  Economic development analysts; Business analysts

Research Experience

Participating in a research project is often one of the most intellectually rewarding forms of learning you’ll encounter.   Research is where ideas are generated and tested; where we thoroughly evaluate what is known and unknown; and where we hone our skills and develop new ones.  Research is discovery!

The process for participating in a research project can be formal or informal.  On campus, formal programs include the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) and the university’s Undergraduate Special Opportunities in Artistry and Research (USOAR) program.  Off campus, there are Research Experienced of Undergraduates (REU) programs sponsored by university research centers, federal laboratories, and the research offices of various state and federal agencies.  NIU students have been particularly successful in competing for REUs with NOAA and the National Weather Service.   Informally, students work with faculty and staff on their research projects.   Past groups of students have: helped build the NIU Campus WebMap and Huskie Bus Tracks System; studied sugar maple adaptation to climate change in Canada; undertaken morphometric analysis of Martian valley networks; mapped Tai place names in Southeast Asia; compared soil properties from conventional- vs. no-till farm fields; analyzed patterns of lightning strikes over a rapidly urbanizing area; and built agent-based models of traffic flow for analysis of congestion impacts.

If you’re interested in a research experience, talk to the geography or meteorology advisor. Better yet, talk to faculty and staff about opportunities to work with them on a current research project, write your own USOAR project idea, or apply for a URAP. 

Other Engaged Learning

Engaged learning also happens in the classroom, the lab and the field.  If you’re looking for an opportunity to put your geographic or meteorological skills and knowledge to work in service to the northern Illinois community and earn credit toward the degree, you have two options: MET 431, Applications in Climatology and GEOG 490, Community Geography.  Each of these courses is designed to engage teams of students on small research or service projects sponsored by an external “client.”  Examples of past projects include: creating a downtown building footprint GIS and land use inventory for the City of De Kalb; investigating the impacts of winter precipitation on a line haul transportation service center; developing and producing neighborhood-scale “poverty maps” for the Northern Illinois Food Bank; developing a climatological guidebook for a north-central Illinois agri-business; conducting community surveys of recreational trail usage throughout De Kalb, Sycamore, and Cortland; and identifying meteorological conditions that cause high winds leading to power generating turbine failures.  Students, if you’re interested in MET 431 or GEOG, please see the calendar or courses for when each of these is next offered, then talk to the instructors.  Community members, if you have a project that you believe could utilize the background of geography or meteorology students, please contact the department at 815-753-0631 and ask to speak to the instructor of GEOG 490 or MET 431. 

You don’t have to take a course, intern or volunteer on a research project to participate in engaged learning.  Members of our Geography Club and NIU Student Chapter of the of the American Meteorological Society regularly sponsor trips and activities that are both fun and educational.  If your interests are largely environmental or you just enjoy being outdoors, check out our award winning Soil Judging Team.