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Alyssa Breu graduated from UW-Superior in the fall of 2011 with her degrees in Biology and Environmental Science. After spending the majority of her undergrad research time doing field work, she was pulled towards a job that that did not require her to sit in an office all day, but rather she wanted to move around and be able to spend some time working outside. Eventually she found a job that fit the bill, and she is now working with Metropolitan Council Environmental Services in St. Paul, MN
Breu has always had a passion for biology, so when she was first hired on to work in the Wastewater Treatment Lab, she was thrilled to have the opportunity to work in a nontraditional setting and do something that she was truly interested in. She was able to learn a lot while she was there and it was great for gaining work experience. However, after spending a couple of months in the lab, Breu realized that she was beginning to miss her time outside collecting firsthand research. This encouraged her to apply for another job, this time with Industrial Waste and Pollution Prevention, and she was able to successfully obtain the new position.
With her new job, Breu is now part of a group that is responsible for checking the water at various facilities to ensure that it is up to standards. She explains, "I also do inspections at industrial customer sites, am involved with community collection systems, wastewater treatment plants, MCES interceptors, and liquid waste hauler sites to ensure discharges from industrial waste sources are in compliance with local and federal regulations." Other than this day-to-day work, Breu also is a part of an emergency response team that answers to calls dealing with spills or harmful discharges into the water.
Her favorite parts about the job are being able to do fieldwork and being able to work with experienced people who continue to teach her more and more as she grows with the company. As a very outgoing and approachable person, Breu thrives in a setting where she is able to use her social talents for the benefit of her work. During a typical workweek, she spends one day in the office and the rest are spent either inspecting the assigned sites or doing lab observations alongside her team.
All in all there is not much that Breu does not enjoy about her job. One of the challenges for her is simply dealing with the various shifts in weather, since it is necessary that the samples are acquired regardless. Working in Minnesota, there can be plenty of extremes in weather patterns, but Breu jokes and refers back to the popular saying that, "neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed monitoring rounds!" Rain or shine, the job must go on.
Other than the weather, one thing about her job that is uncomfortable for Breu to deal with is working within small spaces such as manholes. Despite her uneasiness about working in such a confined space, she is still very optimistic about the situation and comments, "You develop a good ability to deal with defying challenges like this through time and it has helped build me as an individual." With her positive attitude and willingness to face the less than ideal conditions, Breu is a perfect fit for the job.
Though she certainly has some natural talents that help her in her job, Breu also credits her time and experiences at UW-Superior for helping her to be as successful as she is today. While she was attending college, she was a part of the GEARS program that helped underprivileged kids in the classroom, and she was also captain of both the cross country and track and field teams. She knows how big of an impact sports can have on a person's professional career, and she reflects, "I believe being on and a part of these teams really helped me learn to always give my best, because it is never about you in a sport. You are looking to benefit the team, do your finest, be successful, and have a positive outcome for everyone involved." Breu carries these concepts over into the workplace, and they have proved to be successful.
Not only has her running in college helped her with her job, but it has actually allowed her to take on another role at her workplace. She is currently in charge of the Fit for Life program within the office, so she is responsible for motivating others with ways to help make their lives healthier. Breu certainly embodies the image of this program, since she has completed 15 half marathons, 2 marathons, and even a 35 mile ultra-marathon all within 2012. Her next step is training for an ironman competition that will take place in Madison, WI later in the year.
Since Biology is a popular major at UW-Superior, Breu has some advice to share with students interested in the field. She encourages students to get field experience to help to build up their resume. She recommends, "If you can get your hands on research opportunities, take advantage of them even if you are volunteering. Also, get involved with clubs or volunteer work, Students of Science, [or] GEARS; things like that are offered year round on campus and really help build people as individuals." Another great component that Superior has to offer students is its professors. It was through these people that Breu developed her passion for biology, and she was very grateful to have such wonderful mentors.
Though she has no doubt received plenty of advice throughout the years, one piece has stuck with Breu over time more than the others. Her mother once told her, "Do what you love; the money does not matter, only that you find happiness and the ability to look forward to walking into the 'office' every day. That is worth more than any paycheck." Breu certainly embodied this advice, and she found herself a job that she is truly passionate about.
Alyssa Breu was interviewed as a part of the Career Services Day in the Life project. Her full interview and those of other UW-Superior alumni can be found on the Day in the Life website, http://www.uwsuper.edu/career/students/a-day-in-the-life.cfm.
Interview conducted by Kristen Jasperson on January 10,2013. Article written by Kristen Jasperson.
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