Interview with Brooke Schumacher, Class of 2017



Download Audio (9.5 MB)

Download Interview Transcript, PDF File (202 KB)

Download Interview Transcript, TXT File (49 KB)

Download Interview Transcript, DOCX File (56 KB)


Media is loading


Oral history interview with Illinois State University alum Brooke Schumacher, Class of 2017. The interview was conducted on March 7, 2024 by Aaron Englebretsen and Julia Bell, then students in Dr. Reecia Orzeck’s class Geography 375: Qualitative Research Design and Methods of Human Geography.

After high school, Schumacher spent two years at community college and took a gap year before deciding to attend Illinois State University. She chose geography as her major due to her desire for a career that combined field and office work, engaged with environmental issues, and offered diverse opportunities. Schumacher's career aspirations always leaned towards environmental protection, and she expressed a long-held interest in working with the EPA, where she now serves as an environmental protection specialist. Her responsibilities include monitoring landfills, hazardous waste, and ensuring proper recycling practices. Schumacher credits her ISU education, including various classes and her role as president of the Geography Club, for developing the skills necessary for her career. The Geography Club, which she revitalized, played a significant role in fostering community and collaboration among students and faculty.

Schumacher's professional journey included volunteer work at Starved Rock State Park, which later transitioned into an internship and a paid position with the Department of Natural Resources. She leveraged her GIS skills to improve the park's mapping capabilities, showcasing the practical application of her academic background. Schumacher also discusses her research assistantship experiences at ISU, including projects on political mapping and mining in Peru.

Schumacher appreciates the unwavering support and guidance she received from geography faculty. Coming from a small farming community with limited educational resources, she faced early discouragement in science due to a high school teacher's bias against female students. Despite this, her innate aptitude for environmental science and spatial recognition drove her to pursue her passion. At ISU, initial hesitancy gave way to admiration as she found mentors like Dr. Reecia Orzeck, who provided invaluable advice on navigating a male-dominated field, balancing professional and personal life, and handling sexist remarks. Orzeck's support was crucial when Schumacher faced sexism from peers. She also acknowledges other professors, including John Thayne, RJ Rowley, John Kostelnick, and Matt Himley, for their respective contributions to her academic and professional development. The encouragement from Dagmar Budikova, who advised Schumacher to pursue a master's degree elsewhere to continue growing, was particularly impactful.

Professionally, Schumacher's role with the Illinois EPA's Bureau of Land allows her to blend her passion for environmental protection with a favorable work-life balance. She highlights the importance of her role in managing landfills and hazardous waste compliance, underscoring how her education in research and writing from ISU aids her daily. Personal experiences, like the loss of her supportive mother, have reinforced the importance of self-care and perseverance in a male-dominated industry. She emphasizes the value of mentorship, lifelong learning, and the resilience needed to thrive as a woman in science.

Interview Date



  • Introduction; Schumacher’s path to majoring in geography at ISU: 00:00-03:43
  • Working at the Illinois EPA: 03:43-05:42; 40:24-46:11
  • Leading Geography Club: 05:42-09:27
  • Relationships with classmates: 09:27-13:07
  • Internship at Starved Rock State Park; GIS skills: 13:07-19:30
  • Work and research experiences as a student: 19:30-27:52
  • Influential faculty: 27:52-33:56
  • Experiences with sexism in geography: 33:56-36:32
  • Keeping in touch with geography faculty: 36:32-40:24
  • Environmental activism: 46:11-49:53
  • Losing her mom; advice for women in male-dominated fields: 54:25
  • Conclusion: 54:25-55:30

Interview with Brooke Schumacher, Class of 2017