Geography graduate student experiences the world

Editor’s note: This story was written by Shannon Bute, a student in Lyle Olson’s magazine writing class. Other stories written by the students can be viewed at

Envision yourself wandering the hills, mountains and plains of the southeastern European countryside or working side-by-side with politicians in Washington, D.C., collecting critical information for natural resources and energy.

Paul Mantz poses in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, where he visited in 2011 and 2012 as a geography graduate student.

Paul Mantz poses in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, where he visited in 2011 and 2012 as a geography graduate student.

For one SDSU geography student, this was a reality.

Graduate student Paul Mantz was not only offered the opportunity to do field work while traveling in Romania and Bulgaria for a couple weeks in the summers of 2011 and 2012, he also was able to work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Currently, Mantz lives in Washington, D.C., where he has a full-time position as a researcher for U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. “I primarily work on policy issues for the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,” Mantz says.

He also is completing his master’s thesis on Romanian nationalism in southeastern Europe and plans to graduate in May.

While traveling through Romania and Bulgaria, a typical day for Mantz consisted of visiting various cities and destinations and interacting with native Romanians. “This helped me gain an understanding of the Romanian people, culture and language,” Mantz says.

Mantz also had the chance to be a student researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory last summer with former SDSU geography graduate student Jordan Graesser as his mentor. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education is a U.S. Department of Energy institute that focuses on scientific initiatives to research health risks from occupational hazards, assess environmental cleanup, respond to radiation medical emergencies, and support national security and emergency preparedness.

“This position gave me the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art geographic information technologies that gather satellite imagery information and develop global demographic data,” Mantz says. “We analyzed formal and informal demographic settlement trends in slums, barrios and squatter communities in South America, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa.”

Before Mantz started at SDSU as a graduate student in 2010, he earned his bachelor’s degree in geography and history at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

By Shannon Bute

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