veteran and East Carolina University student Matthew Chandler made a family
discovery while interning for the United States Forest Service.
Chandler is a geographic information science and technology major who worked with an archaeologist researching Camp Patterson, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp established in the early 1930s in the Croatan National Forest in what is now Havelock.
“I was tasked with performing research on the camp, locating and documenting the remaining structural foundations, and ultimately mapping the footprint of the old camp,” Chandler said. “During my time on the project, I uncovered that my great-grandfather happened to be a foreman at the camp — unbeknownst to me at the time. I located a couple of photographs that included a panoramic of the camp and a group photo of the personnel, which also featured my grandfather.”
Family is important to the New Bern native, who enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two young daughters when he is not at school. “My family is the most important part of my life,” said Chandler. “Put simply, I enjoy being outside — the fresh air and dynamic, living scenery is simultaneously stimulating and therapeutic to me.”
While in the U.S. Army, Chandler was stationed at Fort Gordon in Georgia, Camp Carroll in South Korea and Fort Hood in Texas – his last assignment. He applied and was accepted to several different universities, but ECU would bring him back to eastern North Carolina.
“After my first daughter was born, I wanted to go to school where I could commute,” Chandler said. “My wife’s grandfather had a house available in New Bern, so ECU was the best option for me.”
ECU was also one of the universities that offered Chandler’s major – a complete switch from his military role as a strategic communications equipment technician and communications security expert. “In essence, I was responsible for maintaining the safeguards and accountability of classified/sensitive information as well as cryptographic equipment,” he said.
He sought a smooth career transition after being in the service.
“Geographic information sciences is a very marketable major,” Chandler said. “Many people don’t realize it, but it is everywhere. Employers are looking for people that can handle data collection, analysis and visualization. Everything is related to something, and our profession is dedicated to analyzing data and showcasing relationships, regardless of the industry.”
Chandler said that he has enjoyed his time at ECU. “We have a really good department. They’re genuinely supportive and they want to you succeed. The faculty and staff are always there to help you,” he said.
On campus, Chandler has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society and ECU’s chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon Geographical Honors Society. “My time in the service taught me a lot about leadership. Whenever we have group activities, I always try and step up to the leadership roles. The Army taught me how to get outside of my own bubble and to not be afraid to take charge,” he said.
Chandler also completed another internship with the U.S. Forest Service where he collected GPS data, mapping wildfires and creating endangered species maps.
“Overall, my internship allowed me to gain a lot of practical experience in the field that I couldn’t get from inside a classroom. It also helped to reinforce everything that I was learning at school into a field setting,” he said.
Following graduation this December, Chandler would like to work with an engineering or surveying firm. “I believe the experience gained from getting my hands dirty will translate well when coupled with my formal education in GIS as I progress through my career,” he said.
He is also looking forward to spending more time with his family.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? I wish I had known about all of the resources that Joyner Library has to offer.
What advice do you have for other students?
Do your work!
Set your goals and go after them.
Written by: Sophronia Knott
Photography by: Cliff Hollis