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ATC volunteers help KTEC students run JA BizTown

American Transmission Co. employees enjoyed volunteering to help Kenosha School of Technology Enhanced Curriculum 5th graders as they explored Junior Achievement of Wisconsin’s JA BizTown.

JA BizTown combines classroom learning with an interactive, simulated town that helps students see the relationship between what they learn in school and their participation in a local economy. ATC volunteers coached students as they operated a bank, restaurant, city hall, newspaper, retail store and 10 other businesses.

“It was inspiring for our group to share time with the students and see what they were capable of when given the opportunity to run their own business, manage and motivate resources, handle conflict and still get their jobs done as CEO or CFO,” said Juanita Banks, ATC vice president of operational compliance and risk management.

Volunteers left feeling a bit tired but with a sense of accomplishment after trying to keep up with the positive energy of the students all day. It was a wonderful experience for all.

Kids share how their families are ATC Ready

Dozens of families have a better understanding of security, safety and emergency preparedness after attending an ATC Ready Night Out event in October. American Transmission Co. employees, retirees and their families learned what it takes to be prepared for an emergency through displays and presentations from ATC’s security teams, local first responders, American Red Cross of Wisconsin, Infinity Martial Arts, gardening expert and horticulturist Melinda Myers, Alliant Energy and more.

ATC Ready is ATC’s preparedness plan to respond, restore and recover from emergency incidents. The ATC Ready Night Out event provides both children and their parents with tips and information on how families can stay safe in emergencies.

Families were able to explore Alliant’s bucket truck, learn how emergency responders save lives in an ambulance and even explore a real helicopter. At the event, children shared how their families are ATC Ready for any emergency through artwork. Scroll through the gallery to see some of their creations.

Back to School Flashback with Carla & Jordan: What ATC team members wanted to be when they grew up

Editor’s Note: Now that students across the country are back in the classroom for a new school year, we asked American Transmission Co. team members to reflect on their youth and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Their stories represent paths to careers that ultimately help keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong.

Carla Skowron, Senior system support specialist

Age: 8, Grade: 2

At the age the photo was taken, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A nurse.

Why?

I liked watching television shows in hospital and paramedic settings.

How did you end up in your current career?

In high school, I really enjoyed business and accounting classes.  A few years later, I started a job as a file clerk at an insurance company. I started to attend school for my accounting degree. I then moved up in my job to a position that involved working with computers. I quickly learned that I enjoyed the computer world. I finished my accounting degree and then started on my computer science degree. Years later, I moved to a corporate retail company and finished my computer science degree while working there. I moved to ATC after a long history of working in information technology and learning many different things that led me to the position I am in now.

 

Jordan Higgins, Information technology desktop administrator

Age: 2

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I initially wanted to be a musician or magician.

Why?

I’ve always enjoyed practicing and performing.

How did you end up in your current career?

When I went to school for music education, and I found it to be far more difficult than I had initially thought. I decided to take some time away from school and next thing I knew I was married and had a child. I went back to school, and once I was nearly done, I found ATC. After a couple of internships there, I was hired.

Back to School Flashback with Trevor & Kathryn: What ATC team members wanted to be when they grew up

Editor’s Note: Now that students across the country are back in the classroom for a new school year, we asked American Transmission Co. team members to reflect on their youth and what they wanted to be when they grew up. Their stories represent paths to careers that ultimately help keep the lights on, businesses running and communities strong.

Trevor Stiles, Senior legal counsel

Age: 7 Grade: 1

At the age the photo was taken, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an archaeologist, spending half my time studying Middle Eastern ruins and the other half of my time lecturing at the University of Oxford. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I decided on Oxford, but that was my childhood dream.

Why?

As a 7-year-old boy, my twin loves were history and digging holes. My three brothers and I lived in Florida for a few years where the soil was sandy and easy to dig in. We were constantly digging holes to bury treasure, build traps or construct fortifications of various sorts. At one point, I asked my mom what job I could have if I liked history and digging holes, and she recommended archaeology as a way to combine both of those loves.

How did you end up in your current career?

I entered undergrad as a pre-med biology major. We were required to take a broad slate of electives, and I was in a class studying Islamic history my freshman year when the Sept. 11 attacks happened. At that point, my elective course became much more of a focus for me. I changed my major to religious studies, with an emphasis on Islamic Gnosticism. While I considered pursuing a Ph.D. and teaching, my mentor recommended professional or grad school to evaluate other options—law seemed like a natural fit and has always been an interest of mine. So I applied to law school and attended Northwestern University.

As to why energy law, my dad is an environmental consultant who owns a small business. I grew up seeing pictures of power plants on the walls of his office, and I spent my college summers climbing smokestacks across the Midwest to do emissions testing.

Given that background, energy/environmental law made sense, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

I love working at ATC—the people are great, the culture is incredible, and I enjoy the variety of work that I get. I didn’t quite end up doing what I dreamed about as a farm kid in rural Ohio, but I’ve never regretted it for a second!

 

Kathryn Erdmann, Consultant regulatory project manager

Age: 10, Grade: 6

At the age the photo was taken, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had no idea.

Why?

At that time (in the late 1960s), from my perspective and based on my limited exposure, the career choices for girls seemed to be nuns, nurses, teachers, and secretaries – and I wasn’t really keen on being any of those.

How did you end up in your current career?

I was the second oldest of seven kids, and had no idea what to do after high school. My family did not have adequate funds to help me go to college. Yet, somehow I always knew I would eventually go to college at University of Wisconsin-Madison, because that is what my older sister did. After high school, I moved out to a ski town in Sun Valley, Idaho, for a couple of years. When I returned to Wisconsin, I qualified as a self-supporting student and was eligible to receive government grants and loans for higher education. Still now knowing what I wanted to be, I started a curriculum in the occupational therapy program at UW-Madison.

During my second semester, I had a major crisis, as I realized I had a great fear of public speaking and was starting to fall behind in the class. So, I decided to drop the class and change my major. A classmate on my dorm floor was studying to be a geologist, which I thought sounded really cool, though I was clueless about what a geologist really did. Coincidentally, my boyfriend at that time (and now husband), was taking an introductory class to geology and was constantly sharing his excitement about the lectures and the field of study. So, I switched things up and soon found myself heading down the path to become a geologist.

I also worked in the geology lab at Madison for many years processing glacial till samples. I conducted tests for grain size analysis, carbonate content and X-ray diffraction. I loved that I was finally connected with the outdoors again and participated in every field trip I could possibly afford.

After graduation, I worked in the field as an on-site geologist for a company doing uranium exploration in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Later, I moved back to Wisconsin and worked for 18 years at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – first as a water supply specialist, sampling and inspecting private and public water supply wells and systems, and then as a hydrogeologist-project manager in the remediation and redevelopment program, focusing on the clean-up and remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater and the redevelopment of brownfields. One of my colleagues there was exploring new job opportunities and was offered a position at ATC in the environmental department. Soon after, I found myself submitting an application to ATC, knowing that a window of opportunity had opened. The idea of learning a whole new industry had me rapt. The next thing I knew, I was offered a position at ATC in the state regulatory affairs department, which paired well with my nearly 20 years of experience at a regulatory agency.

I love everything about ATC and am proud to say I work here. I feel blessed to work in an environment where the values of the company have always and continue to reflect my personal values.

 

ATC aims to create pollinator habitat in power line right-of-way at Mequon Nature Preserve

A late September day in Wisconsin seems reminiscent all things fall: changing leaves, cooler temperatures and the awareness of evolving seasons. For those who consider themselves “green thumbs,” it is also an ideal time of year to plant for the following spring. Unfortunately, the thermometer on Sept. 21, 2017 read a stifling 84 degrees. And on that day, a team of ATC employee volunteers had planned to put 3,300 native plants in a half-acre section of our transmission line right-of-way near the entrance of Mequon Nature Preserve.

Months earlier, our environmental contractor, Cardno, designed a site layout, that included a walking path throughout the vast garden, featuring selections from our Grow Smart® pollinator planting guide to demonstrate how the plants would eventually look. Cardno transported the 3,300 plants in small plug form to the preserve. Once there, they reassured ATC volunteers in the early morning of the sweltering heat that our efforts would eventually produce rotating blooms of vegetation throughout the seasons  – attracting pollinators when they needed the habitat – and creating visual interest for the time in between. Our goal was to establish a habitat that would provide a contiguous flight path for these pollinators within our transmission line rights-of-way that runs through the length of the preserve. We also wanted to showcase the garden at the upcoming Mequon Nature Preserve donor event. Since the donor event was scheduled months in advance – heat or not, we had to get the plants in the ground.

Planting in the hot sun wasn’t the only challenge. Much of the soil in the Mequon, Wis. area is so hard that locals dub it clay. Fortunately, Cardno had the brilliant insight to pack two pieces of unusual but essential machinery: AUGERS. Yes, the gas-powered tool most people associate with ice fishing turned out to be a welcome piece of planting equipment for these conditions.

As the day wore on and volunteers followed the augers’ holes that zigzagged through the parameters of the orange flags, we scratched our heads. How could these delicate little plants ever thrive in such conditions? Once the auger spun out the rock-hard cylinder of dirt and we got the plants in the ground, would their roots feel comfortable in such hardened conditions? Was the preserve’s sprinkler rotation really going to be enough to keep them alive? All of these little plants are meant to help pollinators, but how were they really going to thrive, much less survive?

The Mequon Nature Preserve reassured us that their constant watering would aid the plugs through the unusual heat spell. “Before you know it, they’ll be covered in snow and go dormant,” said the director of education and research, Jason Nickels. “When they wake up in spring, then they’ll grow feet–or, more accurately, start to root.”

Melinda Myers, nationally renowned gardening expert and horticulturist who speaks on behalf of ATC’s Grow Smart® program, echoed that reassurance to a curious group of Mequon Nature Preserve donors two weeks later on Oct. 5. “They’re clay-busters,” said Myers of the thousands of little plants now living under a transmission line. “Part of the reason these plants were selected for this location is because of their ability to root in this dense soil and thrive in it, even if it feels like rock to us.”

Myers led event attendees along a new walking path of fresh wood chips, pointing out the barely visible species in a sea of orange flags, then transitioning to her presentation indoors. There, hundreds of attendees heard from Myers about ATC’s Grow Smart® program and our new initiatives statewide to help pollinators.

Since that time, temperatures have become more reasonable and seasonal. Leaves have finally taken notice of the shift and lost their chlorophyll, casting a fiery hue across the tops of the preserve. And below the transmission line, thousands of plugs sit and wait – ready to go dormant, ready to settle into their new surroundings, and we hope – ready in the seasons to come to help out those pollinators.

Will it work? Stay tuned.

The Grow Smart® pollinator garden at the Mequon Nature Preserve is the first landscaped garden of its kind in ATC’s service area. The purpose for establishing the half-acre garden is to provide a contiguous flight path for monarch butterflies and other pollinators within ATC rights-of-way. Using a custom layer for GIS mapping called the POWR model (Pollinator Opportunities Within Rights-of-Way), we analyze monarch migration paths in areas where our rights-of-way exist and determine locations to improve the pollinator habitat within that region. Other ATC partners for similar pollinator-attracting projects include rights-of-way at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay, Wis. and the Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve in Two Rivers. Additional pollinator-attracting habitat is located within various rights-of-way where we have recently completed construction or have rebuilt transmission lines and then spread a custom seed mix. Watch Melinda Myers on TMJ4’s The Morning Blend talk about the Grow Smart garden at the Mequon Nature Preserve. For more information, visit www.atc-GrowSmart.com.

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