Faculty Spotlight: David-Brock
Some offices are a curated representation of a person’s ideal professional message: replicas of paintings of flowers, diplomas, pictures of their loved ones from Hawai’i circa 2009 and a silk plant or two. Other people decorate their office in a manner that truly represents themselves. David Brock is one of those people and he made sure to point this out as he gazed around a book shelf covered in surveying gear, Lego cats, rockets and other memorabilia. One can easily imagine this is what it’s like to walk around in David’s head.
David graduated from UAA with a degree in Geomatics in 2015, only to return to the department in 2019 as a term assistant professor.
Surveying is in David’s blood. His great grandfather learned the trade after WWI and surveyed until he was 90. He could have retired earlier, but he loved it. On the other hand, David’s grandfather, who was also a surveyor, worked three jobs so he could retire at 50. David still has fond memories of holding lath while his grandfather made measurements.
When it came time for David to make a career choice, his grandfather encouraged him to go into engineering like David’s dad. In the late 1990’s, David went to school at the University of Cincinnati and earned a degree in materials engineering. The first job he got was in a shop putting ceramic coating on jet engine parts, but he found himself spending most of his days sending emails and reformatting instruction manuals. There was very little engineering to be done and David was not at all upset when the company laid off the majority of his office.
In the midst of a career that didn’t work right for his needs, David got married, finding changes not only in his personal life but also his career potential. Jennie Brock, his wife, landed a job up in Alaska as a Mechanical Engineering professor. For David, moving to Alaska was an easy transition.
“Some people spend longer thinking about what to order at a restaurant than they do on the big decision to move to Alaska,” David said. “I am in that camp.”
However, he initially had very few plans outside of supporting his wife’s goals. After landing in Anchorage, he looked around for something to do. After scanning the opportunities in his new environment, he decided it was high time for a career change. He began work on a degree in geomatics at UAA, following in his great grandfather’s and grandfather’s steps as a surveyor.
After graduation, David often found himself working in remote areas of Alaska and living his best life. “Basically, I was shooting things with lasers,” he said.
Over the next few years, Alaska’s economy took a hit from low oil prices, eventually leading to the state’s budget crisis. Coincidently, as UAA began to feel those economic impacts, faculty and staff began seeking opportunities elsewhere. In the span of just a few months, the Department of Geomatics lost two of their four fulltime professors, and they needed to hire replacements as soon as possible. But their first effort ended in a failed search; just as they were offering the job to a suitable candidate, UA’s former president declared financial exigency. Unsure about the future of UAA, the candidate ultimately declined the offer.
This left the Department of Geomatics in a tough position. Courses still needed instructors, students still needed a valuable education, and the industry still needed new surveyors. Thankfully, Alaska has a strong surveying network, and it wasn’t long before David heard about the opening. He reached out to the department chair, Caixia Wang. Within days, he found himself on a survey crew in the middle of the woods, interviewing by phone with the dean of the College of Engineering. Two weeks later, David was back in Anchorage as the newest faculty member of the Department of Geomatics. A job that is a good fit for him and a good fit for UAA.