2007 September 13

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Professional Surveyor Magazine

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Editor's Introduction

This week, as the academic year is starting, I discuss university-level GIS education with Professor David DiBiase, lead editor of the Geographic Information Science & Technology Body of Knowledge, and Mike Phoenix, Ph.D., ESRI's Manager of the Education Sector. Plus, fourteen press releases.

Matteo Luccio

University-Level GIS Education

With the start of the academic year, university-level GIS education is gearing up across the country. I discussed developments in the field with two of the people best positioned to monitor it: David DiBiase, a professor of geography at Penn State, and Mike Phoenix, ESRI's Manager of the Education Sector and a former professor of geography. DiBiase directs a distance-learning institute, manages his department's GIS certificate program, and led the editorial team for the first edition of the Geographic Information Science and Technology Body of Knowledge www.aag.org/bok/ published last year by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS).

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Interview with David DiBiase

  1. How are spatial concepts and technologies being incorporated into academic disciplines other than geography?

    Those of us in the field help people learn that there is a basic science in which you can do research and development, but for most people it is simply an aspect of their practice. The Department of Anthropology here at Penn State is looking to hire an anthropologist with some expertise in GIST, to help infuse that mode of analysis into their discipline and their students' education. Similarly, at the College of Agricultural Science, GIST has for some time played a significant role in agriculture. One of the exciting areas in that field is "agro-security" — the idea that there is food security, not just against terrorist threats but also against pandemic diseases and such. We're developing a new master's degree in agro-security and certainly GIST will play some role in that. Another example would be landscape architecture. It has been more of a CAD-based, rather than GIS-based, enterprise, but nowadays landscape architecture departments are looking to hire people with the skills to make their students more competitive.

  2. How has the concern about security affected GIS education?

    It has ramped up the interest in geospatial across the university, because GIST is fundamentally a surveillance technology. Many of the new program developments at many large universities are security-related. We just launched a geospatial intelligence program.

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Interview with Mike Phoenix

  1. About how many students learn GIS in the United States?

    My guess is that it is probably close to 150,000 any given academic year. About 2,500 colleges and universities in the United States use our software. Almost 700 of them are covered by campus-wide site license agreements that allow unlimited installations in all departments on a campus. On campuses with these site licenses, it is not uncommon to have more than 1,000 copies of the software installed. Because of the unlimited aspect of our campus-wide agreements, it is difficult to track exactly how many users we have at universities. We give out a student license, which is free to universities that have our campus-wide license agreement. Worldwide, last year we gave out 50,000 of those and this year it is more likely to be around 75,000. This is an indication of the scope of what is going on at the universities.

  2. You've described the growth of GIS education during your 15 years at ESRI as "pretty steady." What are some of the general trends you've noticed?

    Fifteen years ago, a good percentage of all the GIS courses were being taught in geography departments and most of the rest were in a few other departments — such as urban planning, landscape architecture, and civil engineering. What we've seen in recent years is a tremendous diversification, so that GIS is being taught in literally almost every department. You will find GIS taught in medical schools, veterinary schools, law schools. The full spectrum of what is possible with GIS is occurring out there. At NC State, there are probably 300-400 researchers and almost every school uses GIS for their research.

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News Briefs

Please note: I have neither edited nor verified the content of these press releases.


    1. GeoDecisions to Develop County Data Mapping Portal for NCPRPDC

    2. Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging Expands Channel with T- Kartor

    3. CompassCom Software Integrates Automatic Vehicle Location with Azteca Cityworks

    4. 3001 Wins JALBTCX U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Navy Contract

    5. ESRI and Jane's Information Group Forge Strategic Alliance Geospatially Enabling Jane's Content Provides an Innovative Capability for Data Access and Analysis

    6. GeoDecisions Integrates MetaCarta Geographic Search into IRRIS Logistics Technology


    1. 1Spatial Releases Radius Topology 2.7 Featuring Seven New Task- based 'Wrappers'

    2. Tiltan Systems Engineering Announces Release of TLiD Solution For Automated Lidar Data Processing

    3. New Software Allows ESRI Users To Make Cross-section Presentations in Minutes, Not Days

    4. New Release of ArcGIS Explorer Makes It Easier to Explore and Share Spatial Information Accompanying Web Site Includes New User Resources

    5. Orbit GIS Photo Locator for Mac OSX


    1. Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) Launches UNIGIS Program


    1. DRMP's Bishop Elected Vice President of Florida Surveying and Mapping Society, Volusia County Chapter

    2. Scott Langbein New Topcon Product Marketing Manager

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Matteo Luccio, Editor
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