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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2017

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New graduate program to begin in 2014

GIS-Program_RizzoCOLORBY JESSICA SPENCER

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) recently approved a new graduate program in geospatial analysis at the University of Mary Washington, set to begin in fall 2014.

The program will consist of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing and global positioning systems to organize, analyze and display spatial information.

Spatial information consists of using high-performance publishing to integrate a variety of data sources, according to the Clinical Data Services. The skills are used in fields ranging from city planning to wildlife management.

The graduate program is an intensive 12 month program for both recent graduates and working professionals and requires the completion of at least 30 course hours in the program before graduation.

While geospatial analysis is currently also an undergraduate major offered at UMW, some of the courses in the department will be required for other majors, such as geology and environmental science.

As an environmental science major, freshman Lillie Johnson will have to take a course in geospatial analysis before she graduates.

“I’m glad that the school is expanding their science and technology programs. They flatter each other, and the classes often transfer from similar majors,” said Johnson. “Geospatial analysis will help me while doing research for my environmental science [major] and help me have more skills for the work field.”

The GIS program will add more courses to the university’s curriculum, according to Richard Finkelstein dean of the college of arts and sciences. Those courses will include issues covering spatial thinking, modeling and spatial statistics, geo spatial intelligence, GeoDesign, GeoVisualzation, remote sensing and digital imagery, geospatial data and services on the web and a capstone project.

Geospatial analysis is applicable to a variety of in other jobs, such as forestry and farming and even hobbies such as hunting.

“I like that the class is required for my major so I can have more sections to explore before officially deciding what I want to major in or minor in,” said Johnson. “I think Geospatial Analysis will be helpful for the school as a whole because history and political science are such popular majors. I think it really helps build the school to be more well-rounded.”

Washington D.C. supplies a vast amount in this field, including federal jobs.

GIS is used for many groups, nonprofits and news organizations. Many sectors of the economy, including federal and local governments, use GIS to track demographics in the military and military commanders, according to Finkelstein.

“We are in a well suited region for this because 35 percent of households have someone working in the federal government or military. There is also an especially large numbers of military employees,” said Finkelstein.

UMWs close proximity to Washington D.C. makes it a prime location for many internships and job opportunities within majors such as history and political science.

“With the geospatial analysis major, Mary Washington will be ranked high among schools over all; it will be lumped with schools more like Virginia Tech and their engineering program, and [James Madison University] who has majors revolving around so many different categories,” said Johnson.

Other Virginia schools also have similar programs but the programs vary in difficulty and advancement.

The program targets current and new students who are looking to pursue a career in GIS, according to Finkelstein.

“Our program is one of a kind,” said Finkelstein. “Although there are similar programs at Tech and GMU, ours is the only one that completely uses GIS and assumes prior course work, compared to Tech that focuses on a wider range of information. GMU’s graduate program is more like our undergraduate programs, showing that our program is more advanced,” said Finkelstein.

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