The Department of Geography and Anthropology has been awarded a University of Wisconsin System "Growth Agenda-Institutional Change Grant" for the Geospatial Education Initiative (GEI). The award is for $418,829 for three years beginning 7/1/2014. The purpose of this initiative is to cultivate and promote the skills needed for today's student entering the geospatial workforce.
The GEI developed from a strong need for highly skilled graduates in the field of geospatial technology and science. The Geospatial Technology sector has been recognized as a high growth industry by the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. With an anticipated growth estimated at 35% annually by the Geospatial Information and Technology Association, the GEI presents a tremendous opportunity for UW-Eau Claire to increase the number of graduates placed within successful careers in Wisconsin and beyond. Based on 2011 data, in the state of Wisconsin alone there were 161 businesses, employing 639 people, directly within the geospatial industry. Many other businesses, ranging from engineering to health services and IT firms to environmental consultants that are all heavily invested in geospatial technology creating an increasing demand for skilled employees. This demand is reflected on the Wisconsin State Cartographer’s website where job posts for geospatially related employment has seen a steady increase over the past decade with over 180 posts alone in 2013. These numbers clearly demonstrate the demand for graduates with geospatial talent in the state.
In response to the demand for graduates with geospatial knowledge and skills, the Department of Geography and Anthropology began several Geospatial Certificate programs in 2013. The overwhelming response of over 30 students enrolled in the first academic year, led in part to the development of the GEI. The recent demand for emergent and cutting edge technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Systems, Light detection and ranging (LiDAR), and hyperspectral imaging also led to the development of the GEI.
The Geospatial Education Initiative (GEI) has three core goals:
1) To enhance teaching and learning by developing informative relationships between UW-Eau Claire Faculty and Businesses in Wisconsin and beyond;
2) To create a sustainable and relevant internship program with geospatial-related businesses; and
3) To transform geospatial education through innovating existing curriculum, developing new course offerings, and the establishment of a comprehensive geospatial major.
The GEI is also an interdisciplinary project with collaborators from across the University including the Department of Information Systems and Marketing and Management in the College of Business, the Department of Computer Science, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Collaborators will work together to innovate existing curriculum both within the geospatial domain as well as other related courses in participating departments across campus. For example, computer programming will be integrated into existing and future geospatial curriculum. To effectively prepare our students for the frontier in geospatial technology, several new courses such as Business Location Analytics, LiDAR, and UAS will be developed. As more classes become available, several additional specialized geospatial certificates will be offered.
A list of GEI collaborators is below:
The GEI also has several business partners. These partners will work directly with UW-Eau Claire faculty to provide input on existing curriculum and to collaboratively design innovative and relevant curriculum. The relationships built with the business partners will foster innovative enterprise that engage students directly with geospatial professionals through activities such as internships and cooperative problem solving. We anticipate an increase in the number of business partners over the next three years. In the summer of 2014, business partners will attend a summit with faculty to provide input on core curriculum using the US Department of Labor's Geospatial Technology Competency Model as a foundation.
Current business partners include:
The funds awarded will be used for course development, student assistants, travel to conferences and professional development, hosting business partners for annual business summits, an advanced geospatial instructional and research computer lab, and geospatial equipment (both fixed wing and rotary unmanned aerial systems, color and near infrared sensors, high accuracy global positioning systems, field laptops etc.).