BMCC was just awarded $300,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop five new courses in Geographic Information Science (GISc)—the first program of its kind at a CUNY community college.
The project—funded by NSF’s Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program—will prepare students for entry-level employment in the fast-growing field of geotechnology, and provide the basic education to enter the third year of a bachelor’s degree program in GISc.
Eventually, says the project's Principle Investigator, Computer Information Systems (CIS) Professor Don Wei, "We will work with Hunter College's 4-year geography program, and create a pipeline of students from our program to theirs."
In this first phase, he explains, "The GISc courses will be developed, and BMCC faculty will work with Hunter's geospatial specialists."
Interdisciplinary approaches are the future
Four BMCC professors—two computer scientists and two social scientists—collaborated to shape the new courses, which will improve students’ geo-literacy through innovative use of emerging technologies, case studies, hands-on projects and in-class research.
“Students will be able to look at social problems, and learn practical tools to solve them,” says Professor Patricia Mathews-Salazar, Director of the Ethnic Studies department at BMCC, and a Co-Principal Investigator for the project, along with CIS Professor Yan Chen, and Professor Emily Anderson, Chair of the Social Science department.
“Interdisciplinary approaches are the future, when it comes to solving many issues,” says Mathews-Salazar, who is also a cultural anthropologist, and teaches Human Geography, where “we don’t just look at mapping, but at what humans make with their environment, as well as constraints of the environment.”
Geospatial technology, she explains, “means using computer systems to map social landscapes—which have to do not just with place, but with groups of people and communities, all represented by data—and that’s a skill related to many emerging employment opportunities, at many levels.”
The technology, which visualizes, measures and analyzes Earth’s features is popularly associated with GPS (Global Positional Systems), but is also applied in disaster management, locating water sources, tracking pandemics, city planning and military applications. It is increasingly vital in the telecommunications, utilities and transportation industries, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the field is growing at an annual rate of 35%.