n 2007, Washington College’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program fit into a single classroom, Goldstein 206. There were a bare handful of student interns and one staff supervisor. That was also the year that Stewart Bruce was hired by the current Director of the Center for Environment and Society, Dr. John Seidel. Taking over what had until then been a fledgling program, Bruce determined that the best way to serve the WC community was to have the GIS Program grow.
In nine years, Bruce did indeed grow the GIS Program, and currently the student intern population is just under 100, and there are 9 full-time professional staff. To accommodate the mass of employees, the GIS Program has operated out of the Dixon Business Park for the past 5 years. The two suites occupied currently have well over five times the original space of Goldstein 206.
In Aug. 2016, Bruce announced his departure from the WC via email and announced his move to a new job in Bermuda.
“I have greatly appreciated everyone’s efforts to grow the program into the best GIS Program on the planet,” he said in the email. “I couldn’t have done this without you.”
During his time at WC, in addition to growing the GIS Program, Bruce was an Adjunct Assistant professor of Anthropology, teaching classes in GIS, remote sensing technologies, and cartography.
Bruce came to WC from Pennsylvania State University where he was a senior extension associate. While working as Program Coordinator for the WC GIS Program, Bruce initiated a relationship working with the Governor’s Office for Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP), launching a project that looked at regional crime data sharing.
The GOCCP Grant is now one of the GIS Program’s largest and longest running, and we are currently pursuing a renewal of the grant to continue the work that Stew began.
Last year, the GIS Program launched the Earth Data project, which is a “huge deal for the GIS lab and the Center for Environment and Society,” according to Bruce.
The Remote Sensing project began a partnership that continues between the GIS Program and Earth Data, a local Centreville company that has been a fixture for over 40 years.
In his last year working with the GIS Program, Bruce also launched the METS Guild, a STEM program for students in grades 7-9 that allowed them to work on real world GIS-related projects, with a second track dedicated to 3D virtual worlds and gaming, and a third track dedicated to web development. After its first successful run, the Guild is now accepting applications for its second year.
Casey Williams, journeyman leader, is one of the student interns leading the youths in the METS Guild program. She said that Bruce was a boss who saw the best qualities in everyone he worked with. “Whenever a visitor would come to the GIS Lab or if were with him at a conference, he would vouch for us, support us, and drum up interest in what we were doing. Stew also encouraged and pushed us to go outside our comfort zones in order to not only develop as employees, but as individuals as well. I never would have gotten involved in programs like METS Guild or the training academy without him believing in my abilities,” she said.
Bruce’s goal was to expand the lab without forgetting the pillars of a Liberal Arts education. In an email he sent as a thank you last year, he wrote, “While our customers are obviously very important, our number one priority is now, and always will be, to provide experiential learning opportunities for our students and help guide them into the productive job of their future. It is a combination of a fine liberal arts education available at Washington College with the experiential learning available at the GIS lab that makes our graduates competitive in today’s world market.”
Everyone who met Bruce could clearly see the passion he had for the students who worked at the GIS Program. His goal was to teach them real world GIS skills that would help them go far in their future endeavors after graduation. He passed on all the knowledge he could and provided an environment here at the GIS Program where students could exponentially grow their skills under direct supervision of professional GIS staff.
It is apparent from the success of our alumni that Bruce accomplished that goal. Two of our most recent GIS alumni have gone on to work immediately after graduating thanks to their experiences here. Josh Hyde and Stephen McFall, 2016, have gone on to pursue careers at Booz Allen Hamilton after summer internships that Bruce introduced them to.
“Joining the GIS lab may have been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life,” McFall said in a previous interview about his internship experience with Booz Allen. “The lab offers so many opportunities that you just can’t get anywhere else. I would like to thank Stewart Bruce for all of the help he has given me along the way through my college career.”
Bruce is now working as an Information Systems Officer at the Government of Bermuda, where he acts as a project manager, working to implement a new EnerGov application. He also assists the planning department by providing GIS maps, manages the department’s BEMIS application, and trains staff in GIS skills.
Because of the nine years he dedicated working at Washington College, the student intern population has grown exponentially and the GIS Program has secured incredible projects and opportunities and aspires to continue growing.
Erica McMaster, GIS Operations Manager, has temporarily taken over Bruce’s role. McMaster is a certified GIS Professional and has more than ten years of experience working with GIS and ESRI software. At the GIS Program, McMaster is currently working on the GOCCP and MHSO grants.
All of the staff remaining here at the GIS Program are working hard to fill the gap that was left after Bruce’s departure. He was a phenomenal boss that will be missed.
By Brooke Schultz|
September 26, 2016