This blog is all about the cool things you can do with Geographic Information Systems and the people behind the magic.
Tuesday, February 4, 2020
Thanks and Throwbacks
GIS, with all 95 employees of the lab, is continuing to expand in projects and size since Dr. John Seidel established it in 2003.
Recently, GIS launched the Earth Data project, which is a “huge deal for the GIS lab and the Center for Environment and Society,” according to GIS Program Coordinator Stewart Bruce.
“It is projects like we have now with Earth Data that are going to help us double in size over the next few years,” Bruce said. “And we won’t get there without the total support of the entire GIS team.”
Bruce came to Washington College’s GIS Program in August 2007 from Penn State. Before him, Wendy Miller headed the program for three years.
As Bruce looks forward to GIS growing still, he also recounted how much the Program has grown already, since beginning eight years ago. The lab began in one of the College’s buildings, in Goldstein 206 and expanding into Goldstein 200 and was started by Direct of the Center for Environment and Society Dr. John Seidel.
Staff member Katherine Wares had worked all four years of her college career in the GIS lab, and then joined the staff for an additional year. She remembered stumbling into the opportunity to work at the lab when it was still on campus.
“I got lost over Summer Advising Day and ended up in the GIS Lab, and Stew basically offered me a job that day. So I started working the Monday of my freshman year,” she said.
Then, the lab had still been just beginning to grow, and by the time Wares was on staff, the lab was already in its new location.
“We used to have two people work out of a closet across from Goldstein 206,” Bruce said in a “thank you” email to the interns and staff working at the lab. “We now have five times the space we used to have, and if you look around, we are pretty cramped right now.”
GOCCP was one of GIS’ earliest customers, and the team did a project looking at regional crime data sharing. “We are now on our thirteenth GOCCP grant project,” Bruce said. Crime represents the program’s growth over the years.
“We started with GOCCP, added MHSOx2, then added vehicle theft. Right now, that is over $800,000 in funding for the lab,” Bruce said.
The lab also did a “really cool 3D Visualization of St. Michaels,” which was the lab’s first 3D project. Now, in GIS’ METS Guild Program for local kids grades 7-9, they have a whole track dedication to 3D Visualization and Gaming.
Bruce sees the lab twice as large as it is now, with multiple locations in Chestertown over the next 8 years. “Twice as large means to me we will have more than twenty professional staff and 150 student interns and a budget of about 2.5 million per year. We will only get there if everyone works hard,” he said. “Our motto is great customer service and a high quality product. Nothing sells the lab better than satisfied customers.”
With the hope that the METS Guild will continue to flourish and gain more funding, and the all new and exciting Earth Data Project, it looks like those goals are becoming more and more a reality for the lab. But expanding the lab won’t take away from the unique experience student interns get from working with the program.
“While our customers are obviously very important, our number 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,” Bruce said. “It is a combination of a fine liberal arts education available at WC with the experiential learning available at the GIS lab that makes our graduates competitive in today’s world market.”