A new geography lab, featuring 30 state-of-the-art PC computers with Geographic Information System (GIS) software, is to open fall semester at GCC in Santa Barbara 161.
Geographic Information Systems may sound foreign to those without a professional background, but these may be more familiar than most people think. Mapquest, Yahoo! Maps and navigational systems are all types of Geographic Information Systems, and because of the growing demand for the technology, the job market for GIS is in demand.
“People designing systems and keeping work on systems for companies are in high demand, but students don’t know about them,” said Michael Reed, who teaches Geography 120 — Introduction to GIS, a beginning course that will ultimately be part of a certificate program in GIS. “People can create a profession out of it and get paid for it.”
GIS is computerized mapping software used as a way to database and analyze complex spatial information in order to keep track of things and detect patterns.
Reed would like to stress that GIS is important not only to geography but to all sorts of professions, from businesses and marketing firms to politics to geology to archeology.
Its wide variety of uses include keeping track of inventory, environmental resources, pollution sources and endangered species. It can also help to detect patterns such as crime statistics for the police. Companies and individuals have used this software to find what areas direct mailers should be sent to, to map out billboards on Eagle Rock and Colorado boulevards, and even to fund the best places to retire.
In addition, politicians may use GIS to analyze the people most crucial to the election and how to get direct mailing to voters who may change their minds. Also, archeologist smay conceptually store and analyze information about different strata of earth using the GIS. Businesses and marketing firms can use it to locate customers in certain demographic criteria.
“McDonalds has its own private internal GIS system to decide where the [restaurants] should go in [suburban developments],” said Reed. “Finding the right customers and land are complex spatial tasks perfect for GIS.”
Reed hopes to begin a certificate program in which students take four to five classes to earn a certificate in GIS.
Depending on student demand and getting courses running, Reed would like to see this GIS program available in the next year or two. He will be teaching the introductory course; advanced courses will be taught by part-time instructors who are GIS professionals working with this technology on a daily basis. To be hired to work with GIS, what matters is skill.
“I’ve seen many people get jobs after two to three classes, though many of these people have B.A. degrees,” said Reed. Though “the best jobs go to people with four-year degrees, if you know how to do it, they want you,” says Reed. “Almost every city in the U.S. has a GIS [professional]; Glendale has three.” Based on Reed’s past experience, some students may just want the GIS certificate to get to work.
This new lab is funded by the new Cimmarusti Science Center (named after two brothers who contributed to the construction and were also GCC alumni), by the geography department itself, by Robert Newcomb (whose wife is a GCC alumna) and by general funds from the college.
It will be shared by geography classes and by science classes that need computers. Along with the new computers that can handle the memory-intensive software, there will be large 17- or 19-inch flat screen monitors to display fine detail, and large format inkjet printers able to print out professional maps up to 24-feet wide.
Students get the chance to make a map, specific to Glendale, in the first introductory class, though special interests are accommodated.
These classes are transferable to many colleges’ geography departments, but are not transferable as general education requirements.
Students who seek more information or who are interested in GIS can visit www.gis.com and may make a note in their calendar for the GIS class offered next semester.