SALISBURY, MD---From retracing the 17th century voyages of Captain John Smith to tracking septic sources to help make Maryland cleaner, Dr. Michael Scott has spent the past few years demonstrating versatile uses of geographic information systems.
However, Scott, associate professor in Salisbury University’s Geography and Geosciences Department, is one of the first to admit that GIS skills only go so far in the workplace without the administrative skills to back them up.
“You can’t operate in a vacuum,” Scott said. “Even if 90 percent of what our graduates do in the work force relates to the technical side of geography, they still need a good sense of administration in working with cities, counties, states - even businesses.”
Starting this summer, SU helps students bridge that gap through its new Master of Geographic Information Systems and Public Administration Program. The track is already benefiting some members of the SU community.
When alumna Lauren McDermott (’01) heard about the new master’s, she jumped at the chance to enroll. The program gives her the chance to hone mapping skills and to better partner with county and state governments.
“It’s exciting that this program is available locally at SU,” she said. “Since my job is highly managerial, dealing with employees and coordinating projects, it will improve the way I help run the Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative (ESRGC).”
The format of the new program is unlike any other in the country, Scott said. With classes on campus and online, the one-of-a-kind degree combines the study of geographic information management with management of local government and municipalities. Designed for working professionals, it may be completed in either 13 or 25 months.
An initial cohort of 10 is taking two courses at SU this summer: public administration and advanced GIS. The online component begins in the fall. “The web-based, user-friendly format allows people to earn the degree while working, which is a big selling point,” Scott said.
McDermott said the format of SU’s new program still fosters the same connections usually made in the classroom. “We get to know each other on campus, and then for the rest of the semester, you have a face to put with the people you are e-mailing,” she said.
Scott said the program appeals to a wide range of students, who this semester include employees of non-profits, planning departments and the U.S. Coast Guard. Most reside in Maryland or Virginia, but he expects it will soon attract students nationwide.
“We saw a real need for this,” said Scott, director of the ESRGC, which provides access to GIS technology, data, technical support and training on the Eastern Shore. He said the program brings valuable expertise to the local towns and counties because many students will be placed with the organization to complete project requirements.
SU alumnus and GIS analyst Jason Wheatley (’04) is one student whose new skills will benefit the ESRGC. “It’s grown extensively in recent years and this will help me delegate and manage our many incoming projects more efficiently,” he said. “It’s an intense accelerated master’s and we’ve just dived right into the material.”
The new interdisciplinary program is taught by faculty from the Geography and Geosciences, Political Science, and Information and Decision Sciences departments. Students also take three courses in University of Baltimore’s Master of Public Administration Program.
Applications are being accepted for summer 2008. For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the program Web site at http://www.salisbury.edu/geography/msgispa.