In this project I will develop opportunities for students to learn how to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in their academic research and practical internships related to community development. An understanding of GIS is becoming essential for individuals who work in all areas of research and development in academia, government, and in the non-profit and for-profit sectors. GIS is useful in a wide range of applications including historical research, economic and cultural research and development, management, marketing, grant writing, and policy.
A pilot program for the project, connected to the Austin College SEPA program and the Social Science Data Lab, will be initiated during the fall of 2014, with plans for expansion over the next three years. In the first phase of the project we will make training and internship opportunities available to three Austin College students and three Choctaw students from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. During the fall of 2014 the six students and I will receive GIS training from Michael Schmitz from the Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG). The AC students will then work on specific GIS research projects under my and TCOG’s supervision, while the Choctaw students will work on GIS projects with the Choctaw Nation. I plan to gradually increase the number of students and agencies involved in this component of the program over the next several years. The Second component of the program will involve incorporation of GIS into my course entitled “Active Citizenship,” tied to the minor in Non-Profit Organizations and Public Service.
The initial offering of the course included a class project in which the students were required to develop a program proposal to address a pressing local need. (The students proposed a very intriguing after-school program for local children). For this component of the project I/we will provide the students in the next offering of the course with basic GIS training and then require them to incorporate GIS into their research and project proposal. I hope to eventually become adept enough with GIS to teach this section of the course myself. Until that time, I will rely on assistance from others. I believe that this exposure to GIS will be very beneficial to students as they pursue independent research, internships, graduate study, or careers.
It is possible that I will require some purchase of or subscription to certain data sets for GIS research/application but I will not know whether this will be necessary until we get involved in specific projects. ESRI (developer of ArcGIS) makes available a demographic and lifestyle data set that is approximately $1500 depending on how we license it.
Project Update–28 February 2015
- Where does the project presently stand? We currently have 5 students who are learning GIS and collaborating with TCOG on the Beyond ABC project and on the Craft Beverages program. These students, and students from my Active Citizenship class are going to take the lead in presenting maps and data for the upcoming Beyond ABC symposium/workshop. One of our students played a central role in putting together the Craft Beverages strategic plan. I am having weekly meetings with Michael Schmitz from TCOG’s GIS program to work on formalizing training and project development. I still want to try to introduce GIS as a component of my class.
- What are the objectives of the project, and how far along am I in reaching these objectives? The objectives are to introduce as many students as possible to GIS software and to help them apply their knowledge to engaging in regional development initiatives. We still have some way to go. The primary difficulty has been in scheduling training and ongoing consultation with the students, but we are making progress. I believe we will have made significant progress by the end of the semester and will be able to have things more firmly established as go into the summer and fall semesters.
- Do I need to consult with the Mo Pelzel and/or Brett Boessen in order to get some help with the project? Please describe assistance needed. The real issue has more to do with coordination with the GIS training. We are currently working to improve that process, but this requires the assistance of GIS professionals.
- Are there capital items that I need to purchase/request, in order to complete the project? I do not need capital items at this time. I might need some additional funding to support training. But I believe I can pull that from the Community and Regional Development budget.
- What is the revised timeline for my project? Not necessarily revised, but still looking at next academic year for the project to be fully implemented.