Graduate degree put on the map

By RUTH DALRYMPLE

In the fall of 2014 the geography department will have a new master degree program in geospatial analysis, making it the first new graduate program in the last 10 years.

The program, aimed at making its graduates better prepared for the job market, was originally submitted by Brian Rizzo, geography professor and director of the Geographic Information Science program, for state approval during the fall of 2012.

The program is designed to accommodate 18 students each semester and will require a total of 30 credit hours.

Geography professors Rizzo, Stephen Hanna, and Jacqueline Gallagher will make up the faculty.

Currently, George Mason University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute are the only other universities in the Commonwealth that offer similar programs.

The geography department currently offers a Certificate in Geographic Information Science.  It was implemented during the 2007-2008 academic year, and 197 enrolled in the program during the 2011-2012 session.  The certificate requires 18 course hours and is similar to a minor.

“Over 80 percent of students find jobs when they graduate and, during the program most students are placed in internships, paid and unpaid positions with companies in the region, gaining valuable work experience,” said Rizzo.

Geospatial analysis combines various aspects from many different disciplines in order to apply, manage, analyze and display spatial data.  It overlaps topography with other data in order to create a map that illustrates the entirety of the manmade and natural phenomena in the area.   Geospatial analysis is found in Google Maps and Global Positioning Systems, according to Rizzo and Gallagher.

Gallagher highlighted the importance of training students in this field.

“The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) reports that there will not be enough people trained in the next 10 years to fill the positions open in the field,” said Gallagher.

Senior business major Jessica Murnin believes adding to the graduate school is a step in the right direction.

“I think the new master degree is a good idea and I like that we are expanding our master program,” said Murnin. “Geospatial analysis is an interesting field to get a master degree in.”

Senior geography major Megan Mahoney plans to enroll in the program and pursue a career as a lidar analyst at the NGA.

“I think that the program is going to turn out very well,” said Mahoney.  “I believe that it will be better than George Mason’s.”

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