SUNY Potsdam introduces interdisciplinary bachelor of science major in geographic information science
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 8:50 am

POTSDAM -- SUNY Potsdam has been approved to offer SUNY's first baccalaureate program in the rapidly growing field of geographic information science.

Beginning this fall, SUNY Potsdam will offer a bachelor of science degree in geographic information science (GIS), an interdisciplinary major that will give students the knowledge and technical skills needed to identify, analyze, interpret and solve spatially-based problems.

"SUNY Potsdam is proud to announce our newest major in geographic information science -- the first in the SUNY system to incorporate interdisciplinary study along with GIS experience. Our emphasis on applied learning, coupled with our strong liberal arts and sciences foundation, makes Potsdam uniquely prepared to offer a degree in this fast-growing and sought-after field," said President Dr. Kristin G. Esterberg.

The GIS program will prepare graduates to design maps and graphics, analyze data, manage databases and perform computer modeling or programming, in order to help organizations improve efficiency, make spatially-informed decisions and share information.

SUNY Potsdam's GIS program will emphasize geography, mathematics and computer science as core components of the course of study, alongside required and elective courses in the natural sciences. Students will come away with a broad understanding of the relevant social, economic, scientific and spatial factors needed to solve complex problems, a press release from the college says.

"This interdisciplinary degree was designed in consultation with our alumni and partners in the private sector to give students the robust background in geography, natural science, computer science and math that they need to enter today's high-tech workforce," said Dr. Michael Rygel, chair of the SUNY Potsdam Department of Geology, who will supervise the new major.

Although originally developed as a tool for geographers and urban planners, geographic information systems have become ubiquitous in almost every sector of the economy, including government, education, business, defense, health and human services, public safety, natural resource and environmental management, energy and utilities.

The rapid growth of the GIS industry has been propelled by the proliferation of geographically-aware websites, navigation systems and geo-enabled apps, which has brought GIS into consumers' daily lives and greatly expanded the applications of the technology. As a result, the GIS industry is on pace to grow at a rate of 10 percent annually, according to a study released this year by P&S Market Research.

"Droughts, fires, famine, humanitarian crises, intelligent urban growth and the search for efficiencies in our energy and supply systems are just a few of the complex problems that can't be addressed without the broad understanding that GIS provides." Rygel said.

Rygel added that GIS has transformed the way that businesses and governments operate, by identifying cost savings and efficiencies, improving record keeping and communication, and contributing to better decision-making.

Students in the new major will complete a set of core courses in GIS, as well as required classes in physical geology, math, statistics, computer coding and color and design. All GIS majors will also complete a minor in computer science as part of the program. They will also be asked to choose upper-level electives from at least three different departments, with recommended courses in fields as diverse as politics, anthropology, graphic design, physics and wilderness education.

In addition to the bachelor of science degree in geographic information science, SUNY Potsdam is also set to offer a new minor in GIS as well. Both programs will be housed in the college's Department of Geology, which prepares students for careers in the sciences, or for further study on the graduate or professional level.

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