Madison Bailey, Correspondent
The Jacksonville State University Department of Chemistry and Geosciences is partnering with the Office of Graduate Studies to celebrate Geography Awareness Week, which takes place between Nov. 16 and Nov. 20.
There will also be a celebration of World Geographic Information Systems Day during Geography Awareness Week on Wednesday, November 18.
During this week of celebration, the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences and Office of Graduate Studies will promote JSU’s new Geographic Information Science and Technology master’s degree program.
There is a big demand for it out there,” said Joe Morgan, head of the department. “The need for GIS skills is growing every day – of all the research I’ve seen, we’re looking at continuous job growth of 15 to 20 percent over the next 20 years.”
The master’s degree was officially launched this semester and branches from the Department of Chemistry and Geosciences in the School of Science.
Emily Yeend is one of ten graduate students enrolled in the new GIST master’s program.
“The GIST Master’s Program is designed for anyone no matter your previous GIS experience,” said Yeend. “Students will learn how to use drones, GPS units, sound recording equipment, and so much more through the technology side of the program.”
Yeend emphasizes how students can learn skills in the program that can be applied to numerous career fields depending on the student’s personal interests.
“My personal interests are biogeography and conservation, and I would love to work at a National Park someday,” Yeend explained. “I had the chance to travel to Yellowstone National Park with a JSU study tour group last year, and the trip showed me how many GIS opportunities are out there.”
Yeend addressed the assumptions often associated with geography majors — usually relating to the memorization of state and country capitals — and how a geography degree can be put to use.
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field of GIS to grow by 35% each year and expect a shortage of trained GIS workers to fill these new jobs,” Yeend noted. “Students enrolled in the GIS program can expect job openings in every state and have the privilege to work wherever they choose.”
James King is another graduate student in the GIST master’s degree program.
“The GIS Masters program teaches us how to both gather and present spatial data using various computer programs, like ArcPro and ERDAS Imagine,” said King. “How we use the knowledge we gain in this program varies from cartographer to cartographer; that’s the beauty of the program.”
James describes himself as an “oddity” in the GIST master’s program. He is a physical geographer who focuses on studying physical earth processes more so than creating maps on a computer.
“I see the incredible potential that GIS has to offer in my field,” King explained. “I study the cartography and cartographic practices of maps that deal with planetary and celestial bodies within our solar system. It crosses over well with my background in geomorphology and physical geography.”
King emphasized the relevance of the field of geography in our everyday lives. According to King, the recent presidential election map was “no doubt created and maintained by someone with a geography background.” He also notes that geographers created Google Maps and most likely assisted in collecting some of its data.
King believes that World GIS Day is more than just a celebration of the technologies that help maintain our awareness of the world around us.
“It’s a celebration of those that work tirelessly to create, maintain, and update maps so that our species may always know where it is going and where it has been,” he said. “The world can always use more geographers!”
During Geography Awareness Week, students can apply to the GIST master’s program for free and pick up a complimentary program t-shirt in room 206 of Martin Hall.
To apply to any JSU master’s degree programs, students must first create a JSU graduate account. After creating an account, students can access the JSU graduate application list and select the GIST program. Students can use the code GIS2020 to waive the application fee for the GIST program.