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National Science Foundation funds National GeoTech Center

GeoTech grant
GIS students learning about the collection of environmental data.

(July 9, 2013) - A $3 million federal grant will help the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence, a coalition that includes a University of North Georgia professor, to expand the number and quality of educational programs to meet the growing workforce needs for this rapidly growing science.

The National GeoTech Center is a coalition of 14 educators and experts from across the country, who are working to create and maintain educational standards and pedagogy, and educate geospatial technology instructors. Christopher Semerjian, associate professor of geology and geographic information systems (GIS) at UNG, is a member of the group.

"The National Geospatial Technology Center will further promote the University of North Georgia as one of the national leaders in geospatial technology education and provide resources to develop exemplary curricula and national models for articulation," Semerjian said. "Through UNG’s Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA), students, faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines will have access to GeoTech resources."

U.S. Department of Labor statistics show more than 850,000 current geospatial workers with an additional 350,000 needed by 2018; GIS alone is listed in the top 10 high-growth, high-wage industries.

The center will work closely with business and industry to ensure workforce needs are met and to create career paths in the technology, and also plans to reach out to special populations including veterans, women and underserved communities to develop career paths.

Semerjian will lead efforts to create curricular content and pedagogical methods for model geospatial courses and develop articulation models from high school through four-year institutions. He will also work with the Department of Labor to lead an update of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model.

Sometimes referred to a "visual database" or "data on maps," geospatial technology allows data to be used in many ways. Approximately 80 percent of all data have a "spatial" or location-based component. Blending data with advanced technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing, GIS, and mobile technologies allows researchers and others to spot trends, maximize logistics, plot movement and much more.

"It allows people to make informed decisions by pulling data together in a way they can visualize and understand," Semerjian said.

One common example of geospatial technology is surveying, a discipline that is used heavily in marketing, logistics, education, military, law enforcement, and in other areas where data and locations combine to tell a meaningful or useful story."The work we will do is more critical than ever as the demand for geospatial expertise continues to grow," Semerjian said. "Educators and industry nationwide will benefit from this work."

In addition to serving as co-principal investigator for the GeoTech grant, Semerjian is the associate director of IESA at UNG's Gainesville Campus.

"We are excited to embrace such an important technology and to be at the center of educational leadership in this rapidly growing field," said Dr. Jeff Turk, director of IESA. "And we are pleased that Professor Semerjian could play such vital leadership role in a center that will have a national impact."

Awarded on June 5, the three-year National Science Foundation grant enabled the center to officially launch June 15, after moving from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Jefferson Community & Technical College in Louisville, Ky. The national center will be led by Vincent A. DiNoto Jr., Jefferson's dean of College and Systemic Initiatives.

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