WC Earns $1 Million State Grant to Expand its GIS Program

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Washington College has won a $1 million grant from the Department of Commerce’s Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF) to establish an endowed directorship for the College’s GIS Program, broadening student avenues for study and professional experience in the growing geographic information systems field, as well as expanding economic development opportunities and encouraging investment in business development and pilot projects.

Matched by a $1 million grant from The Hodson Trust, this grant marks the third time in three years the College has earned funding through MEIF, a program designed to spur basic and applied research in scientific and technical fields. Washington College is the only undergraduate private liberal arts college to receive an award three years in a row, joining Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland at College Park and at Baltimore.

“I’m thrilled and proud that for the third year running, Washington College has earned the support of the Maryland Department of Commerce for this terrific grant. Our outstanding GIS program is among our strongest for offering students real-world experience within the liberal arts framework, and this will only enhance that to create more opportunities,” said College President Kurt Landgraf. “I especially want to thank The Hodson Trust for providing the necessary match to make this possible. Once again, the Trust’s support and confidence have made a critical difference in the education that we provide to students.”

Since 2003, the College’s GIS Lab, overseen by the Center for Environment & Society (CES), has been training student interns in GIS technologies and analyses while executing funded projects across the country, preparing a new generation of GIS specialists who manage projects and work with clients in a professional setting.

The new grant will enable the College to grow the GIS program and extend it more widely throughout the liberal arts curriculum, as well as broaden collaborations with faculty research and teaching, says CES Director John Seidel, who helped inaugurate the GIS program. It will also allow the College to consider an academic program in geospatial technologies in conjunction with the GIS Lab.

“This will expand our ability to engage in interdisciplinary research in our fields of study, as well as provide community level and business support in incorporating geospatial analysis and technology to solve problems,” Seidel says.

The endowed position will enable the program to move beyond its dependence on funded projects, giving it greater flexibility to work with non-profits and encouraging investment in business development opportunities and pilot projects. “We are very excited about the strong economic development potential that the expansion of our GIS program will bring to Maryland,” Seidel says, “as well as the hands-on, collaborative experiences that it will provide for Washington College students and faculty.”

The other grant winners were Maryland Institute College of Art, Towson University, and UMD College Park. In 2017, the state awarded Washington College $944,000, matched by $1 million from private donors, to create an endowed chair for the College’s new Eastern Shore Food Lab. And, in 2016, the state granted $1 million to match private funds to create an endowed position in the Center for Environment & Society (CES) aimed at creating entrepreneurial opportunities for students in the sciences.

Learn more about GIS at WC here: https://www.washcoll.edu/centers/ces/gis/

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 39 states and territories and 25 nations.With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

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