Geographic Information Systems Minor

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The geographic information systems (GIS) minor provides students with experience in the concepts, technology, and applications related to computer-based mapping, spatial databases, and geographic analysis and problem solving. The minor features two tracks: a GIS development track for students interested in GIS software development, and a GIS analysis track for students interested in utilizing GIS as a strong methodological base within their major of study. Required courses provide core GIS foundations applicable to a variety of multidisciplinary elective courses students can choose from to match their research, post-graduate, or career interests.

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.

The program code for Geographic Information Systems Minor is GIS-MN.


Required Courses
Introduction to Geospatial Technologies
This course provides a survey of underlying concepts and technologies used to represent and understand the earth, collectively referred to as Geospatial Technologies (GTs). Students will gain hands-on experience with GTs, including Global Positioning Systems (GPSs), Geographic Information Systems (GISs), remote sensing, Virtual Globes, and Web mapping mashups. Students also will develop basic spatial thinking, reasoning, problem solving and literacy skills.
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
This course introduces students to Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Course lectures, reading assignments, and in-class activities cover a mix of conceptual, practical and technical GIS topics. Topics include GIS data models, basic cartography, geodatabases, spatial data acquisition and creation, and spatial analysis. Through applied research projects, students will learn how GIS is a support mechanism for spatially-oriented thinking, reasoning, literacy, and problem-solving at the global scale. Such global problems include international disaster management, digital humanities, climate change, and sustainable development. This general education course also examines GIS ethical issues such as privacy, information ownership, accuracy, and mapping and social power.
Choose three of the following:
Introduction to fundamentals of surveying. Topics include note taking; differential leveling; vertical and horizontal measurement; traversing; topographic mapping; horizontal, vertical, compound and reverse curves; and earthwork.
   Surveying Lab
Students apply the fundamentals of surveying to field exercises using modern surveying equipment. Field exercises include differential leveling, cross sections, traversing, topographic mapping, horizontal curve layout, vertical curve design, and earthwork estimation.
   Environmental Applications of Remote Sensing
This course offers an introduction to remote sensing systems and a selection of environmental applications of remote sensing. The basic properties of electromagnetic radiation, its interaction with the atmosphere and earth surfaces (e.g., vegetation, minerals, water, etc.), and the interpretation of these interactions are dealt with in the first half of the course. This is followed by a description of airborne and spaceborne, active and passive sensors that operate throughout the electromagnetic spectrum for detecting physical phenomena. Finally, an introduction is provided to pre-processing and analysis techniques that are useful for extracting information from such sensors. The Earth's atmospheric, hydrospheric, and terrestrial processes are considered at local to regional scales. Application areas include monitoring vegetation health, measuring biomass (carbon sequestration), identifying cultural features, assessing water resources, and detecting pollution and natural hazards.
   Spatial Algorithms and Problem Solving
This course is targeted to students with a serious interest in geographical problem solving via underlying spatial algorithms. Students will learn how to compare and contrast different specific spatial algorithms for solving specific geographic problems and develop proficiency with encoding and implementing spatial algorithms in computer programs. Students taking this course will gain a broad interdisciplinary skill set in how to think spatially and computationally through critical engagement of geographical problem solving.
   Geospatial Data Analysis
This course is an introduction to the theory and techniques used for spatial analysis of complex, geographically referenced data. Topics include spatial data analysis and statistical techniques for a variety of problem types that span a broad spectrum of disciplines. In-class and out-of-class assignments will develop students spatial data analysis skills.
   Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization
This course examines the use of maps for geographic problem solving and scientific inquiry. Students will learn theory, concepts and techniques associated with maps as geographic problem solving and scientific inquiry devices such as map comprehension, evaluation, construction, usage, and assessment. Students will also learn how to compare, contrast, and implement map-based geographic problem solving and scientific inquiry techniques such as thematic cartography, geographic information visualization, and animated and interactive maps. A geographic problem solving research project that incorporates thematic cartography and geographic visualization solutions is required.
   Introduction to Database and Data Modeling
A presentation of the fundamental concepts and theories used in organizing and structuring data. Coverage includes the data modeling process, basic relational model, normalization theory, relational algebra, and mapping a data model into a database schema. Structured Query Language is used to illustrate the translation of a data model to physical data organization. Modeling and programming assignments will be required. Note: students should have one course in object-oriented programming.
   Maps, Spaces and Places
This course takes as its premise that spatial thinking is critically important. Spatial thinking informs our ability to understand many areas of 21st century culture, as mobile interfaces and geospatial technologies enable us to engage with our surroundings in new ways. The study begins with the history maps and mapmaking, and explores how maps work. As students create representational, iconographic, satirical, image-based, informational, and other map forms, the course emphasizes the map as narrative. The course develops into an exploration of the ways, particularly in texts, that mapmaking creates cultural routes, mobile forms of ethnography, and ways of imagining travel and tourism in the era of globalization. The diverse writers represented in this course are rethinking space as a dynamic context for the making of history and for different organizations of social and communal life.
   Information Science and Technology Research
This course is for students enrolled in the BS IT degree program and minors to demonstrate competence in concepts, techniques and applications via a semester-length research project developed in conjunction with a faculty member and based on the student’s degree concentration or minor. With instructor guidance, students will learn how to formulate a research question, choose relevant methods to answer the question, execute the project and present results in a public forum.