NSF Grant Helps Community Colleges Train Geospatial Technicians for Employment in High Growth Industry

Published: January 30, 2013

A  partnership consisting of Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC), three  other Virginia community colleges, the Virginia Space Grant Consortium and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program based in Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment has been awarded a $899,870 grant by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Advanced Technological Education  Program to support community colleges in their effort to prepare geospatial technicians.

Other participating community colleges include Virginia Western Community College,  Southwest Virginia Community College and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

“We are pleased to be included in this grant as it provides additional opportunities for our students and helps meet the continuing demand for geospatial skills in our region. Our location between Richmond and Virginia Beach gives us a great opportunity to serve a broad area of southeastern Virginia,”  said Chérie A. Aukland, GIS Program Head for TNCC. “The grant provides scholarships and internship opportunities for students, dual enrollment opportunities and support for local high school teachers and training for community college faculty at TNCC to integrate geospatial technologies into their curricula. Unique distance learning courses are in development that will connect students with faculty mentors from across the state.”

The Expanding Geospatial Technician Education Through Virginia’s Community Colleges (GeoTEd) project is a three-year effort that will continue a statewide partnership to create academic pathways and train faculty in the use of geospatial technologies. “This grant and this partnership continue to pay big dividends for the people of Virginia and we are excited about that,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia’s Community Colleges.

The project, administered by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, will establish academic pathways in geospatial technologies (such as geographic information systems, global positioning systems, and remote sensing) at partnering community colleges. These academic pathways will serve as model programs for other community colleges in Virginia and the nation.

 GeoTEd’s curriculum is based on the needs of business and industry in the Commonwealth and aligns with the National Geospatial Technology Competency Model developed by the Department of Labor and the National GeoTech Center.

Virginia Tech will host the regional Geospatial Technology Institute, which provides hands-on training in geospatial technologies to 25 faculty members from Virginia’s community colleges as well as from Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Aukland is among participating faculty who will attend a two one-week session over two years; they will then receive mentoring, and follow-up support from project partners.

Other components of the project include the development of distance education courses in geospatial technology, mobile applications, the Virginia Community College Geospatial Web portal, and career awareness information. The Virginia Space Grant Consortium’s GEOTREK12 program will also provide professional development to 45 high school teachers from the service regions of the partnering community colleges.

The project has  partnerships with the public and private sectors that employ geospatial technicians, including the Virginia Association of Mapping and Land Information Systems (VAMLIS).

NSF’s Advanced Technological Education program, supporting the development of technicians in emerging fields, recognizes the need to inspire, motivate, and empower students to develop and achieve career goals. The program funds projects that focus on developing partnerships between community colleges, other higher education institutions, and employers to provide workforce development and education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.

An Associate Professor of Information Technology,  Aukland is nationally recognized as a geospatial educator, participating in the development of national model courses based on Department of Labor competencies and serving as an advisory member of the proposed new NSF Advanced Technological Education national geospatial community college center.


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