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$5 Million NSF Grant to Fund National Center Located at DMC PDF Print E-mail
Written by Del Mar College (DMC)   
19 June 2008
National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence establishing DMC as an “Advanced Technological Education” institution; center to address country’s workforce demand for geospatial technicians to avoid outsourcing to other countries

June 11, 2008 - The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $5 million grant to Del Mar College (DMC) and project partners through the NSF Advanced Technological Education Program to establish the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center) at DMC. The College will receive $3.2 million directly while partner institutions will share the other $1.8 million during the four-year grant period that runs through 2012.

The grant will allow Del Mar College and project partners to establish the GeoTech Center as a means to increase the number and quality of educated geospatial technicians for rapidly expanding fields among geospatial technology industries, which include Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), remote sensing and mobile- and location-based services. “Geospatial” is anything that can be referenced in space and time using the combination of spatial software and analytical methods with terrestrial or geographic datasets.

As part of President George W. Bush’s High Growth Job Training Initiative, geospatial technology was listed among the top three high-technology, high-growth industries in the country and has become a $30 billion-a-year industry. The other two industries include biotechnology and nanotechnology.

Led by Del Mar College, the GeoTech Center is a partnership and collaboration that includes seven community colleges (Lake Land College in Illinois, Gainesville College in Georgia, Southwestern Community College in California, the Kentucky Community Technical College System, Niagara Community College in New York, Century Community College in Minnesota, and Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina), four universities (San Diego State University, Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and University of California– San Diego), an industry partner representing all regions of the country (ESRI, Inc.) and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Research Services in College Station, Tx., as fiscal agent.

If you’ve ever used Google Earth, MapQuest or have called 9-1-1, geospatial technology was applied to provide you with 3D views around the earth or space, give you an address or city location on a map and helped emergency personnel find your house during an urgent situation.

But while the geospatial technology industry is growing, educators and industry leaders still have concerns.

“Institutions and businesses are worried that this type of work will be outsourced to other countries. We want to keep these jobs here; but right now, there’s not a sufficient number of geospatial technicians to meet the demand,” says Dr. Phillip Davis, DMC professor of computer science and principal investigator/director of the new center.

“By establishing the GeoTech Center, we can focus on two-year and technical college training across the country and serve as a unified voice for these institutions in the geospatial technology field,” Dr. Davis notes. “We’re also focusing 20% of the grant on outreach efforts that target underserved student populations.”

GeoTech Center partners serve diverse student populations and geographic areas from coast to coast, including two Hispanic Serving Institutions (Del Mar College and Southwestern Community College) and two institutions in the Southeast with significant African American enrollment (Central Piedmont Community College and Kentucky Community and Technical College System). These partners will continue to expand their networks for Hispanic and African American students throughout their service regions as well as assist all minority and underserved student populations to expand their pursuits in the field.

Project partners envision the GeoTech Center as providing leadership to community and technical colleges across the country in all aspects of emerging geospatial technology to better prepare America’s workforce. Dr. Davis estimates that the center should impact 10,000 learners–including credit students, educators and current workers needing updated skills training–by 2012.

Dr. Lee Sloan, dean of DMC’s Division of Business, Professional and Technology Education, says, “The national center will be the one place that all colleges and businesses can go to for the latest curriculum and materials in the geospatial technology field, much like a clearinghouse. We’ll become the vehicle to push this body of knowledge to our junior and high schools, colleges and universities across the country.”

“And, establishing the GeoTech Center is a way for the National Science Foundation to focus their resources,” he adds. “The center will continuously stay on the cutting-edge as a resource for the geospatial technology industry and educators training our geospatial technician workforce.”

Del Mar College and GeoTech Center partners can apply for a grant renewal for another $5 million to fund the center from 2012 to 2016 and then again for another $3 million through 2020. Potential funding is $13 million over a 12-year period, which is enough time for the center to become self-sustaining, according to Dr. Davis.

“Our mission is to improve geospatial technology education at the community and technical college level to increase the number, diversity and quality of geospatial technology professionals,” Dr. Davis says. “And, we have the potential to transform the preparation and continuing education of geospatial technicians to meet national workforce demand through five major goals that project partners have identified.”

Those goals include: 1) creating a national clearinghouse of exemplary geospatial curriculum materials, resources and national services; 2) increasing the capacity to educate geospatial technicians through new partnerships and collaborations; 3) increasing the quantity, quality and diversity of geospatial technicians to meet U.S. workforce needs; 4) providing a unifying voice for geospatial technology education interests in organizations, industry and government; and 5) increasing the number of community and technical college geospatial faculty and secondary school teachers participating in geospatial professional development.

“Dr. Davis has worked with several colleges in the United States to establish a partnership that will place Del Mar College on the national forefront in training individuals throughout the country, advancing the use of geographical information systems and providing state-of-the-art training for our own students,” says Marjorie Villani, interim vice president of instruction at DMC. “This accomplishment demonstrates the commitment our faculty possess to impact not only the College’s students but also our counterparts and industry across the nation.”

Dr. Davis adds, “The Center will aggressively seek industry, government and academic partners to fulfill the mission of educating geospatial technicians critical to the success of the United States’ workforce in the 21st century to compete in the rapidly expanding global geospatial technology industries and build a sustaining support system at Del Mar College.”

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