Geospatial Summit confirms prestigious place on the map for UW–Madison GIS students and faculty

GIS Professional Programs

Students, faculty, and Geographic Information System (GIS) practitioners gathered on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus in early November to talk climate change, emergency management, and antibiotic resistance—among other important topics that are being skillfully addressed by GIS.

The 9th annual Geospatial Summit, co-sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison GIS Professional Programs and the State Cartographers Office, made it clear that UW–Madison is a prime spot for GIS research, practice, and job recruitment.

“It was a great state-wide collaboration, with participants from a variety of universities and government organizations attending, mixing, and networking,” said Ian Muehlenhaus, director of GIS Professional Programs.

GIS Professional Programs
The Summit provided time for networking with businesses, organizations, and agencies.

UW–Madison’s top-ranked geography department includes GIS Professional Programs—flexible degrees and certificates geared toward working professionals. From an online GIS Fundamentals Capstone Certificate to an accelerated MS in Cartography and GIS, these programs serve the needs of both GIS beginners and experienced users.

“Here at UW you learn GIS both deep and broadly. The skills you learn are applied, but also easily transferable to multiple realms of GIS and different technologies,” Muehlenhaus said. “We are software agnostic – you can leave here and get a job at Esri or at an open-source shop like Mapbox. Our students learn how to bring new, more efficient, more affordable GIS technologies into their current workplaces, not just future ones.”

Pressing issues, cutting-edge research

The Summit showcased nationally funded research by UW–Madison scientists.

Joe Mason, of the Department of Geography, gave a keynote talk about his work on using geospatial technology to analyze extreme rainfall events and desertification. Mason and his team studied slope failures in Minnesota and sand dune fields in northern China, all funded by the National Science Foundation.

GIS Professional Programs
Zachary Nienow with Ayres Associates said students in the UW-Madison geography programs are the “best and brightest.”

Mason’s talk was followed by presentations. Adena Rissman discussed conservation easement mapping in the state. Laurel Legenza showcased work mapping and analyzing antibiotic resistance statewide. Jon Lourigan shared cost- and time-saving measures of using geospatial technology in remodeling campus buildings.

Researchers and practitioners on an afternoon panel discussed how geospatial technology can be used for disaster preparedness, monitoring, recovery, and resilience. Lynnette Dornak, of UW-Platteville, gave the closing keynote on the impacts of climate change on Lyme disease risk in North America.

“The talks were engaging and showed just how integral to society GIS and its workforce are,” Muehlenhaus said.

Recruiting the best and brightest students

The summit also featured a career fair where nearly 20 representatives of geospatial agencies and companies talked to students about job opportunities.

“We like the graduates from UW–Madison because they have a great combination of computer science and geography,” said Nick Kelch with Esri, an international GIS software company. “These geography students have practical programming experience. It also seems like they have a progressive knowledge of new programs.”

GIS Professional Programs
Nick Kelch with Esri talks with a UW-Madison student about career opportunities.

Zachary Nienow attended the career fair as a representative of Ayres Associates, a nationwide engineering, mapping, environmental, architectural, and survey firm.

“We feel like students in the geography programs at UW–Madison are really the best and brightest,” Nienow said. “We’re a Wisconsin-based company in growth mode, and we are looking for well-qualified people to join our team. Why not look at one of the top geography programs in the nation?”

Teaching to innovate

This year’s Geospatial Summit was moved from the spring to the fall to coincide with national GIS Day, on November 14.

“Here in our GIS Professional Programs, we teach you to explore, to find new ways of doing things, to innovate,” Muehlenhaus said. “We teach the conceptual skills upon which students can build throughout their career.”

See the GIS Professional Programs website for more information, or contact Brittney Krauss, GIS Professional Programs coordinator, at bmkrauss@wisc.edu or 608-265-9975, or Ian Muehlenhaus, GIS Professional Programs director, at muehlenhaus@wisc.edu.