Imaging the World: GIS at Penn State University

In honor of the upcoming Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day, has interviewed Geographic Information Systems (GIS) instructors at universities across the country. Read here about Tina Enderlein, GIS Officer at Penn State University.

By Megan Driscoll

Tina Enderlein, PSU What's your background in GIS, and what brought you to teach the subject at Penn State?

Tina Enderlein: I have a B.A. in Geography from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Johnstown, PA, and an M.S. in Geo-Environmental Studies from Shippensburg University. After graduating from Shippensburg University, I took a position as an environmental scientist at an engineering and environmental consulting firm. At the time I was offered to teach night classes in geography for a local community college.

After seven years in consulting, I took a position at Penn State University as the GIS Officer for the university. As part of my position as the GIS Officer, I taught GIS short courses for faculty, staff and students with the goal of getting GIS incorporated into research at the university. After six years as the GIS Officer for PSU, I was given the opportunity to create a continuing education GIS certificate program. I developed the course material and started teaching in the summer of 2010 for PSU CE. The certificate is currently offered as part of the Marcellus Shale Land Use Practices in Pennsylvania Certificate program offered through PSU CE. What is your primary field of research and education, and how do you typically integrate GIS into your courses?

TE: I am currently working in the Biology Department at PSU where I'm doing research on deep sea corals and tubeworms. GIS is incorporated in my research through spatial analysis of changes in growth patterns and location of the sea floor through imagery. What's your personal philosophy regarding GIS and GIS education?

TE: I believe in hands-on teaching that incorporates real-world problems and that computer lab time as part of a course is invaluable. In addition to your work in the certificate program, do you ever teach continuing education courses through the GIS Council at Penn State? How do you envision the role these courses play in educating both university students and the community at large?

TE: Yes, as well as to faculty, staff and students within the university. I believe these courses offer practical knowledge that can be gained in a relatively short timeframe. These types of courses play a valuable role in incorporating GIS into research projects for a diverse number of disciplines including social, business and physical sciences. Do you have many students who are interested in pursuing GIS in their careers?

TE: Most of my students would like to incorporate GIS into their current disciplines to enhance the outcomes of their research projects or make analysis and presentation of data more appropriate for their audience. What do you think is the most interesting or exciting thing about GIS right now?

TE: The most exciting thing about GIS right now is that it is becoming more user-friendly and mainstream. More and more people are becoming aware of the technology and how to apply it within their disciplines. The uses for GIS in every discipline are endless and it is wonderful to see different disciplines utilize GIS technology to its full potential. Finally, I'd like to give you the opportunity to share any information you'd like about your work in GIS and your instruction at Penn State University.

TE: Teaching GIS at PSU, both internally and externally, has been a rewarding experience for me. It has given me the opportunity to meet many interesting people with diverse backgrounds and interests.

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