Through a grant from the George I. Alden Trust, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have been awarded $150,000 to construct a Geospatial Learning Laboratory in the Warren Hunting Smith Library. The laboratory will enhance the use of geospatial technology in teaching and scholarly pursuits on campus.
“This award will greatly increase the teaching and research potential for those faculty using GIS currently and will create opportunities for many other faculty in a variety of departments and programs.” says Associate Professor of Education Jamie MaKinster, who was instrumental in securing the grant.
Use of geospatial technology on campus and in the scholarship of faculty members has grown exponentially in past five years. Used across disciplines, the software seeks to pose and answer questions that arise in biology, chemistry, geology – and even in history, politics and sociology. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) use computer-generated maps to transform imagery data into representations that aid in the illustration and visualization of complex narratives. With the aid of GIS, students and faculty are able to compare interrelated data to better understand anything from lake-effect snow to why a location is – or is not – suited for a new hospital.
The grant will fund the renovation of an existing computer lab that will be designed to specifically enhance the use of GIS by both students and faculty. The laboratory will also serve to help raise awareness amongst students and faculty on the applications of GIS in both the traditional Geography field and in interdisciplinary studies.
Perhaps most importantly, the laboratory will be a major tool in research for students and faculty alike, providing a space that is equipped with all necessary technology and equipment. In addition to creating an atmosphere conducive to quiet and productive research, the laboratory’s close proximity to the Center for Teaching and Learning and Information Technology Services will ensure that any needs – academic or technological – can be easily and quickly addressed.
Funds will be put toward purchasing new desktop computers, as well as GPS units, and iPads. The room will have the capacity to act as an instructional classroom for the software, and the laboratory space will include a interactive whiteboard to assist faculty and staff in instruction. Other planned expenses include renovating the laboratory space in the library complete with new wiring, carpeting, soft seating for student use and more. The lab will continue to serve as the 24-hour computing space for students and will be available to all HWS faculty for teaching as a regularly scheduled computer lab.
Established in 1912, the George I. Alden Trust was created for the general purpose of “the maintenance of some charitable or philanthropic enterprises” with particular expressed interest in “the promotion of education in schools, colleges, or other educational institutions.” The Trustees give priority to higher education in support of independent undergraduate education, and focus their grant making on capital needs. They support institutions that demonstrate a combination of educational excellence and exciting programming, and support proposals that they feel will contribute significantly to the intellectual growth of students and will enhance an institution’s mission.
The photo above is an image obtained from Google Earth of the Warren Hunting Smith Library.