A GIO’s Story

By Tina Enderlein

Geographic Information Officers (GIOs) are becoming more common, especially in government settings.There are roles for GIOs in other sectors of the economy, as well, to coordinate activities, resources and communications, and to minimize duplication of effort.I am the GIO for Pennsylvania State University, and I've been invited to tell you something about my role.

GIS technologies are used in diverse and innovative ways across Penn State, a large public institution, in research and development, and in numerous outreach activities, as well as in classroom and Internet instruction.The impact of the combined efforts of the Penn State GIS community is visible locally and throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in three key areas:
  1. instruction;
  2. service/outreach; and
  3. research.
Penn State, like any large institution, faces many new challenges and opportunities in those three areas.The University's GIS Council was formed by appointment of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School in spring 2001 to help reduce duplication of effort and use resources to their fullest at Penn State.I began my full-time appointment as GIO in November, 2002.

As GIO, I work closely with Penn State's GIS Council.The GIS Council includes 11 representatives from nine different academic units across the University.It is a diverse group of faculty members from the College of Agricultural Sciences, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Applied Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University Capitol College Harrisburg, Hershey Medical College, Penn State's Institutes of the Environment, the Social Science Research Institute, and Penn State Institutes of the Environment.

The mission of the GIS Council is to facilitate GIS-related activities, to facilitate preparation of large-scale proposals, to increase awareness of the use of GIS, to identify the places where expertise exists, and to define other GIS-related issues University wide.

As the first GIO for Penn State, my responsibilities include increasing awareness of GIS-related technologies, disseminating GIS-related materials, news, and announcements in support of the teaching, outreach and research missions of Penn State.Day to day activities include organizing Council meetings, coordinating data and software vendor presentations and visits, giving presentations to various groups on Penn State's GIS-related resources, identifying new software and data site licenses, coordinating GIS-related speakers, representing the University at meetings and conferences, maintaining the content of the GIS at Penn State website, fielding inquiries from the GIS at Penn State website, disseminating GIS-related information and announcements to the Penn State GIS Community via a listserv, and managing an operating budget.I also coordinate GIS Day activities, GIS-related workshops, and Penn State's membership in three national GIS-related organizations including the Open Geospatial Consortium, the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, and the GeoData Alliance.

I also manage a seed funding initiative recently started by the Council which offers competitive grant funding to the research faculty and staff at Penn State.The program provides modest funding for researchers to get their ideas off the ground.The seed grant money could be used to attend meetings, travel to put together a research proposal submission to an external funding agency, develop a pilot project, purchase data, or create interdisciplinary research centers or working groups involved in GIS-related activities.To date the Council has awarded seed funding to nine proposals to Penn State research faculty and staff, two of which have spurred successful proposals for external funding.

I am currently working with the Council to put together the April 2006 "Geospatial 2006: Power of E3 - Employment, Education, and Economic Development" meeting in coordination with Penn State's Office of Industrial Research.The meeting will bring together and promote partnerships in geospatial technologies between government, industry and academia.Program objectives include enhancing relationships between industry, agency representatives and faculty with a common interest in the geospatial sciences, exploring such topics as geospatial work force development, training and education issues, and developing an action plan to address educational needs identified by government and industry.It will also provide an opportunity for industry, government, faculty, staff and students in the geospatial sciences at Penn State to interact.

Since starting the position as Penn State's first GIO in November 2002, the role has been one that is very much like the field of geospatial technologies itself: constantly evolving.I am challenged to meet the needs of those I serve.That said, it is certain that a GIO in a University setting or, as far as I'm concerned, any other setting, is unlikely to have many boring days on the job.

Published Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Written by Tina Enderlein

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