Feb 2001 trip to California

Hugh Blackmer
5 March 2001

My agendas for this trip were at the intersection of Global Stewardship, GIS, and Information Fluency; the latter topics have seemed to me essential elements of the first, particularly because our conception of Global Stewardship is a data-based augmentation of a student's major field of study, and not a stand-alone major.

Indeed, we are thinking of the Global Stewardship Program as an intellectual environment and an opportunity to explore concrete problems from a variety of relevant perspectives, a means for students to become familiar with tools and trains of thought and modes of approach to analysis, and a means to broaden campus concern with international and global issues. In this sense Global Stewardship is a contribution to the continuing evolution of the Liberal Arts. Global Stewardship should involve and fascinate students who come into contact with its perspectives, and inspire them to build combinations with other interests and objectives; the foundation courses will provide the framework, and the Program will provide a peer group. I think of this as the quintessence of General Education, exposing students to important and engaging ideas, piqueing curiosity, and providing the tools to follow up that curiosity.

Global Stewardship's focus is on real-world problems that are in the broadest sense 'management' issues --in which what we decide, and how we choose among alternatives, will influence trajectories and steer processes at local, regional, national, and global scales. It is important for a budding doctor or lawyer or journalist or accountant to be actively engaged with perspectives beyond those of the chosen profession, and indeed that's one of the essences of a Liberal Arts education. The emphasis should be, first, on (1) how to frame questions, and then on (2) how to set about answering them. Scholarship in most disciplines tends to zoom in to specialized and local views, but the perspective we want to encourage is the synoptic --to be sure, our students need the up-close skills and training that disciplines provide, but they also need the motivation and the skills to explore more widely, to pull back and include more elements in their considerations. A lot of the problem is finding and processing the information that holds the explanations --that is, it's a Fluency issue-- and what we would like to do is to focus students' attention on the process of discovery and integration in pursuit of answers to important questions.

The trip began with an ACS Information Fluency symposium at Southwestern, at which I chaired the Task Force on Collaboration (see pre-conference thoughts and post-conference summary). A number of issues relevant to Global Stewardship (particularly those around cooperation among faculty, and between teaching faculty and librarians) were discussed, and several people expressed interest in hearing more about our plans for the Program. Many of the tools of Information Fluency are important for the data-centric aspects of Global Stewardship --Clara Yu (Professor of Linguistics and Language at Middlebury College, and the opening speaker at the Symposium) specifically mentioned GIS, and I gave her a copy of my January thoughts on Global Stewardship.

Monday 20 Feb: met with Don Janelle, Program Director of the Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science (CSISS) at UC Santa Barbara and got a glimpse at a large number of spatially-related projects. CSISS sponsors professional workshops (one applies to attend), organizes interdisciplinary 'specialist meetings', and develops data resources. Eric White's anthro.net is a forerunner of the in-development geog.net (probably available Summer 2001), and is linked with [and mines?] ISI's Social Science Citation Index, providing a unique access to specialized literatures.

We talked about the general problems of liberal arts colleges without Geography departments, and (in answer to my questions about work in global demography) he pointed me to the global demography resources that Waldo Tobler has been working on (Global Demography Project from NCGIA, and the Global Population Distribution Database). He expressed interest in the possibility of a 'specialist meeting' on the undergraduate liberal arts question. We discussed a range of globalization issues, and he told me about James Galbraith's work with the Theil Index of Inequality, which could be especially relevant to the potential link between the Shepherd Poverty Program and Global Stewardship (see University of Texas Inequality Project and their Working Papers series, including The Young Personís Guide to the Theil Index: Suggesting Intuitive Interpretations and Exploring Analytical Applications).

We talked about a wide range of spatial representations, and he mentioned the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative and the work of Ian Gregory (principal researcher on the Great Britain Historical GIS Project --see the Electronic Atlas of Industrializing Britain).  He also identified Karen Kemp (Director of the International Masters Program in GIS at University of Redlands) as someone I should contact (she is working on a core curriculum for GIS).

Because this Monday was Presidents' Day I was unable to meet with faculty in UCSB's Global Studies Program, and I also missed Michael Goodchild, Director of CSISS and NCGIA and one of the most prominent writers on GIS in education. I hope to connect with these people sometime soon, perhaps in July if I attend the ESRI conferences.

Tuesday 21 Feb: visited Cal Poly Pomona to talk with Sara Garver and Lin Wu of the Center for Geographic Information Systems Research, organizers of a summer GIS Faculty Institute which has operated for 3 years and introduced some 50 faculty members to GIS technology. The Institute has decanal and presidential support as an essential part of the intention to create a "GIS-literate campus", and offers a $500 stipend to faculty who complete the week-long introduction. Sara Garver suggested that they could probably accomodate members of our faculty if we wished to send people to Pomona for the Institute. The Center runs its own server (and has a part-time System Administrator for GIS [Hunter Kelley] to manage data and machines) and operates a lab with 20 workstations and an additional half-dozen machines in an advanced lab, available to faculty and students who are working on GIS projects. The Library is not involved with GIS data or support. Lin Wu showed me the web resources for her Advanced Geographic Information Systems and Computer Cartography courses, and I also explored their GIS Certificate programs. I collected documents on the Minor in Interdisciplinary Geographic Information System Applications (May 2000, now before the governing body for approval), a detailed description of the "GIS Literate Campus Initiative" (Winter 1998), and the "GIS Curriculum Subcommittee Status Report (March 1999).

I also stopped in at Pomona College (a liberal arts institution, more like W&L than Cal Poly Pomona), but was unable to find any trace of GIS activity on the campus.

Wednesday 22 Feb: visited ESRI (Ecological Systems Research Institute) in Redlands, had a tour of the new version of ArcView, and a lengthy conversation with Ann Johnson, Mike Phoenix's successor as University Coordinator. We covered a number of practical issues (most important, I ascertained that we will get the upgrade to ArcGIS 8.1, sometime this spring, as a part of our site license; she also suggested that we might consider licensing more 'seats' for the successor to ArcINFO [the Geology department now pays for one], and said that some negotiation on price was possible). We discussed the broad problems of developing and supporting GIS in liberal arts institutions which don't have geography departments, and she urged me to propose and organize a session on the topic for the ESRI Education Conference (July 6-8), just before the ESRI User Conference (July 9-13). She urged me to attend both (the special registration for the two is $495). She also offered to give us ArcIMS, ESRI's  Internet Map Server, if we would use it to develop and distribute GIS materials we produce in an outreach effort (I attended a one-day workshop on this product in San Bernardino last July, but thought we'd never be able to afford it --its street value is about $10,000).  See my proposal to ESRI for how we would use ArcIMS for further details. She told me about several existing global databases, including one being developed by the UCGIS Global Urban Indicators Consortium Center , which grew out of the U.N. Urban Indicators Programme (there was an International Workshop, April 6-7, 2000, in Washington: see A Holistic Approach to Monitoring Poverty Reduction). She gave me the names of several people to contact about questions of consortial programs, GIS in digital libraries, and the general issues of GIS in Information Fluency (John Olson, GIS/Map Librarian at Syracuse, ESRI's Angela Lee [library services solutions manager], and Michelle Hall-Wallace, developer of Science Applications in Global Exploration [SAGE] at University of Arizona --see also an article by her in GeoTimes. I expect to visit University of Arizona's extensive library-based GIS support facilities while in Tucson later this month with Larry Hurd). We also talked about mobile use of GIS, and she pointed me to a GeoTimes article on University of Kansas' use of laptops in teaching field geology (relevant to John Knox's data-gathering project), and suggested ArcPad (which we have as part of our site license) as an efficient solution to mobile data-gathering. As a result of our discussions, I have a strong sense that there is a community of GIS users who are dealing with some of the same problems that we face, and that ESRI is the nexus via which we can be connected to them. The key to the connection is ESRI's annual User Conference.

Thursday 23 Feb: visited Cal State Hayward to talk with David Woo (chair of the GIS Committee) and Gary Li (who teaches Library 2000: Interdisciplinary Applications of Geographic Information Systems). The presence of GIS in the Library (which is what attracted me to CSU Hayward, in search of a model for integration of GIS into fluency instruction) turns out to be an accident of funding history, and most instruction in and support of GIS is now carried out in a new lab in the department of Geography and Environmental Studies, though the server resides in the Library. They report growing interest in GIS in a variety of departments, and considerable development of introductory GIS training through evening courses. Gary Li uses ESRI's training materials extensively.

I also visited Stanford's Branner Library (Earth Sciences) to get an update on progress in GIS development from Meredith Williams, the library's GIS Specialist (whom I had visited in February 2000). She told me about a number of resources, including ENVI for satellite imagery, and about work being done with GIS in Stanford's Anthropology and Biology departments. We talked about malaria as an example of a realm for Global Stewardship to explore (see a few links on malaria and GIS, the beginnings of explorations toward a module for the Human Geography course). Branner Library continues to be Stanford's primary support for GIS activity (see Branner's GIS Around Stanford), and Meredith Williams and GIS Librarian Julie Sweetkind continue to demonstrate GIS to interested people.

I spent several hours on library collection development for Global Stewardship, mostly in Stanford Bookstore (see titles on order and titles already at W&L).

Friday 24 Feb: visited Cal State Monterey Bay to talk with Robina Bhatti, Director of the Global Studies Program. While the program is in many respects unique, there are a number of elements that may be useful models for what we hope to accomplish in Global Stewardship. CSUMB is a relatively new campus of the Cal State system (opened in 1995), and was developed to be interdisciplinary in its organizational structure (based on Centers and Institutes instead of departments). The main website lists the following as CSUMB's "academic value and focuses":

It's interesting to consider that many of these are implicit parts of what we mean to develop in our Global Stewardship Program. Global Studies is a major (and so differs fundamentally from our model), and is structured around "Outcomes-based" learning, following a grid of 14 core requirements which begin with a proseminar and culminate in a capstone course. The emphasis is primarily in the social sciences, and GIS is not included anywhere in the Program (though CSUMB has an Institute of GIS and Spatial Analysis, and a program in Spatial Information Visualization & Analysis). Global Studies does not seem to be heavily based in academic literatures, and relies heavily on InterLibrary Loan from elsewhere in the Cal State system and upon electronic resources (journals in particular --the whole stable of Elsevier and Wiley journals, as well as JSTOR, IDEAL and EBSCO), since the CSUMB library is quite small. Faculty in Global Studies carry an enormous advising burden, tailoring each student's program individually and supporting individual projects, but (largely as a result of this intensive personal attention) the program has been very successful in sending students on to graduate programs. Some courses are taught by adjunct faculty. In addition to the plentiful materials on the Global Studies Program available through their website, I collected several documents describing courses and procedures. It's interesting that CSUMB is linked to the Global Studies Department at St. Lawrence University --Kathryn Poethig of that department was formerly at CSUMB.


During the last year I have spent quite a bit of time gathering information on programs and GIS initiatives, and it seemed that I knew quite a lot of what's going on in other institutions, but much of the above reports new contacts, new leads, and new ideas I encountered in a week of visiting. The new possibilities which the prospective gift of ArcIMS enables for collaboration and map distribution are an exciting prospect, and my conviction that student involvement with data is both important and practical is confirmed by everything I have seen.  My overall conclusions from this set of visits are

Clearly these point in the direction of an application for external funding, which I am pursuing with other members of the GIS Cabal.