Message from the Director: Vision for GIST Online Education at NC State

After many years studying and working in the environmental science and engineering fields, Dr. Eric Money joined the NC State faculty in May of 2014. As the Associate Director of Professional Education, Director of Graduate Programs and Assistant Professor, Dr. Money has been shaping the GIS programs and has big goals for their future. We spoke to Dr. Money recently to learn more about his background and his goals for GIS at NC State.

Finding His Way Through Academia

Dr. Money began his education at Wake Forest University, where he received his B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies. His senior year offered his first taste of GIS, during which he assisted on a mapping and spatial analysis project for rainforest deforestation in Peru.

Dr. Money then pursued a Master’s in Environmental Management & Policy followed by a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. His research focused on the link between water quality and public health, using mapping and geostatistics.

Upon graduating, he completed a three-year postdoc in Civil & Environmental Engineering at Duke University followed by a consulting role for two years with RTI International, but decided that academia was his true passion. He joined NC State thereafter, where he’s been making a difference for graduate students ever since.

Roles & Research

Dr. Money develops curriculum and courses, works directly with students and faculty, and helps create the best possible educational experience for students. As the director, he advises all students on how best to navigate graduate school, and as an academic advisor, he helps individual students succeed in their specific courses and programs.

When he’s not busy mentoring students and facilitating GIS graduate programs, Dr. Money continues to conduct research in areas of spatial epidemiology and GIS pedagogy at the K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels. (Learn more about this in next month’s blog!)

A Vision For Stronger Programs

Dr. Money’s focus is planning for the students, orienting them within the program, and discerning how to best develop the curriculum to meet the needs of an ever-changing discipline. In his words, here are a few of Dr. Money’s main goals:

  • First, my vision for the GIS programs would include continuing to deepen the curriculum, adding relevant courses and expanding opportunities for students.
  • Second, I would like to establish more industry partnerships for students, in particular, to find diverse partners who can provide more options for them to get involved in the field.
  • The third area of focus to incorporate an international component. This should include unique peer-to-peer programs, joint teaching and the incorporation of international examples into actual coursework.
  • My fourth goal is to provide a unique and engaging experience for online students. We’re constantly studying ways to improve their experience, so they feel connected and vested in the NC State community. This goal also includes better alumni engagement and re-engagement for all students in a more formal way.

When asked about his plans to enact this vision over the next five years, Dr. Money has a few ideas:

  • Course Development: I want to focus on pursuing course topics that have longevity. This could include more courses on web- and mobile-based GIS, and drones and unmanned aerial systems, which we can hopefully achieve within the next year or two.
  • Partnerships: As for partnerships, there are two things that will allow us to improve our connections. We’re designated as an Esri Development Center, one of only a handful in the country, which will lead to unique opportunities for students. We are also a hub for open source platforms, and continuing to expand open source opportunities is a strategic goal of our educational programs. Additionally, we have recently been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency/USGS, which opens up greater partnerships with federal agencies.
  • International Connection: We’ll also continue to connect with alumni and look to partner with international universities, to possibly create content together that can be taught to both groups of students or consider a jointly-taught online course.
  • Online Students: In the future, I want to provide better integration of online students into student organizations, even helping them serve in leadership positions, to encourage connection to the school and their fellow on-campus students. I also hope to better celebrate achievements, such as graduation, by creating more engaging events.

Dr. Money continues, “Ultimately, my role is to improve the student experience. This hopefully leads to better engagement with each other, the instructors and the program in general. This helps students be more prepared to enter the workforce and enables them to do real work and gain positive experiences prior to and after graduation.”

Looking At The Year Ahead

Even with a full plate, Dr. Money hopes to especially focus on developing the certificate program this year. “I’m currently taking a hard look at the certificate curriculum, looking for ways to improve its value. I think it is valuable as it is, but I want to see what students are trying to get out of it and if opportunities exist to better develop and market it,” he says.

“I want to see a program that can be more malleable to fit the needs of individual students. We are currently investigating whether expanded programs, parallel programs or multiple certificates can be created, so we’re being more deliberate.”

Considering Dr. Money’s strong vision, students should be excited for the future of NC State’s GIS program and anticipate seeing these visions become reality.

Check back each month as we take a different look at the GIST programs and applications of geospatial information science and technology in the field.