Department of Geography, via World Campus
Todd Bacastow, Ph.D. (Penn State) Professor of Practice for Geospatial Intelligence
Joseph A. Bishop, Ph.D. (Penn State) Research Associate
Cynthia A. Brewer, Ph.D. (Michigan State) Professor of Geography
Roberts P. Brooks, Ph.D. (UMass, Amherst) Professor of Geography
Mark W. Corson, Ph.D. (South Carolina) Associate Professor of Geography
Robert G. Crane, Ph.D. (Colorado) Professor of Geography
David W. DiBiase, M.S. (Wisconsin-Madison) Senior Lecturer of Geography
Mark Gahegan, Ph.D. (Curtin) Professor of Geography
Peter L. Guth, Ph.D. (MIT) Professor of Geography
Patrick J. Kennelly, Ph.D. (Oregon State) Associate Professor of Geography
Fritz C. Kessler, Ph.D. (Kansas) Associate Professor of Geography
Alexander Klippel, Ph.D. (Bremen, Germany) Assistant Professor of Geography
C. Gregory Knight, Ph. D. (Minnesota) Professor of Geography
Alan M. MacEachren, Ph.D. (Kansas) Professor of Geography
Douglas A. Miller, Ph.D. (Penn State) Associate Professor of Geography
Anthony C. Robinson, Ph.D. (Penn State) Research Associate
Adena B. Schutzbert, M.S. (Penn State) Senior Lecturer of Geography
Alan H. Taylor, Ph.D. (Colorado) Professor of Geography
Ian Turton, Ph.D. (Edinburgh) Senior Research Associate, Geography
Denise H. Wardrop, Ph.D. (Penn State) Associate Professor of Geography
Brenton M. Yarnal, Ph.D. (Simon Fraser) Professor of Geography
The Master of Geographic Information Systems (M.G.I.S.) degree is awarded to students who demonstrate mastery of the technical competencies and leadership skills required to design, manage, and use geographic information technologies successfully in a wide range of professional fields. The MGIS program is intended specifically for working professionals who are able to participate only on a part-time basis and at a distance. It is offered exclusively through World Campus. The MGIS complements, but does not replace, the Department of Geography's more research-focused Master of Science program, which is offered at the University Park campus. Students who expect to pursue the Ph.D. in Geography should apply for admission to the residential M.S. program.
Students who wish to pursue the M.G.I.S. degree must be admitted both to the MGIS program and to Penn State's Graduate School. The Graduate School requires applicants to possess any baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution earned under residence and credit conditions substantially equivalent to those required by Penn State. It also requires official TOEFL or IELTS scores for students from countries in which English is not the primary language. Minimum TOEFL scores are 550 for the paper test or 213 for the computer-based test, or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (iBT). Applicants with iBT speaking scores between 15 and 18 may be considered for provisional admission, which requires an institutional test of English proficiency upon first enrollment and, if necessary, remedial course work. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a masters degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.
Additional requirements imposed by the Department of Geography include:
A committee consisting of at least three Geography faculty members, including one faculty member not currently participating in the MGIS program, will meet three times annually to screen applications and identify applicants qualified for admission. Three cohorts of approximately twelve students each will be admitted during three annual admissions cycles. Applicants who are only able to participate part-time and at a distance while maintaining full-time professional responsibilities (and who are therefore effectively excluded from participation in the department's resident program) will be preferred. The best-qualified applicants will be admitted up to the number of spaces that are available for new students.
Prior to admission in the MGIS program, students may enroll in MGIS courses as nondegree graduate students. Nondegree graduate students who are subsequently admitted to the MGIS program may count up to 15 credits of course work accumulated in nondegree status toward the M.G.I.S. degree. Applicants for nondegree graduate status must submit transcripts that confirm they have received a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution under residence and credit conditions substantially equivalent to those required by Penn State. Admission as a nondegree student neither guarantees nor implies subsequent admission to the MGIS degree program. Changing from nondegree status to regular graduate status requires a new admission application.
By Graduate School rules, a maximum of 10 credits of high-quality graduate work completed at a regionally accredited institution may be applied toward the requirements for the M.G.I.S. degree. However, credits earned to complete a previous master's degree, whether at Penn State or elsewhere, may not be applied to a second master's degree program at Penn State. Approval to apply any transferred credits toward a degree program must be granted by the student's academic adviser or program and the Graduate School. Transferred academic work must have been completed within five years prior to the date of first degree registration at the Graduate School of Penn State, must be of at least B quality, and must appear on an official graduate transcript of an accredited university.
Students earn the M.G.I.S. degree by successfully completing 35 credits of course work, including a supervised independent project. Course requirements include a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 level or above, 6 to 9 credits of which are earned through individual studies (GEOG 596). Students are encouraged to create and maintain personal e-portfolios that chronicle their achievements in the program, outline long-term professional development strategies, and foster meaningful interactions among students and faculty members. The independent project demonstrates the student's ability to apply advanced knowledge and skills related to geographic information systems in a way that makes a substantial contribution to his or her professional work. For most student, the project culminates in a formal public presentation, attended by a member of the graduate faculty associated with the MGIS program, which takes place at an appropriate professional conference (such as annual conferences of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, or ESRI). Alternative arrangements are made for students with special needs or constraints. For example, students who submit written reports of project aims and outcomes for publication in adviser-approved peer-reviewed journals are exempt from the public presentation requirement. Presentations and papers are preceded by dress rehearsals that are open to all students in the program through Web and audio conferencing. As part of his or her individual studies, every student is expected to contribute a formal peer review of one other student's rehearsal.
An Advisory Board consisting of accomplished GIS professionals in government and industry, as well as Penn State faculty members in a variety of disciplines who specialize in geographic information science and technology, guides the ongoing development of the MGIS curriculum. Designed for students who are able to participate only on a part-time basis and at a distance, the curriculum is spread over three years; however, students who are able to manage heavier course loads may complete the program in a shorter period of time. Courses are ten weeks in length and require eight to twelve hours of student effort per week. Most courses are offered four times annually, starting in early January, April, July, and October. Most students will complete four courses per year, one course at a time. First-year courses are designed to help students develop the information literacy and technical competencies they need to become knowledgeable and skillful users of desktop geographic information technologies. Second-year courses prepare students for leadership in their organizations with regard to the design, specification, and management of complex geographic information infrastructures. During the third year, students complete electives and an independent study project by which they demonstrate a substantive contribution to their organization as well as the ability to communicate their contribution to a professional audience. Students who successfully complete the Penn State MGIS satisfy the minimum educational achievement required for professional certification by the Geographic Information Systems Certification Institute (www.gisci.org).
Graduate assistantships are not available. Financial aid opportunities for part-time students who participate through the World Campus are discussed at http://worldcampus.psu.edu/StudentServices_FinancialAidOffice.shtml.
In lieu of the 8 credits of prescribed introductory courses (GEOG 482 or 864 + 483 + 484) plus 6 additional elective credits, MGIS students may substitute 14 credits associated with courses that comprise the Geospatial Intelligence Option. This option is designed for current or aspiring practitioners in government agencies, businesses, and non-governmental organizations that rely on insights produced through skillful, knowledgeable, and conscientious analysis of diverse geo-referenced data to plan for emergencies, to coordinate responses to natural and human induced disasters, to enforce the law, and to plan and conduct military operations.
Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 599 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.
Last Revised by the Department: Summer Session 2010
Blue Sheet Item #: 38-04-092
Review Date: 01/12/2010
DATE LAST REVIEWED BY PUBLICATIONS: 7/9/07 (link check)