Message from the Director

Chris Lukinbeal, PhD

The Bachelors of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology (BSGIST), the Masters of Science in Geographic Information Systems Technology (MSGIST) and the Professional GIST Graduate Certificate (PGIST) are innovative and exciting opportunities for people seeking professional experience in geospatial industries.  My experience working with GIST programs has allowed me to develop a systematic approach to administering and delivering the highest quality education. Because of my knowledge of  professional GIST programs throughout the United States, I am aware of the challenges of creating, maintaining, and continually working to make the best and most innovative program available to students.  I have assisted over 300 GIST students graduate and respect the commitment it takes to survive and advance in a fast-paced program.

My philosophy is that a program is never static, but must meet the evolving requirements that continually push this new field forward.  Further, I continually assess the program's quality, ensure cohesion between courses, and seek opportunities to merge the program with the local/state/national geospatial industry, which is essential for the future employment of our graduates.  I seek to build a learning community and emphasize learner-centered education.  While there are no requirements to enroll in these programs, basic computer skills are essential.  I have worked with students with no GIS background, limited GIS background, and some with very extensive GIS background.  I believe that the best way to learn GIS is through personal contact between professors and students, who forge a learning community that is not simply a transfer of information from a professor to a student, but is an interactive model of learning in which we help each other extend our knowledge.  Overall, I firmly believe that "what you put into the program is what you will get out of the program."  And, while I and other faculty are there to facilitate your learning, the onus is on you to push yourself to expand your knowledge, skill base, and network to achieve your goals.

I will challenge you to move beyond the link between scientific principles and their application in GIS. Geographic problem-solving along with creative and critical thinking will develop your skill base, but such a process requires peer interaction professional critiques from your professors as well as your fellow students, which will enable you to excel in the program and learn that there are multiple ways to solve tasks and geographic problems.

The focus on learner-centered education means that students cannot sit back, take tests, do lab work, and graduate.  Rather, project-based learning is integral to the program. Project-based learning involves time and project management skills, data compilation, database design, creation of methodological strategies that can address problems within a given time frame, choosing and evaluating the best analytical techniques to solve problems, and the professional presentation of results.

In the creation of the program, I have worked hard with UA administrators to offer one of the lowest priced GIST programs offered by a premier research university.

A one-year site license for ESRI software is provided to all students to aid in completing their work as well as access to the ESRI Virtual Campus courses.

All GIST students are part of the School of Geography, Development, and Environment which is in the new ENR2 building.  The School offers numerous academic and social events throughout the year in which you are encouraged to participate.  In addition, UA is a highly ranked research and land grant university, offering a wide variety of activities and events which will enrich your academic experience.  I look forward to working with you and hearing about your academic and professional success.

Chris Lukinbeal, PhD

Director, GIST
School of Geography, Development and Environment
The University of Arizona