New Master of Science in applied geography expected for 2017

Blakeley Bartee and Chyna James

By fall 2017, Georgia Southern University will offer a new program: a Master of Science in applied geography (MS-AG), which will provide students the skills to utilize geotechnology, geostatistics and geospatial data in fields including national security, logistics, environmental consulting and location analysis.

“It’s great to have new things, and the department is really growing. You’re always going to need geographers and geologists, because they both work with how we interact with the world,” Jake Lindsey, senior geology major, said.

The only program of its type in the southeast, the MS-AG program will offer the National Geotechnology Security Foundation Certificate, making GSU the thirteenth university in the United States to offer the certificate, according to Jeffrey Underwood, geography department chair and professor.

“[With geospatial data], if you could intercept terrorist information or terrorist tweets, you would know where they’re at, what they’re talking about, and probably even the target,” Underwood said. “This is used in national security, and so one of the things we’ve done with this program [is that] we’ve gotten certification by the [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], and we’re also going to offer a certificate for anyone, but particularly Department of Defense personnel, who can come here and take a one-year program and become certified as a national security geotechnology analyst.”

While the postgraduate program will teach students applications of geography, a bachelor’s degree in geography or geology is not a prerequisite. The first two courses in the MS-AG program will introduce students to geographical thought and theory, according to Underwood.

“What we’re looking for is to get people from outside [the geography and geology departments]. We’d love to have business students, political science students, public health students, journalists,” Underwood said. “You can think of any major, almost, on this campus that could benefit from [applied geography].”

In the program, students will learn how to use geotechnology that creates algorithms that predict the future geography of an area. Geotechnology is useful for choosing locations for emergency services or companies, predicting erosion and human development, analyzing voting trends and tracking containers for shipping companies.

Underwood hopes the new major will attract students both nationally and internationally, as the program is one of very few in the United States.

Every faculty member in the geography department, with the addition of Chester Jackson, assistant professor of geology, will teach courses in the MS-AG program, according to Underwood. The department has begun its soft recruitment for faculty, and will begin recruiting in fall of 2016.

“We’re excited as everyone else is. The university is excited; I know the dean is excited about it. We’re the epicenter of excitement right now. We really are pleased this is going to happen. We’re going to make it work; it should be really great,” Underwood said.

With its projected fall 2017 debut, the MS-AG program may arrive just in time for many GSU students to consider returning for their postgraduate studies.

“I think the new major will greatly benefit Georgia Southern and anyone who participates in it. The new program opens up many great opportunities to students here at our school and students from across the nation who could come and study here,” Kyle Kuhlman, freshman geology major, said. “I would definitely consider coming back to GSU to participate in the program.”