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GIS Across the Campus

Managing a Complex Environment

While GIS applications for research and teaching come readily to mind, GIS use in campus administration is less obvious but growing. College administrators have many of the same responsibilities as the city managers of small towns. They must manage not only a community of students and staff but also facilities, equipment, and data. And because the campus is really a microcosm of the larger community, school administrators deal with budgeting, crime analysis, emergency planning, resource allocation, and other management issues. GIS provides a spatial framework with system integration capabilities that can benefit all aspects of campus operations.

Administrative departments have been using GIS for managing campus resources. By centralizing the maintenance of and access to data sources on campus infrastructure contained in CAD drawings, databases, and documents in a GIS, administrators have an integrated method for handling siting, planning, leasing, constructing, and maintaining facilities. These resources are readily available for other tasks such as managing student housing, optimizing classroom utilization, developing emergency response plans, and performing crime analysis.

An Edge in a Competitive Environment

As colleges and universities deal with the effects of recent economic downturns and more limited government funding, recruitment and solicitation efforts have become even more important. Using GIS, development personnel can better understand the locations of potential students in relation to the campus and competing institutions and target marketing efforts. An article in this issue describes how University of Wisconsin (UW) System surveys potential students to learn about their college expectations and preferences for specific academic programs. This school has also used GIS to determine the locations for courses offered to nontraditional students.

GIS helps universities pursue funding from alumni clubs and donors. Strategically locating and supporting alumni clubs promotes loyalty that can translate into higher levels of alumni giving. Demographic information supplied by census data can assist colleges in identifying, cultivating, and soliciting donors who are the source of annual, deferred, and major gifts.

Contributing to the Community

Many universities are using GIS to provide important services to surrounding communities. Community outreach GIS programs have included planning bikeways, routing meals-on-wheels deliveries for the elderly, and providing access to information on toxic waste site locations.

In addition to furnishing information, colleges and universities can help government agencies develop technical expertise. The Polis Center is collaborating with the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to provide instruction in the use of HAZUS-MH (Hazards U.S.-Multi Hazard), a GIS tool developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for risk assessment and loss estimation.

Taking Full Advantage of GIS

Combining development programs for research, teaching, and administration through developing an enterprisewide GIS for a college or university has tremendous potential for leveraging resources, controlling costs, and generating revenue.

Visit the Higher Education Web pages ( at the Esri Web site to learn more about GIS use at colleges and universities. Information about the Esri Education User Conference (EdUC), to be held July 6-9, 2003, in San Diego, California, is available from these pages. Guidelines for Developing a Successful and Sustainable Higher Education GIS Program, a white paper that provides guidelines for educators, researchers, and administrators who want to develop a successful and sustainable GIS program, can also be downloaded from this site.

Ann Johnson
Higher Education Solutions Manager
Tel.: 909-793-2853, ext. 1793


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