MS GIS Program
Since 2002, the MS GIS program at the University of Redlands has prepared 300 students to enter the innovative world of Geographic Information Systems.
“It’s hard work on everyone’s part, but it’s worth it,” Director Dr. Douglas Flewelling said.
The program’s key components are theory and analysis, technology and practical application. Students take 42 units during the one-year program, attend workshops and software training, and complete a Major Individual Project, which takes the place of a thesis. Students each take on projects for local government agencies or faculty members, turn a proposal in, and then receive their assignment.
“It’s accelerated,” Flewelling said. “They pick their thesis by the third week. With faculty guidance and help, they are matched with a project we feel they will grow into.”
The program is immersive, and students eat, sleep and breathe the subject matter.
“Sometimes, we refer to it as a monastic retreat,” Flewelling said. “They don’t have a lot of free time.”
During each school year, two cohorts start – one in September, and one in January. Each cohort is capped at 15 students.
“We look for diversity within the group,” Flewelling said. “We hope for compatibility, because a cohort becomes an extra support for all of our students.”
The students also have five faculty members to turn to for guidance.
“We have just masters, but it’s the same intense one-on-one mentorship you’d have at the PhD level,” Flewelling said.
There is no typical MS GIS student. Some are from the GIS world, while others have a background in English literature or art. The program has a reputation around the globe, which is why on average almost one-third of each cohort is comprised of international students.
“We have had students from Saudi Arabia, Japan, Iran, Kenya, Ukraine, Chile, Argentina, Luxembourg,” Flewelling said. “It brings a diversity of experience. We aren’t building solutions that are just applicable to Southern California.”
One other unique aspect of the MS GIS program is that most of the students live in an apartment complex on Central Avenue.
“You share an apartment with someone you share a classroom with,” Flewelling said. “It’s an intense, personal experience. Some describe it as boot camp, others summer camp. Building that tight cohesion in the group has helped. It’s really turned out to be a critical part of the social aspect.”
The MS GIS program has some of the highest completion rates in the country. About half of each cohort finishes within the year, and overall, the six-year completion rate is 75 percent. Most graduates find employment within two to three months of leaving the University, with an average starting salary of $60 to $70,000. Some end up down the road at Esri, others in Washington D.C. doing federal consulting or at an NGO.
Wherever those students end up, each one see things differently than when they started the MS GIS program.
“They take a bit of Redlands’ way of thinking–a broad, integrative, liberal arts approach,” Flewelling said. “It’s more than just technology; it’s technology with a purpose.”
More information on the MS GIS program.
Posted: August 16, 2013
Written by: Catherine Garcia