Recently, Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) entered into an agreement with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) Canada Limited. This agreement, as part of Esri Canada’s new Centres of Higher Education Excellence (ECCE) program, will encourage more sharing of resources in the field of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS helps address many business, socio-economic, and demographic challenges from a spatial context and presents solutions visually using interactive, digital mapping technology.
Esri Canada’s ECCE program involves only seven higher education institutions in Canada. The ECCE program will foster new and innovative uses of GIS in both institutions. Dalhousie and NSCC’s Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) & Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) will see several benefits from this agreement including support from Esri for GIS activities and research with in-kind support for training, software, technical support, and scholarships and awards. This program will open up opportunities with a network of post-secondary institutions across the country that educate students in GIS, strengthening existing relationships in a way that will benefit students, faculty, and researchers.
The ECCE program is the next step in Esri Canada’s support of educational institutions across the country and complements their long-term, ongoing support of NSCC-COGS and Dalhousie. The Esri agreement with NSCC and Dalhousie will encourage innovation in GIS research and excellence in teaching in the field. It will help promote GIS education and course options for future students, pool resources to help increase the creation of custom software application development, promote the sharing of information around student availability and employment opportunities, and encourage collaboration with research funding. The agreements are in place for two-year terms.
NSCC-COGS has worked closely with Esri Canada since the company’s inception in the early 1980s. Since 2005, Dalhousie has received an annual scholarship from Esri Canada through the GIS Centre. Esri Canada creates software and tools that allow people to distribute GIS services through the web, desktop, and mobile applications.
Dr. Brent Hall, Director of Education and Research at Esri Canada, says, “We are very pleased to recognize the outstanding contributions of Dalhousie and COGS through their GIS education and spatial data research programs. Bringing the two institutions together through the new ECCE will serve to create a hub in Atlantic Canada that will allow students, researchers, and the regional spatial information technology information industry to continue to thrive.”
“Programs like this offer a chance for greater information and idea sharing which will help to inspire more real-world solutions for our communities and additional resources for our faculty and students,” says Dennis Kingston, Academic Chair for NSCC’s COGS at its Annapolis Valley Campus.
Dalhousie’s provost and vice-president academic, Dr. Carolyn Watters says the university is very pleased to take part in the ECCE program. “The opportunities the agreement opens up will not only benefit our students and faculty but will be instrumental in connecting us more closely with a national network within the GIS sector.”
“The ECCE that includes Dalhousie and NSCC provides further incentive for the institutions to work closer together in the field of GIS,” notes Mike McAllister, computer science faculty member and Dalhousie’s chair of ECCE. “There’s much to be learned from both institutions, in terms of how each is using GIS technology. Dalhousie has elements of spatial scholarship that underlie research and education in many of its faculties, while NSCC, specifically COGS, has been providing its expertise in geospatial work to industry nationally for years. The ECCE will allow us to identify more opportunities for innovation and partnership.”
“This ECCE is a win-win-win scenario for students and faculty at Dal and NSCC and for Esri,” adds Dave MacLean, GIS faculty and chair of ECCE at NSCC-COGS. “It opens up avenues for all involved to share resources locally and work more collaboratively across the board.”