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Released March 7, 2003

Southern Miss WORKFORCE AND TRAINING DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
HELPING NASA PROMOTE GEOSPATIAL TECHNOLOGIES

By Christopher Mapp

HATTIESBURG - Much the same way that computers revolutionized society in the latter half of the 20th century, geospatial technologies could benefit people's lives in the new millennium.

"Just like the personal computer changed the way we do business and live everyday, it is projected that geospatial technologies will have more of an impact than the personal computer," said Heather Annulis, assistant professor from the Workplace Learning and Performance Center at The University of Southern Mississippi. So great is the interest in geospatial technology, which comprises one of the country's fastest growing high-tech sectors and offers enormous market potential, that NASA has funded the National Workforce Development Education and Training Initiative (NWDETI), a customer-driven effort to meet workforce demands for the emerging $21 billion geospatial industry.

Over the past three years, Southern Miss's Workforce Training and Development (WTD) program has played a key role in NWDETI, which aims ultimately to develop a well-trained workforce for the geospatial industry that will help the United States maintain its global leadership in that field. The WTD program at Southern Miss, under the School of Engineering Technology, is currently in the third year of a five-year NWDETI grant from NASA worth $3 million.

Geospatial technologies, which include global positioning systems, geographic information systems and remote sensing, are used by consumers in a variety of ways. OnStar, a satellite-assisted navigational system for automobiles, allows motorists to find their way to any destination using a computerized map. Community development agencies, foresters, farmers, law enforcement agencies and engineers, to name a few, rely on the technologies to address everyday challenges.

Industrial uses for geospatial technology are widespread and diverse. In the event of war with Iraq, the U.S. military will likely use Navstar, a constellation of GPS satellites that provides military users with extremely precise information to pinpoint positions within a few meters. NASA used geospatial technology to assist its recovery of debris from the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart upon reentry to Earth's atmosphere in February.

Janeen McCully Hagelston, a graduate student working on her master of science degree in Workforce Training and Development, was part of a group of graduate assistants at Southern Miss that presented grant research to NASA officials on February 26. Other graduate researchers making the presentation were Rachael Bergeron, Aquilino Garcia and Chad Luter.

"We were tasked to do both two-year and four-year curriculum resources in order to identify all the geographic information systems and remote sensing courses in the U.S.," said Hagelston, who last year became the first person in the country to receive a workforce development internship from NASA, a 10-week summer research program through Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Using an online map that the student researchers created, people seeking information on geospatial technologies can click on any state and find out where all of the GIS and remote sensing courses are taught in the United States.

Dr. Cyndi Gaudet, founder of Workforce Training and Development at Southern Miss, said that the university's involvement with NASA through NWDETI has put the program in a unique position. "Southern Miss has been given the opportunity to be an international leader for geospatial workforce development," she said.

Another key component of the NWDETI effort is the Geospatial Workforce Development Center (GeoWDC), which is housed within Southern Miss's Workplace Learning and Performance Center. GeoWDC's main contribution to NWDETI has been the development of the Geospatial Technology Competency Model, which is a way to define the workforce needs for the geospatial marketplace.

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July 16, 2003 9:51 AM

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