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Cuesta awarded $225K to fund GIS technology courses, certification program 

Cuesta campus San Luis Obispo.

–Cuesta College is meeting the high-demand needs of the local Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology industry with the launch of new GIS courses and certification.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, Cuesta College students will have the opportunity to learn the skills necessary for jobs in the GIS industry and fulfill degree requirements for various majors like engineering, architecture, health, agriculture, and computer information systems. GIS technology can be used for scientific investigations, resource management, and development planning, and in various career fields, including emergency response, marketing, engineering, biology, science, and more.

“After taking our new GIS courses, students will have a better understanding of how location is important in understanding people and processes on this planet, and also be prepared for a wide variety of career options,” said Cuesta College Physical Sciences Instructor Feride Schroeder.

A National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is providing Cuesta College with approximately $225,000 to launch a course sequence that will earn students a GIS Analyst Certificate. Students will have the opportunity to take Introduction to GIS in the Fall of 2018, and Advanced GIS in the Spring of 2019. The full course sequence will be available during the 2019-20 academic year and include two additional courses: Web Application and Development in GIS and Geospatial Data Acquisition and Management. The goal is for students to earn the GIS Analyst Certificate over a one-year period.

The GIS Analyst Certificate will prepare students to become mapmakers who use GIS technology to present spatial information in a digital format. These maps are useful to many sectors, including environmental services, natural resource exploration, and local government. GIS analysts can pursue careers in mapmaking, analysis, or GIS software development.

The NSF grant will also fund four internships each year.

“With the first course that we are offering this Fall, students will gain geospatial analysis skills that they can immediately apply to an internship or summer job,” said Schroeder. “This class will open the students’ eyes to the power of geospatial technology and all that it offers.”

GIS is a computer system for capturing, managing, analyzing, and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface. By relating seemingly unrelated data, GIS can help individuals and organizations better understand spatial patterns and relationships.

Local demand for individuals trained in GIS is strong. According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, adequate GIS training is not available in the San Luis Obispo County region (1.) Between 2012 and 2015, only four GIS certificates were awarded within the Central Coast region. By increasing the number of trained GIS Analysts, Cuesta College will advance California toward its goal to train and place one million workers in middle-skill jobs (2.)

“Geographic information is being collected at an unprecedented rate and the need for GIS skilled people is increasing everywhere,” said City of San Luis Obispo Information Services Supervisor David Yun. “Everyone, whether they realize it or not, is using geographic information. Knowing what is where and when is crucial information in just about everything that we do. Using GIS technology, we can discover spatial and temporal patterns that can lead us to understand the why and how certain phenomenon is occurring. GIS allows us to make informed decisions to manage resources wisely and expedite work processes. We need GIS skilled people to manage and analyze the information so that everyone can make informed decisions about the world around them.”

Students enrolled in Cuesta College’s GIS courses will have the opportunity to attend the annual Esri Users Conference, the world’s largest event dedicated to GIS technology. Students will also earn industry-recognized credentials and display their projects at a local GIS event.

In the future, the college plans to incorporate drone technology into its GIS curriculum.

“Drone technology – or unmanned aerial systems – has grown exponentially in the last few years,” said Schroeder. “Experts predict that this sector of the market will continue to grow. Drone technology, combined with GIS, can be used by farmers for precision agriculture, by emergency services for rescue operations, and producing maps with 3D data used for various calculations. My goal is to eventually offer a course that teaches basic drone operation, as well as a course that teaches students how to acquire and process drone data.”

Fall 2018 registration is currently open; courses begin Aug. 13. For questions regarding GIS courses at Cuesta College, please call (805) 546-3230.

1) California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2017, September 13). Program Awards Summary Report. Retrieved from Management Information Systems Data Mart:
2) California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (2015). Board of Governor’s Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy: Report and Recommendations. Sacramento, CA: California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at