Status of Geoscience at UIC

UIC was among the earliest American universities to offer a course entitled, ďGeographic Information Systems,Ē in 1969, the result of a proposal initiated by Prof. Cliff Tiedemann in 1967. GeoScience at UIC pre-dates the Chicago U of I campusís move from the old Navy Pier location to the present UIC campus in 1965, to its present home, the UIC Geography program and its present research unit, the Chicago Area Geographic Information Study  (CAGIS), founded 1973 by Prof. Ed Thomas. UIC GeoScience continues to grow steadily throughout the earth, health, and social sciences, and across the disciplines.

The UIC geographic skill base also spread with the help of Prof. Siim Soot and his work with Prof. Ashish Sen at the Urban Transportation Center (UTC) and the UIC Urban Planning and Policy Program for the better part of two decades. These units were among those joined recently into a new college, CUPPA, while Geography remained in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences within the Anthropology department.

Upon its organization early in 1995, the newly formed UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA) drew together a group of GIS and GeoScience faculty and researchers from the UIC campus and from institutions in the Chicago region to consider campus-wide improvement and expansion of GIS technology. This initiative led to cooperation with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a growing system-wide site license for ESRI GIS software products, including the installation at UIC of ArcInfo on the central faculty UNIX machine and requested local sites, the availability of ArcView in student labs throughout the campus and upon request elsewhere, the establishment of the UICGIS listserv on the UIC campus, and the approval in 2000 of the UIC Provostís GIS Task Force to advance GeoScience and GIS technology throughout the campus.

In 1998, the U of I Board of Trustees and UIC administration approved the permanent funding of the Great Cities Urban Data Visualization Program (GCUDV). This new program established a research laboratory in the newly rehabbed CUPPA Hall, where students from planning, geography, architecture, art, computer science, and engineering have worked together with faculty, principally Prof. Kheir Al-Kodmany, on an interdisciplinary attempt to integrate database, GIS, 3D, and Web systems into a new medium for research and interactive communication. Because of the location of the U of I Survey Research Laboratory within CUPPA, collaboration on the development of web-based map-survey technology has been a special interest of the GCUDV Lab and for UIC researchers interested in public participation GIS. In the summer of 2000, the GCUDV lab successfully linked a three dimensional spatial neighborhood model constructed by students to the CAVE virtual reality environment at the UIC campusís Electronic Visualization Lab. And after an international search, Prof. Michael Shiffer of MIT has joined GCUDV as Director as of 1/1/01.

Prior to the hiring of its new director, the GCUDV program under CUPPA Associate Dean Albert Schorsch, III organized and distributed a number of key GeoScience resources throughout the UIC campus. Special GIS training workshops have been offered to students, faculty, and staff of the campus twice a year; computer equipment and software has been distributed to the UIC Library and the interdisciplinary City Design Center and their exciting Chicago Imagebase Project; ESRI online training has been provided free of charge by GCUDV to any UIC faculty, student, or staff upon request; visiting faculty, including Nancy Obermeyer from Indiana State U., and post doctoral research associates have been hired to implement GIS and IMS technology on the campus through free computer seminars and special implementation projects. Each academic year, the GCUDV retreat brings together GeoScience and visualization professionals from the UIC campus to discuss the advancement of these efforts. Through these, through the UICGIS listserv, and now the formal UIC Provostís GIS Task Force, UIC GeoScientists and GIS users have come to know each other as colleagues across the disciplines, and have engaged in a number of exciting projects and initiatives. CAGIS staff like Jim Bash have been integral to the spread of these technologies, especially to the social and health sciences, and most recently to the UIC School of Public Health.

GeoScience components exist within courses in three academic departments at UIC, and GeoScience methods are used within ten academic departments and in research in nine of UICís fifteen colleges. We expect that the work of the UIC Provostís GIS Task Force will expand GeoScience into almost all of these colleges.


  University of Illinois at Chicago GIS Task Force