Point of Beginning

Web Exclusive! From the Other Side of the Classroom: Student Perspectives

April 1, 2005
Students from programs in Montana and Texas share their educational experiences.

At FVCC, first-year students are taught trig leveling.


What do students have to say about the state of surveying education? Do they feel their chosen programs are meeting their needs and providing them with opportunities that will help them succeed professionally after graduation? Here are two perspectives-one from a current student and one from a recent graduate-on their educational experiences in surveying/geomatics programs.

Flathead Valley Community College

In 2003 Eric Konop moved from Shell Lake, Wis., to Kalispell, Mont., to enroll in Flathead Valley Community College's surveying program. Konop will graduate next month in May 2005. While attending FVCC he is also working part-time as a survey technician for the city of Kalispell. Konop stumbled into surveying as a summer job while he was attending the University of Wisconsin. Although he graduated from the university with B.S. in environmental health, Konop decided to pursue surveying afterward. He researched many surveying programs and chose the two-year route because, he says, "I figured that my B.S. plus the survey credits [from FVCC] would suffice what I needed to get registered someday in the states that I was interested in surveying in."

FVCC was the best deal for Konop, who knew he would have to pay out-of-state tuition wherever he went. Konop says FVCC is the ""˜value meal' of surveying programs." He received close to $4,000 in scholarship money from the Montana Association of Registered Land Surveyors (MARLS) and FVCC for the 2004-2005 school year. Now, as he nears graduation, he feels he made the right decision. "It wasn't that I was expecting it to be easy, but it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be," Konop says of his education at FVCC. "I'd put it right up there with a four-year [degree]. It has all the core classes except geodesy." Konop appreciates the small class size because he can always ask his instructors questions and there is plenty of equipment for the field classes. And, he adds, "The guys in the program hang out sometimes, get lunch pretty frequently, and spend a lot of time studying together." Konop says that the Flathead Valley is "a great place to find original monumentation [where] you're going to be out in the mountains and looking for corners that nobody's visited in a hundred years." Konop's post-graduation plans are proof of the excellent placement rate FVCC claims: he has signed on with a firm in Duluth, Minn., and will begin work as a survey party chief as soon as he graduates.

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

As a graduate of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), Brianne Bernsen wholeheartedly believes that her alma mater offers one of the best geomatics programs in the nation. "Our professors are from all over the world, and each brings diverse surveying experience that transcends state and federal regulations, emphasizing instead the common principles upon which our profession is based," she says. "We receive a varied and comprehensive education that touches on numerous geomatics-related applications, giving each student the ability to immediately enter into any number of careers." TAMUCC's four-year program offers an emphasis in geomatics or GIS. According to Bernsen, "We are given such a broad base of instruction in each that I know of several past GIS majors who now work primarily in surveying, and vice versa." Studying at TAMUCC's up-to-date program exposed Bernsen to the latest technologies in both fields. In addition, she received instructions specific to becoming licensed as a surveyor in Texas.

Bernsen was pleased to discover an active geomatics student organization when she enrolled at TAMUCC. "It's dedicated to promoting and expanding surveying in the community," she says. Through the efforts of this organization, each year TAMUCC students participate in national events, such as the ACSM student surveying competition and the ESRI International User Conference, as well as state events such as the Texas Society of Professional Surveyors state convention.

But in the end, the best aspect of TAMUCC's program was the opportunities it made available to Bernsen. "My first job after graduation was working for Petroleum Geo Services on the north slope of Alaska doing survey quality control for a 3D seismic grid covering 580 square miles of the Alaskan Arctic," Bernsen says. She explains, "I was introduced to this prospect from an internship I did my sophomore year of school with three other students. We spent a semester as GPS operators for seismic exploration in Alaska." Bernsen adds that companies from all over the world are constantly seeking TAMUCC students and graduates for these types of internships and jobs. Because of this high demand for students, she is actively involved in efforts to increase enrollment in the program. "My husband [also a graduate of TAMUCC's geomatics program] and I believe strongly that the future of surveying lies in programs such as TAMUCC's," she says. "We participate in career fairs promoting surveying and the geomatics and GIS degrees at Corpus Christi, and my husband is active in the program's Academic Advisory Committee. We are living proof that the ideologies the curriculum is based on are successful, and like many of the alumni, are dedicated to the school's continuation and expansion."

Click HERE to read "The State of Surveying Education."