Point of Beginning

An Educator's Forum

September 1, 2007


From July 11-13, the Surveying Engineering Department at Ferris State University (FSU) in Big Rapids, Mich., hosted the 21st North American Surveying and Mapping Educators (NASME) Conference, a biennial event. More than 60 participants from U.S. universities and colleges attended, as well as a few from Europe and Canada. Most attendees were university educators, but some were from private practice, including some who have worked or currently work as adjunct instructors of geomatics subjects in college programs.

The FSU faculty, headed by Professor and Program Coordinator Dr. Khagendra Thapa, organized a full program of presentations, discussion panels and business meetings. Catered meals allowed for continued discussion of topics as well as networking.

The keynote speaker on the event’s opening day was retired Rear Adm. John Bossler, whose career culminated with stints as director of the National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and director of Ohio State University’s Center for Mapping. Dr. Bossler stepped the audience through his career and talked about the changes he has seen with respect to the profession’s instrumentation, approach to projects, and the transition from being simply collectors and analysts of measurements to managers of geospatial information. Echoing other current leading thinkers on the role of geomatics in society, Bossler indicated that as technology improves and the process of measurement gets easier, it becomes imperative for surveyors to establish themselves as professionals who convert basic data into useful information (that is, managers of geospatial information). By way of example, he discussed how the science of photogrammetry is fast becoming an area where image understanding (explaining, segregating, aggregating and analyzing the contents of an image) is becoming the information deliverable; in the past, it mostly consisted of measurement data with some analysis. He urged the educators in attendance to consider the mandatory introduction of GIS courses for their students because the elements of geospatial information management requires the use of GIS tools.


Retired Rear Adm. John Bossler presented the keynote address at the XXI North American Surveying and Mapping Educators Conference in mid-July. Photo by Dr. Robert Burtch.

Papers and Panels

Twenty two papers were presented covering surveying curriculum and professional development; distance and online education; geodesy, GIS and surveying; accreditation; and continuing education. Some notable topics were:

Dr. Joshua Greenfeld from the New Jersey Institute of Technology proposed that the profession should develop a body of knowledge (BOK) for surveying just as civil engineers and GIS practitioners, among others, have established. Greenfeld indicated a general lack of cohesion (and understanding) in describing the BOK in surveying at the practitioners’ level. The proposed benefits of developing a BOK are to help prospective entrants into the profession, mentors, human resources departments, licensing boards and other authorities.

Dr. Stacey Lyle discussed some of the difficulties in attracting students to the surveying curriculum at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. He reported that many students enter the program wanting to study GIS and switch once they learn about the field of geomatics.

Dr. Bela Markus from the University of West Hungary echoed Bossler’s presentation, discussing how various aspects of a surveying professional’s work has changed recently. Examples he gave included the change of instrumentation from analog to digital; measurements from discrete to continuous, two dimensional to three dimensional and static to dynamic; delivery of data to delivery of information and from products to services; and delivery of generalized solutions to customized ones and from geographical to geospatial. He urged the educators to prepare students for the new world they will be working in, not just the world as it exists today.

A highlight of the conference was a panel discussion moderated by Jim Plasker, executive director of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), on the current status of surveying education in the United States and the criteria for accreditation under various commissions of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The panel consisted of Curt Sumner, executive director of ACSM; Dr. James Crossfield, California State University-Fresno; Dr. David Gibson, University of Florida in Gainesville; Dr. Steven Frank, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces; and Mike Falk, a consultant from the engineering and surveying firm of Falk-PLI, Portage, Ind. A lively discussion ensued, with full participation from the audience. Gibson spoke at length from a paper he had written on the issues and reasoning that occurred beginning post-World War II that caused surveying to be gradually phased out from the curriculums for most, if not all, civil engineering programs.


Panel members discussed the criteria for accreditation under various commissions of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Photo by Dr. Robert Burtch.

A New Educators Association

At the business meeting, conference attendees recognized that the current issues facing the profession and educators of geomatics were substantive enough for the formation of a formal association. A motion to this effect was voted and passed handily. FSU’s Professor Dr. Robert Burtch was voted as the chair of a committee to work out the details for formation of the association, including proposals for the name of the association, by-laws or constitution, membership classes, and fees and officers. His committee is tasked with considering the possibility for the new association to be a member organization of ACSM. Stay tuned to POB for details on this new association.

Special reporting by Joseph V.R. Paiva, PhD, PS, PE.

The 2009 NASME conference will be held at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in Johnson City and organized by ETSU faculty member Dr. Marilyn Clark. The 2011 conference location was chosen as the University of Puerto Rico in Mayagüez, which has a department of civil engineering and surveying.

The papers from the XXI NASME conference are formatted and published on CD, and are available through FSU’s Dr. Thapa at Khagendra_Thapa@ferris.edu. For more information on past conferences beginning with the XVI conference, click to the website http://surveying.wb.psu.edu/suredu/ maintained by Dr. Charles Ghilani of Pennsylvania State University.