Education challenge, The

education challenge, The

Greulich, Gunther

In the last two years, ACSM publications have concentrated heavily on education. The incentive may have come from the 2002 FIG Congress in Washington, B.C., which has produced papers that point to the future of our surveying and mapping profession. On reading, it becomes clear that our American problems and challenges are not unique.

Past Struggle and Achievements

In the 20th century, American surveying educators and professors were pioneers ushering in our HIGH TECH era. Often unrecognized, they prepared generations of surveyors who laid the foundation for our subdivision housing boom, our federal highway system, our energy supply, our infrastructure, our airports with geodetic traffic control and safe navigation, and our space sciences, including our trips to the moon.

Who are or were these men? Several dedicated ACSM educators come to mind: Herman Shea of MIT who was also a Charter Member of ACSM, Red Wagner of Wisconsin, Jesse Fant of Minnesota, Jack Dodds of Iowa, George Harding of Ohio, Brother Barry of New York, Winfield Eldridge of Illinois, Art McNair of Cornell, Jim Clapp of Wisconsin and Maine, Rolland Hardy of Iowa, John McEntyre of Purdue, Ralph Berry of Michigan, Ira Alexander of California, Harmer Weeden of Pennsylvania, Joel Colcord of Washington, Frank Moffit of California, Bob Schultz of Oregon, Ken Curtis of Purdue, Paul Wolf of Wisconsin, Ben Buckner of Tennessee, Curtis Brown of California, Don Wilson of New Hampshire, and lets not forget, the indomitable Walter Robillard of Georgia. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

In addition, we should remember our Canadian ACSM members whose educators have had a tremendous impact on American surveying education. Back in 1962, it was Professor Angus Hamilton of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) who rejuvenated surveying education. With the assistance of European imports (Prof. Gottfried Konecny of Germany and Peter Wilson of Great Britain, among others), the term “surveying engineering” was introduced to the North American continent and became a model to the United States.

In 1976, UNB professors and the New England Section of ACSM were the godfathers of the Surveying Engineering program at the University of Maine at Orono (UMO). It would be great, if one could say; the rest is history. Not so! After several decades of graduating highly qualified surveying engineers, duly certified by ABET1 under the EAC2 engineering classification and eagerly sought after by potential employers, UMO surveying education is now in a crisis.

Current Challenges

In 2002, the UMO surveying program, which had meanwhile changed its name from Surveying Engineering to Spatial Information Science and Technology (SIE), was in trouble. The advancement officer of the College of Engineering reported that the Fall 2002 SIE undergraduate class consisted of “only one student” and that the University “cannot afford to run a program with such a low enrollment, and that substantial changes desperately need to be made…” (Adam 2002). Unfortunately, low enrollment and declining enrollment are not uncommon problems for many other schools in this country and elsewhere. In spite of a name change to “Geomatics Engineering,” the Ohio State University “is still facing the problem of limited numbers of students” (Hazelton 2002). The Oregon Institute of Technology experiences enrollment that “continues to fluctuate” (Walker 2002). The State University of New York “has faced declining enrollment” (McLaughlin 2002).

In Australia, the University of Melbourne experienced slow enrollment growth, “with sometimes only a single student graduating in a year” (Hunter 2001). They not only called Professor Ian Williamson (who is also well known in the United States) to the rescue, but, within ten years, they also changed their department name three times-from “Surveying” to “Surveying and Land Information,” then to “Geomatics,” and “Geomatic Engineering.” A similar state of affairs prevails closer to home. Although the Pennsylvania State University’s Surveying Technology Program averages 65 students each year, the university has felt compelled to consider changing the program’s name to either “Surveying Engineering,” or “Geomatics Engineering,” or “Surveying and Geomatics Engineering,” or “Geospatial Information Engineering” (Ghilani 2002).

Apparently, the labels “Engineering” and “Geomatics” are by far the preferred trendsetters. The name “surveying” is not helping the program at Ohio State University, wrote Professor Hazelton. It is not that “surveying” is a poor name; the public perception of “surveying” is very restricted, limited to just a fraction of what is in the program (Hazelton 2002). The Oregon Institute of Technology changed the name of its surveying program because it did not want to be in the position of offering the last “Surveying” degree on the planet (Walker 2002). The New Mexico State University changed from “Surveying” to “Surveying Engineering” in order to give graduates better opportunities in the job market and to allow them to pursue dual professional registration, as both PLS and PE (Frank 2002). The Pennsylvania State University Surveying Program offers senior-level design courses in land development design, including land-use control, site evaluation, conservation design, storm water runoff control, grading, and erosion control (DeBarry and Seybert 2002).

While a name change may be superficial, we know that the new technologies and challenges represented by GPS and GIS have revolutionized surveying. In the past, surveying education has leaned strongly toward engineering (Enemark 2001) and measurement science. More recently, the so-called Bathurst Declaration (FIG/UN 1999) has linked sustainable development with inter-disciplinary land administration. Management of spatial data with links to technical as well as social sciences should form the educational base of the surveying profession, wrote Danish Professor Enemark. University of California Professor Clarke speaks of a future GIS crisis-a “brain gap” and the “double whammy” caused by the overwhelming, impending technology convergence. Surveyors are very good at measurement analysis and the display components of GIS. The “double whammy” lies in the future educational challenge of how to keep up with the rapid changes in geographic information technology, including (1) problem formulation and (2) intervention (Clarke 2002). It is, therefore, no coincidence that in 2001 the XVIII Conference of Surveying and Mapping Educators appointed a delegation of leading American surveying educators to write a white paper on the definition of geomatics (Ghilani 2001).

Professional Accreditation

Four different commissions of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredit four different surveying education programs: EAC, TAC, RAC, and ASAC. Various U.S. colleges and universities have each chosen one of the four options:

EAC = Engineering Accreditation Commission

TAC = Technology Accreditation Commission

RAC = Related Accreditation Commission

ASAC = Applied Science Accreditation Commission.

By September 2001, ABET had listed surveying programs accredited as follows: six under EAC, two under TAC, eight under ASAC, none under RAC, and six leading to Associate degrees. Ten colleges and universities in the U.S. offer Masters programs in Cartography/GIS (ACSM Bulletin No. 197).

For the EAC umbrella, ABET has issued new Engineering Criteria 2000 requirements (Crossfield 2001). The Technology Accreditation Commission and RAC are expected to take note. Among its educational objectives are “a broadbased curriculum in geomatics engineering that generates graduates competent in boundary and land surveying, and in geographic information systems, photogrammetry, digital mapping, and geodesy.” Graduates are to have knowledge and ability in mathematics, science, engineering, data analysis, system design, functioning on multidisciplinary teams, communication, computer programming, and understanding the impact of engineering solutions in a global and social context (Crossfield 2001).

One of the premier universities in surveying education is Purdue University in Indiana. It offers a four-year degree in Land Surveying Engineering. In order to meet the needs of the land surveying profession in the real world, besides a core land surveying component (legal boundary surveying), its curriculum includes “a significant civil engineering component,” such as materials, hydraulics, basic site engineering, grading, drainage, and transportation (Johnson 2002).

Recognizing the overlapping design and measurement functions which exist in the real world of professional surveying, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) bases its examination specifications on job analyses completed by licensed surveyors across the United States (Krebs 2002). Questions for the Fundamental (FES) and Principles and Practice (PES) license examinations include the determination of “lot and street patterns for land division”-clearly a civil engineering design subject, but an all too common project activity in the general private practice of land surveying. As professor Hazelton found, the public perception of “surveying” is limited to only a fraction of what is involved in its practice.

The GIS Competition

That brings us back to GIS. There is more to land surveying than boundary measurements and law. There is more to subdivision of land than determining lot and street patterns. And there is more to CIS than arranging display components. The rapidly evolving technology convergence may bring competing interests to the fore. In fact, it is already happening. Recently, ACSM Executive Director Curt Sumner attended the annual conference of the Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) and was asked to speak on the current environment concerning (frictions between) surveyors and GIS practitioners (Sumner 2002). Questions arose on who should do what? Who is practicing without a license? Who should set the rules for data acquisition? Who should operate a GIS? Sumner cautioned the UGIC not to use industry-imposed certification to inappropriately exclude persons from providing services. He urged the surveying community to seriously consider the fact that GIS and its applications will impact the profession soon.

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) has already appointed a committee to work on a GIS Certification program. It may possibly exclude surveyors from becoming certified. The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping has initiated discussions with URISA. Not only surveyors are concerned with GIS certification. In March 2001 the Board of Directors of Cartography and Geographic Information Society issued a statement saying: “We believe that GIS certification is not appropriate. GIS is not like other geospatially related professions, it is a broad layer of infrastructure like mathematics with applications to many disciplines” (Somers 2002). This sentiment notwithstanding, surveyors should attempt to influence the creation of accurate GIS applications. A recent statewide GIS conference in Kentucky was attended by a large number of GIS experts and only two practicing surveyors (Armstrong 2002). When the issue of data accuracy and quality was raised, the answer was something like this: it’s all digitized-don’t worry. It seemed to satisfy most of the attendees.

The GIS business is serious business-very serious business. For instance, the new Department of Homeland Security will employ 170,000 people, many, if not all of whom, will heavily rely on centralized intelligence data banks. Geospatial data collection, analysis, and implementation will be at the foundation of our national security. The data must be reliable, as reliable as human nature will allow. “No set of disciplines is closer to our everyday lives than those that work with geographic reality,” wrote Professor Clarke. As a professional organization, ACSM is the ideal place for an open discussion of the GIS impact. The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping can promote the convergence in the mapping sciences. The Congress can guide and steer the GIS community towards the next generation, Glarke wrote.

Surveying Education to Match

Now, that brings us back to education. The knowledge to manage, coordinate, and analyze spatial data, to understand the related technology, and to mesh with ever important social impacts can best be acquired by a broad up-to-date surveying education, properly promoted under the currently preferred label of Geomatics Engineering. Our so-called “industry”-we prefer to call it a profession in private practice or public service-still needs to retain some of its traditional features. Future surveyors must be trained in both the inexact science of legal surveys and the exact science of engineering and geodetic surveys. They also must acquire a broad understanding of GIS functions and purpose. Future GIS specialists must be well grounded in mathematics and measurement science. They must have a broad understanding of engineering applications and how the error theory may impact quality and accuracy of GIS data.

The student may be given two, three, or more career options. ABET-accredited programs may lead to responsible positions as professional land surveyors and/or engineers, as well as mapping scientists and geodesists. With advanced education and practice, either career may lead to a position as geographic information specialist. In order to become innovative leaders in surveying, students must be educated in GIS and land management. In order to become leaders in GIS, students must be well grounded in mathematics and measurement science. Programs such as those offered at Purdue (Johnson 2002), California State (Crossfield 2002), Texas A&M at Corpus Christi (Jeffress 2002), Ohio State (Hazelton 2002), SUNY (McLaughlin 2002), or Wisconsin, all can serve as models. The Bachelor of Geomatic Engineering syllabus of the University of Melbourne (Hunter 2001) appears to have an excellent mix of appropriate study courses. Although not completely applicable to the U.S. needs and requirements, the global model for understanding land administration systems in support of sustainable development, as promulgated by Aalborg University in Denmark (Enemark 2001), is well worth looking into for the future Geomatics expert and GIS manager.

An amazing career example of a person who started out with a solid surveying engineering education is Dr. John McLaughlin. A longtime ACSM member and supporter, he became a renowned expert in land management and land tenure issues worldwide. In 2002, he was installed as president of the University of New Brunswick, Canada. His philosophy is a long-term vision based on education and innovation (Pothier 2002). While we cannot all become university presidents, we can certainly share his vision. In years past, John McLaughlin has become well known to New England surveyors and has been an inspiration to many.

The New England Struggle

The New England Section of ACSM (NES/ACSM) rallied its six state surveyor associations to salvage surveying education at the University of Maine at Orono. In August 2002, Joe McNichols, Chairman of NES/ACSM, Richard Vannozzi of the Massachusetts Association of Land Surveyors and Civil Engineers (MALSCE), and David Cook of the Maine Society of Land Surveyors (MSLS) met with the Dean of the College of Engineering at Orono, Dr. Larry Matthews, and pledged financial support to keep the bachelor’s degree surveying program alive. Regrettably, the compromise caused the program to be transferred from the EAC-accredited College of Engineering to the TAC-accredited School of Engineering Technology (SET) where it should at least “meet current industry needs” (Vannozzi 2002). Professor Knud Hermansen explained that the focus of SET is practical rather than theoretical and that all SET faculty must be licensed professionals. The BS in Surveying Engineering Technology (SVT) is a “terminal program,” aimed at training and educating future Professional Land Surveyors and Certified Photogrammetrists. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) played an important role in this rescue effort. University of Maine at Orono will use the BLM agreement model already established with the Oregon Institute of Technology (ACSM/NES 2002). All six New England State surveyor organizations have agreed to contribute funds and, equally important, to “market our profession to prospective students.”

Perhaps, UMO could learn from the Australian experience. Over the past 15 years, the University of Melbourne has vigorously promoted and marketed its surveying courses (Hunter 2001). Brochures, posters, and video material are sent to over 900 high schools, academic staff members are touring a given number of schools each year, second-year students return to their former high schools (as part of their professional development studies) to give presentations on their courses of studies, high school teachers are being involved. The university has distributed promotional mouse mats and computer screen-saver software, available from their website.

What to do

Marketing and promotion of education are a joint venture between university and profession. That is the way it should be. Competition for brainpower is strong everywhere. It is everybody’s responsibility to attract the best and the brightest. Without underestimating the continuing need for well trained and competent surveying technicians, their leadership and direction will have to be provided by highly qualified professional surveyors. If the surveyors of the future are not to be confined to data collectors and line-and-grade technicians, we owe them a well defined path in higher education and training. A clear path which leads to a successful and satisfying professional career in the ever-important management of the ever-shrinking Earth resources is needed. If the surveyors of today want to retain control of their destiny, they had better start now.

1 ABET = Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

2 EAC = Engineering Accreditation Commission.


ACSM Bulletin no. 197, pp. 10-13.

ACSM/New England Section Meeting Minutes, 10/25/02. University of Maine, Orono, Maine.

Adam, S. UMO College of Engineering, letter to Joseph M. Nichols, Chairman, ACSM-NES, 7/10/02.

Armstrong, G 2002. Surveyors are the “G” in GIS. ACSM Bulletin No. 200, Nov./Dec. 2002.

Clarke, K. C. The educational double whammy. ACSM Bulletin No. 197, May/June 2002.

Crossfield, J. K. 2001. Geomatics Engineering Program assessment for EC 2000. Surveying and Land Information Systems 61(4): 217-24.

Crossfield, J. K. 2002. Geomatics Engineering, California State University, Fresno. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(10): 39-40.

DeBarry, Paul A., and Thomas A. Seybert. 2002. Merging surveying and engineering in a Senior Design Course. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(2): 123-25.

Enemark, S. 2001. Underpinning a Land Management Approach to Surveying Education. Surveying and Land Information Systems 61(4): 267-71.

FIG/UN, 1999. The Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development. FIG Publication No. 21. FIG Office, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Frank, S. 2002. New Mexico State University. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 41.

Ghilani, C. 2001. Editorial Latitudes. Surveying and Land Information Systems 61(4): 215.

Ghilani, C. 2002. The Penn State Surveying Program: 2001 Status Report. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 52-4.

Hazelton, N.W.J. 2002. Geomatics engineering at the Ohio State University. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 43-46.

Hunter, G. J. 2001. Ensuring the Survival of Geomatic Engineering at the University of Melbourne. Surveying and Land Information Systems 61(4): 225-59.

Jeffress, G. A. 2002. Geographic Information Science Program, Department of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, College of Science and Technology, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 61-63.

Johnson, S. 2002. Land Surveying and Geomatics Engineering at Purdue University. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 55.

Krebs, R. C. 2002. Letter to the Editor. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(2): 137-8.

McLaughlm, A. P. 2002. SUNY College of Technology. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 57.

Pothier, Chisholm. 2002. UNB president issues challenge. The Daily Gleaner, Oct. 30, Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Somers, R. 2002. Certification progresses: But how will it help? Geospatial Solutions, June 2002.

Sumner, C W. 2002. GIS certification,TBM. The NHLSA Newsletter 4(11): 11-14. Reprinted in the “Outreach” column of the ACSM Bulletin, Sept./Oct. 2002.

Vannozzi, A. R. 2002. Update on Bachelor’s Degree Program in Surveying at the University of Maine. The MALSCE Surveyor 40(1): 7, Nov. 2002, Boston, MA.

Walker, J. A. 2002. Geomatics education at the Oregon Institute of Technology Civil Engineering and Geomatics Department. Surveying and Land Information Science 62(1): 50.

Gunther Greulich, PLS, PE, Fellow and Life Member, Former President ACSM. 803 Summer Street, Boston, MA 02127. Tel: (617) 464-5300; Fax: (617): 464-2442.

Copyright American Congress on Surveying and Mapping Jun 2003

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