By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
When it comes to her expertise, Roane State’s Pat Wurth occupies a unique niche in Tennessee, and she has won a first-ever award for it.
Wurth, an associate professor at the college for nearly 19 years, recently received the accolade of appreciation for her “distinguished career developing GIS professionals.”
That’s what it says on the plaque she received during an April conference of the 500-member Tennessee Geographic Information Council. “It was quite an honor,” Wurth said.
GIS is about using geographic data to understand patterns, trends, and relationships. It’s widely used in environmental research, city planning, crime analysis, and by utility systems.
Thus far, Wurth estimates about 300 Roane State students have received either certification or an associate’s degree in GIS. The program’s job placement is excellent, she said.
Wurth said she sees many of her former students at GIS conferences and meetings, “and it’s almost like a reunion.”
That’s one of the things that makes her job so rewarding, she said. “That’s why I do my job—I strive to push my students to go further than I can take them. I see these people succeed, and it’s an amazing feeling.”
Two years ago, Roane State’s GIS program received an award from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency as a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Studies. It was the only community college in the U.S. to receive that honor.
Recent figures indicate the starting salary for someone with an associate’s degree in GIS is nearly $40,000, and the median wage is $70,123.
Wurth typically teaches two courses in GIS and three geography courses at Roane State’s Oak Ridge Campus.
The college offers a one-year certification program as well as the two-year program leading to the associate’s degree. There is also a dual enrollment program where high-achieving high school students can enroll in GIS studies.
This story and photo were submitted by Owen Driskill.