Snow GIS program trains students in technology applicable to many jobs

Snow instructor Kyle Rowley demonstrates the Geographic Information System (GIS) technology he is teaching. The college is awarding its first four GIS certificates at the end of this semester.


Snow GIS program trains students in technology applicable to many jobs


Robert Stevens

Managing editor



EPHRAIM—A new technical certification course at Snow College is teaching students a skill in high demand that can be applied to almost any industry.

Renee Faatz, chair of the Geology Department, oversees the Geographic Information System (GIS) certification program. The first four students to receive the certification are completing the course this semester.

“We wanted to offer a certificate in GIS for our majors who work in natural resources, geology and engineering,” Faatz says.  “Any majors who use spatial information need the skills to present data using GIS.

“Many other majors also use GIS. We also hoped the certificate would allow some in our local community to gain a skill that would help them find employment with local agencies such as the Forest Service, BLM, city governments, etc.”

A GIS is a computer-based system that captures and stores spatial (geographic) data. Once data is entered into the system, the information can be called up and compared with other stored data.

Rowley says the technology got its start in geology but has a place in nearly any industry. “It’s a way to link data to location,” Rowley says. “It helps us learn things about not only where something is at, but the various attributes at that location.”

Rowley says one application for GIS is to allow health officials track instances of a disease across the population and see the density of its occurrence on a map.

He says cities and towns also use GIS to track water and sewer lines, traffic signs and other municipal properties on a visual map. City workers can gather data through surveys and input it into their GIS data models, giving them a wider and more precise database covering of the components of their city.

“Just about everyone has interacted with GIS systems,” Rowley said. “Google Earth is a good example. Our phones have mapping systems that help us find our way as we drive. The route may change if traffic accidents happen in an area or if it gets congested. Those are just some very common examples of GIS at work.”

The certification program was the brainchild of Snow Dean of Science Dan Black and took two years to develop.

Rowley says the course is structured so it can be completed over one or two years, with classes available in the morning, daytime and night. Some of the classes are available online. He says the school did the best it could to make the program accessible to anyone who wanted to add GIS to his or her career skill set.

Chad Dewey, director of the Snow College Natural Resources major, shared an experience with a GIS student in an email to Fatz.

“I ran into one of the students the other day, and he told me how excited he was to be getting this [GIS] certificate,” Dewey writes. “He already has a four-year degree and couldn’t ever get a job in his field. Now that he is getting this certificate, he says it has opened up so many options and that he values this one-year [GIS] certificate more than his bachelor’s degree.”