Collaboration on Display at TUgis: Maryland’s Geospatial Conference

There was a buzz in the air at the 30th year of TUgis: Maryland’s Geospatial Conference last week at Towson University. Without a doubt this is a great event for the geospatial community and beyond. TUgis attendees come from a variety of industries from within the private and non-profit sectors, education, and all levels of government from across Maryland.

2016 TUgis by the Numbers

  • 550+ attendees
  • 30+ exhibitors and sponsors
  • 130+ first time attendees
  • 70+ talks and panel sessions
  • 300+ MSGIC members
  • 150 participated in preconference workshops

Increasing Collaboration

Dr. Virginia Thompson, Towson University Geography Department Chair, kicked off the conference with a warm welcome. Her address focused on two major goals of TUgis—providing low-cost professional development opportunities for the geospatial community and the development of a cooperative educational venture. She noted that TUgis is a cooperative venture between Towson University, the Maryland State Geographic Information Committee (MSGIC), and the Maryland Department of IT (DoIT). Last year, this cooperative venture was extended to include the Maryland Geographic Alliance, a network of geographers and educators that works to promote and enhance geographic education across Maryland, particularly at the k-12 level.

This year, all four organizations sponsored ArcGIS Online training for K-12 teachers. Next year, TUgis plans to continue this partnership as it sponsors a k-12 GIS conference for educators. Dr. Thompson emphasized that Towson University believes the TUgis Conference matters to Maryland’s geospatial community and to the partnership formed by Towson University, MSGIC, DOIT, and the Maryland Geographic Alliance.

Keynote speaker Bill Dollins of Spatial Networks, Inc. spoke on GIS as an evolving and integrating technology, which supports innovation across industries. Pulling from the past decade of shared experience on his popular blog geoMusings, which covers topics related to geospatial technologies and the business of geospatial, he noted the importance of collaboration and specialization in advancing the capacities of GIS. Dollins emphasized that although people from outside the GIS industry are now using, developing and altering GIS tools, specialized knowledge of geographic professionals remains invaluable, especially in the area of applying geographic concepts to new problem sets. He reminded the audience that we’re not defined by the tools that we use.

As the TUgis advisory committee chair, I closed out the plenary session with the conference at a glance. I felt it was important to connect the dots and spotlight how the past 30 years of TUgis are intertwined with the growth of MSGIC and the work of the Maryland Geographic Information Office. I’ve been attending TUgis for over 20 years. I have witnessed tremendous progress and change not only in the tools we use as practitioners, but a change in who is using GIS. GIS is no longer just for technical staff, it is used by all levels of management as an essential way to run their organizations. As Bill Dollins indicated, as mobile devices have become ubiquitous, GIS has become seamlessly integrated in our everyday life. With this technological growth, businesses are building enterprise solutions with the expectation of building in a geospatial component. This is certainly not what GIS looked like 20 years ago—what an amazing industry to be part of in Maryland.

Division Staff Present Work

TU Center for GIS (CGIS) staff members participated in several TUgis presentations with project partners.

  • David Sides, CGIS Project Manager, presented with Leo Fothergill of AECOM on the development of Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) Accident Mapping System, an internal tool which allows the MTA to spatially analyze their accident data using date, time, and other accident characteristic filters.
  • Ashley Buzzeo, CGIS Project Manager; Julie Knight, RESI Managing Director; and John Stovall, Defense Industry Outreach Coordinator from the Maryland Department of Commerce, delivered a presentation on the Maryland Defense Network. This tool is the culmination of an 18-month effort to visualize defense contracting activity in Maryland and to create a tool for users to view defense spending trends, access detailed vendor information, and explore potential teaming opportunities.
  • CGIS staff also entered two projects in the Map-App Competition, including the Maryland Defense Network and the Maryland Child Care Mapping Tool.

Following the theme of collaboration and the expansion of GIS, we were excited to have Dr. Julie Knight, Mike Siers, and Brian Bankert from the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) attend TUgis for the first time. Julie noted that she thought TUgis did a really good job of mixing technical and non-technical audiences, and the conversations following the Maryland Defense Network presentation helped her to see how the tool could have other applications at the state level. As staff members of TU’s Division of Innovation and Applied Research, we continually strive to increase cross-disciplinary collaboration and look forward to our own evolution and growth opportunities.

Save the Date for TUgis 2018

We look forward to hosting GIS training courses, as well as a specialized K-12 GIS Conference on TUgis Monday, March 19, 2018 and the full conference on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.

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Ardys Russakis serves as executive director of Applied Research & Technical Services and is the managing director of the Center for GIS (CGIS). Ardys plays a major role in strategic planning for business development and fiscal management for CGIS and assists with expanding Towson University’s role as a state and regional resource for GIS services, applications, and training. Ardys's blog posts focus on GIS technology.