Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge, I-HACK, at Gannon University rendering
Gannon University received a $110,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust that will be used to create the Geographic Information Systems Center for Education and Engagement on the third floor of Gannon’s new Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge, or I-HACK.
The GIS Center will enable Gannon faculty and students to provide full-scale GIS data, analytics and mapping services to help drive informed decision-making throughout the region.
The grant will also be used to increase the number of undergraduate GIS course offerings across multiple disciplines, such as criminal justice, environmental science and engineering, and public health. It will address industry needs by increasing the number of graduates who have real-world experience in analyzing data and evaluating solutions or approaches to global and local issues.
The GIS Center will include a collaborative learning space, a traditional classroom, and space for students to interact with and present their project results to community partners.
Christopher Magno, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice at Gannon, said these new amenities will enhance efforts to meet community needs using GIS.
Previously, Magno and his students have used GIS to assist various community projects within Erie. These projects include creating an online directory for social services; mapping Erie’s food deserts, trees and green spaces, and crime and security cameras; assessing Erie School District’s walking routes; analyzing the socio-cultural situation of refugees; evaluating opportunity zones; and assisting Our West Bayfront in its community survey.
These mapping projects help drive the revitalization, safety and security initiatives of the City of Erie, Erie Downtown Partnership, Erie-GAINS, Our West Bayfront, ERIE 2030, United Way, the Erie Police Department and other non-governmental and governmental organizations in Erie. All of the mapping projects facilitate learning, empower students and residents of Erie neighborhoods, and build collaborative relationships.
Erika Ramalho, director of Community and Government Relations, oversees the university’s Erie-Gannon Alliances to Improve Neighborhood Sustainability, the university-community initiative for Gannon. Ramalho will help to coordinate additional initiatives with faculty, students and community members through the new GIS Center.
“This mutually beneficial collaboration encourages college students to use the knowledge, skills and abilities they are learning in the classroom and collaborate with community members to help analyze data. This method incorporates community partners with classroom learning outcomes to help make a difference in society,” Ramalho said.
The GIS Center will also accommodate a new GIS minor that launched in the fall of 2018. This 18-credit minor provides interdisciplinary course options as well as community-based research projects to enhance student learning by solving real-world problems through community engagement and environmental research.
The George I. Alden Trust has provided significant support to Gannon and has allowed the university to attract students from 40 states and 53 countries. As with previous support, the grant will leverage Gannon’s strong reputation of excellence in teaching and commitment to community engagement.