2017-2018 Academic Catalog 
    Dec 04, 2021  
2017-2018 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment, MS

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Graduate Program
The Master of Science program in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE) teaches students to become professionals in careers where they apply the world’s most advanced computer mapping and spatial analysis technologies to address crucial issues concerning socioeconomic development and environmental science and policy.

A program in collaboration with IDCE and Clark University’s School of Geography, the GISDE program is unique is a variety of ways. It focuses specifically on applications of geospatial technologies to problems of sustainable development and the environment, such as:

  • Earth System Information Science
  • Land-change Modeling
  • Conservation GIS
  • Public Health
  • Environmental Justice


The TerrSet and Clark Labs Advantage

Clark University produces the GIS software, TerrSet, which 35,000 professionals use worldwide. It is the only academic institution in the world with a successful 25-year history of GIS and remote sensing software development. Therefore, GISDE students have a unique opportunity to learn the analytical power of raster GIS using TerrSet.

The GISDE Experience

GISDE alumni pursue their passions concerning sustainable development and environmental protection in meaningful careers where they apply hi-tech skills that they learned in the GISDE program.

Numerous opportunities exist for students to conduct collaborative research with IDCE faculty as they pursue their research on issues such as water quality, land use change, and global climate change the world over. Many GISDE students have co-published findings of their research with faculty members in respected journals in the field.

Visit the IDCE Web site at www.clarku.edu/departments/idce/academicsGradGISDE.cfm for details about the program.

Graduate Requirements

Prerequisite: Proficiency in general computer skills, including file management in MS Windows XP, word processing (e.g., MS Word) and spreadsheet skills (e.g., MS Excel).

The Master’s degree in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment requires 12 graduate course units. These consist of five required core courses and seven electives. At least one elective must be a skills course and at least one elective must be a policy course. The seven elective courses allow students flexibility to take courses that will best help them meet their objectives and strengthen areas that they would like to focus on. We encourage students to take advantage of the diversity of courses offered throughout Clark University, and consider enrolling in courses offered in the other programs in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment, and in other departments (particularly geography, economics and biology) as approved by the student’s academic advisor. The final requirement for a GISDE degree is the successful completion of a final M.S. project. This design allows full-time students to complete the program in four semesters.

Required Core Courses (6)

The GISDE required courses include four core courses plus one required unit devoted to facilitating the completion of the final M.S. project. The core courses provide GISDE graduate students with a common academic foundation in GI Science.

In order to enroll in Advanced Raster GIS or Advanced Vector GIS, students must: 1) pass a proficiency exam that typically occurs at the end of the pre-semester GIS training in August, or 2) must pass Introduction to GIS course for graduate students in the first semester.

  • This course builds upon the concepts of GIS introduced in Introduction to GIS, and focuses on the more advanced analytical vector GIS tools. Topics include exploratory spatial data analysis, spatial statistics, interpolation techniques, 3D data presentation and analysis, network analysis and multi-criteria decision making. Concepts in lectures are illustrated using the ArcGIS software. Final project is required.

  • This course is designed to introduce the students to the principles and analytical methods of satellite remote sensing as applied to environmental systems (e.g., land-cover classification, vegetation monitoring, etc.).

  • This course requires students to complete research proposals or internship applications in the spring semester.

  • This course builds on Introduction to GIS by delving deeper into raster GIS. Topics include time-series analysis, uncertainty assessment, multi-objective decision making, land-change modeling, and spatial statistics. Concepts in lectures are illustrated using the TerrSet software. Final project is required.

  • This course involves collaboration with internship or research advisor to complete a final M.S. project. The grade designation for this credit will not be given until the student has completed and submitted their final M.S. project.

GISDE Elective Courses (7 required)

Elective courses provide students the flexibility of designing much of their coursework to suit their own needs and to provide depth in a chosen area of focus. Students may take courses offered by the other three graduate programs in IDCE (International Development and Social Change, Community Development and Planning, and Environmental Science and Policy) or in other departments, as approved by their academic advisor.


Directed Study and Internships: Students can take up to a total of two units of directed study or internship with a specific faculty member who agrees to guide the independent work. So, in addition to the Master’s Final Research Requirement, students may opt to have additional courses of directed study or internship as an elective.

Program Faculty


Professor of Geography



Associate Professor of IDCE



Professor of Geography


JOHN ROGAN, Ph.D. - Coordinator

Associate Professor of Geography



Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Geography



Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Science


Local Partnerships: Putting Theory into Action

The collaborative research projects of IDCE graduate students and faculty reflect their interdisciplinary approach to issues of environment and development. Many projects build upon partnerships between IDCE and community or governmental organizations around the United States and the globe, including in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Somalia, Ghana, India, and Senegal.

Locally, environmental and community groups often invite IDCE to undertake key community building projects, as well as data gathering and analysis. This allows IDCE faculty and students to put theory into practice right in the neighborhood. By helping to facilitate participatory sessions and building collaborations, students see Worcester neighbors taking action, setting priorities, and maximizing into their human capital and governmental resources. Students hone their analytical skills through GIS mapping of land parcels for development or preservation and through monitoring water quality.

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