In commencement ceremonies at the University Park campus, 32 students were conferred Master of Science degrees in Geographic Information Science and Technology. The class was the largest yet, and represents the rapid growth of the online degree. Students arrived from around the country to receive their degrees and celebrate their accomplishments.
A reception followed the ceremonies, which were marked by an address from former CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour. The reception, held in beautiful weather outside the SSI offices in the Allan Hancock Foundation building, found students and faculty enjoying food and drink with family and friends. Some students and faculty had met in person before; the program requires a one-week course in residence at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Others met for the first time, having interacted through email, telephone, and video chat through the entire program.
The 32 students have either completed a master’s thesis, or will do so during the summer months and were therefore eligible to participate in spring commencement. Thesis topics of the graduates ranged from the behavior of waterfowl during migration to suitability analysis for seagrass restoration, from flood hazard assessment to alternative energy siting approaches. Each included the application of spatial technologies and analysis to a pressing research question.
Graduate Cameron Burkett was selected by the faculty to receive the best thesis award for his work using spatially encoded video to assess fire risk in three Los Angeles County neighborhoods. Burkett was presented with a plaque and will receive a cash award of $1000. His research and thesis was advised by Dr. Andrew Curtis. Burkett and Curtis published a paper from the thesis in the journal Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, entitled “Classifying Wildfire Risk at the Building Scale in the Wildland-Urban Interface: Applying Spatial Video Approaches to Los Angeles County.”