GIS Training at Lincoln University

Geographic information systems (GISs)—computer-based technology used to layer and integrate spatial data from many sources—have important and growing applications in the food and agricultural sciences. For example, information from a GIS that integrates data such as soil type, moisture level, slope, and temperature at each field site allows farmers to make more precise management decisions—for example, optimal concentrations and amounts of pesticide and fertilizer applications (hence, ''precision farming"). GISs have many applications in natural resource management, and some land grant schools are taking the lead in developing programs and careers in this technology. For example, Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, has a Center of Excellence for Leadership in GIS and Wildlife Management. The center offers students course work and laboratory exercises in GIS and remote sensing, particularly oriented toward wildlife management; it offers regional training short courses for government agencies and private industry; and it has undertaken projects for USDA, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, such as an assessment of landscape changes along the Missouri River resulting from the 1993 flood. The Center of Excellence Initiative is a partnership between Lincoln University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Accessibility and Relevance to a Diverse Set of Students

The colleges of agriculture are finding it difficult to recruit and retain significant numbers of students from racial and ethnic minority groups. The nation will be ever more culturally diverse in the years ahead. In fact, people of color, women, and immigrants will account for more than five-sixths of net additions to the work force by the year 2000 (Johnston and Packer, 1987), and agricultural industries need and desire a diverse work force that reflects the international scope of their business (Wall Street Journal, 1995). This constitutes a major challenge since students from ethnic minority groups represented only 10 percent of LGCA enrollment in 1993, up from 5 percent in 1984. As a point of contrast, these students represented 20 percent of all higher education enrollment (U.S. Department of Education, 1993).

In 1993 women composed 39 percent of undergraduate enrollment and 35 percent of graduate student enrollment at LGCAs; this contrasted with 36 percent and 28 percent, respectively, in 1984. However, as reported in the Profile report, women are significantly better represented in "other" degree programs—including any nonagricultural program offered by the college—than they are in the traditional "agricultural" fields (National Research Council, 1995a). It is also the case that the percentages of women in life and natural sciences and other university programs is higher than in agriculture. At all U.S. institutions of higher education (surveyed) more than one-half of both graduate and undergraduate students are women (U.S. Department of Education, 1993).

The 1890 institutions—the traditionally Black LGCAs—have played a significant role in training students from various ethnic minorities in agricultural and food sciences, engineering, mathematics, and other disciplines. In 1993 about 20 percent of minority students pursuing bachelors' degrees in agriculture and natural resource specializations were enrolled at 1890s colleges (National Research Council, 1995a). Students will continue to access these institutions, attracted by the nurturing environment, the presence of



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