Review Comment

[SUMA K4205] Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Sustainability Management

December 24, 2013

Mendeloff, Dara
[SUMA K4205] Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Sustainability Management

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

Dara has put a fair amount of thought into the class and conceptually it should work.

At times she is tentative and unsure in her presentation (and she can sometimes be disorganized). There is a large screen in the classroom (which probably needs to be larger to be seen from further back than the front of room or maybe there should be a multiple of screens around the room?) and she is not good at verbally describing what she is doing in enough detail when she demonstrates something. While I believe she is competent with the software, unfortunately she is simply not good at logically and methodically describing and explaining concepts, techniques and procedures.

The professor doesn't seem to “get” her audience or the SUMA program. According to her comments in class she was genuinely surprised that the students were not involved in (scientific) research and attending scientific conferences. She seems to be teaching this class as if we were and would be and were all looking to become fulltime GIS professionals. My guess is that she is thinking in terms of what the professional culture might be like at the Earth Institute where she works.

For non-SUMA students; The SUMA program is not primarily or secondarily aimed at turning out people who will work in a scientific research environment or become GIS professionals. If anything, it is aimed at turning out people to work in a corporate (or government) environment and GIS might be a tool they would come across and need to understand in the course of their work. The syllabus and structure for this course needs to be reworked for a SUMA audience.

The TA’s in the class were nice but knew less about ArcGIS than the teacher (and I wish that the teacher knew more or could at least better explain what she does know) and they also can at times struggle with the software. I thought about dropping the class but decided to stay in it more because of my interest in the subject than my happiness with the instruction in it.


A larger than average amount of homework. Homework assignments (problem sets using ArcGIS typically) due most weeks, in class quizzes, one short presentation in class plus a 2-3 page paper, an in-class midterm, and one final project and presentation. Homework “labs” seem to be adopted wholesale from ESRI educational materials. This is not a bad thing as ESRI seems to have done a good job with them. Some of the materials that the professor has developed were not as carefully put together (worded, explained, illustrated) unfortunately. Unfortunately some of the ESRI materials that she uses are outdated as ArcGIS software and its website have changed over time (and I think the instructor should have checked this before assigning them).

Directory Data

Dept/Subj Directory Course Professor Year Semester Time Section