The Smith Spatial Analysis Lab (SAL) began offering GIS instruction in 1999 with support from the Krusos and the Culpeper Foundations. Our humble home, located in the hot and windowless fourth floor of Burton Hall, started with two computer workstations and a server. The first year included several milestones, including participating in the Conte Neo-Tropical Migratory Bird Survey (link to maps), building the Mill River GIS database, bringing GIS Day to Smith College for the first time, and tripling lab capacity from 2 to 6 computers. In the next few years, the role of the SAL within the larger campus and community solidified as the lab ran January Interterm GIS trainings, provided GIS and GPS support to classes across the curriculum, and established Smith’s place in GIS educational communities by hosting the Spring NEARC conference on multiple occasions. This growing presence corresponded to several location changes, as the lab moved down and across Burton lawn into Bass Hall 105, then next door to the much larger Bass 103, before arriving in the SAL’s current location with 20 computer workstations in Room 104 in Sabin-Reed Hall.
The SAL has helped Smith students engage with spatial data collection, inquiry, and visualization in over 30 different courses in the past ten years. Some of these classes use GIS and GPS for only a week to offer a new perspective on or enhance understanding of a specific topic, while others are taught in the SAL and develop advanced GIS knowledge over the course of an entire semester. To date, the SAL has worked with classes from the Art, Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Computer Science, Engineering, Environmental Science and Policy, Geoscience, Landscape Studies, Mathematics, and Sociology departments, as well as several first year seminars. For more information and a list of specific courses, check out the Classes page.
Since its inception, Jon Caris, GIS Specialist has guided the development of the SAL with assistance from a steering committee. Recently, the staff expanded to include a full-time Spatial Analysis Lab Fellow (which will rotate on a yearly basis), who assists Jon with the growing demand for SAL services. Several Smith students with an interest in and aptitude for GPS, GIS, and Cartography also work in the lab. For more information about the SAL staff and schedule, check out our People page and the Calendar.
A out of date chronological history of SAL activities can be found here.