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, 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 206 courses in the past 20 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. 

Since its inception, Jon Caris has guided the development of the SAL with assistance from a steering committee. The staff expanded to include a full-time Post-bac Spatial Analysis Fellow (two-year rotational) and more recently, a Spatial Data Specialist. Several Smith students with an interest in and aptitude for GPS, GIS, and Cartography also work in the lab. 


Review Mount Holyoke College’s GeoProcessing Lab, and began the acquisition of computers and software. 


Moved into first home in Burton 407 with the first server (“GISLORD”), two Dell Workstations (“GISLAB 1 & 2”), ArcInfo & ArcView software, and a Calcomp Drawing Board III Digitizer. Several milestones include participating in the Conte Neo-Tropical Migratory Bird Survey, building the Mill River Watershed GIS database, and hosting Smith’s first GIS Day on November 18. The lab capacity also increased to six workstations.  


Taught a three-day January term GIS training, added another Workstation (#7), and formed the SAL Steering Committee. 


A five-day interterm course started the year, with several classes to follow: Environmental Seminar, Landscape Architecture & Planning, Geomorphology, and Intro to Archaeology. Salma Chan ’02 designed the winning logo in a design contest. The year concluded with GIS Day and four presentations ranging from glacial lake Hitchcock, earthquake analysis, field archaeology, to Planning a Space for Repose.


Moved from Bass 105 to Bass 103


Server “Dangermond” hosts ArcIMS map services, and “Mercator” (second server) replaced by “Geo.” Workstations expand to 20.


Moved to Sabin-Reed 104


Joined the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability (CEEDS)