Geographic Information System (GIS) Degree Specialization

Geographic Information System (GIS) Degree Specialization for Urban Studies majors

What is GIS?

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) help us understand social issues with a spatial dimension by visualizing and analyzing spatial data, including where features are (geographic coordinates) and what they are like (attributes). A variety of professions use GIS, such as urban planning, environmental planning, transportation, criminology, public safety, health, human services, education, government, engineering, computer science, and business.

What is the GIS degree specialization?

The GIS degree specialization is for Urban Studies majors interested in learning computer-based mapping and spatial data analysis. Students will learn to create maps through hands-on training, computer labs, lectures, and projects. In addition to gaining proficiency in the latest technology and industry-standard software, students will also explore the theory behind spatial analysis, with a particular focus on critical cartography and spatial justice.

To earn the GIS degree specialization, students must earn a grade of C or higher in each of the following three courses (to be completed sequentially):

UPPP 120 Introduction to GIS for Planning and Policy

This introductory course provides students with the skills to interpret, visualize, and communicate geographic information. In addition, students apply a critical cartography lens by analyzing how the stories we tell with maps both reflect and shape power and inequality. Students increase their critical spatial awareness through theoretical readings and case studies, while also gaining practical skills in data manipulation, creation, and visualization through hands-on tutorials. For the final project, students work in teams to explore how issues of power and inequality intersect with student life via digital “story maps” of UCI’s campus and its surroundings, which they present to a panel of campus partners.

UPPP 125 Advanced GIS

Picking up where the introductory course left off, the advanced course extends students’ skills and theoretical knowledge by focusing on using geoprocessing to analyze spatial data to answer spatial research questions. Continuing the theme of critical cartography, the advanced course takes a deeper dive into the theory behind spatial analysis in general and spatial justice and environmental justice in particular. For the final project, student teams will collaborate with community partners to define and answer spatial justice-focused research questions.

UPPP 127 Spatial Analysis Project (GIS Capstone)

In the capstone course, students apply the skills learned in the prerequisite courses to create an independent research project. Each student will individually define a spatial research question and collect, analyze, and map the data necessary to answer it. Students are guided through the GIS project management process and produce a report with quality graphics and visuals.