Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE)

Welcome Class of 2015!

Welcome to the Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE) Program

Dear incoming Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment student,

Welcome to Clark University’s Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE) program in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE) at Clark University. We are delighted you will be joining us in the middle of August and are looking forward to getting to know more about your experiences and interests. In light of your transition to Clark, we’ve enclosed several items that may be of interest to you. Below are some academic and logistical issues to assist you in preparing for your first semester at IDCE.

Much of this and other information is also available to you on the Admitted Students webpage:

This letter is meant to enable you to enjoy and benefit from your time at Clark. In past years, some students lacked at least one of the general computer skills outlined below. Those students gained the necessary skills, but at the expense of sleep and social life. You are wise to acquire those skills now. Those students who were best prepared were those who benefited most from the program. The GISDE program is a special group. In this program, we work hard; we also have fun and make deep friendships.

Academic Preparation

We urge you to use these months before August to upgrade your computer skills. While at Clark, you will want to use your time to absorb the concepts presented in our most advanced courses, all of which require general computer skills. Therefore, you should learn those computer skills that you can teach yourself between now and August. IDCE will supply you with a desktop computer in a secure computer lab that is reserved for only the GISDE students. The computers will be loaded with the necessary software and will be serviced by Clark University’s Information Technology Services (ITS). In our computer lab, each student will have a computer with Windows 7, Microsoft Office, several GIS software packages, and full internet access. Therefore you will be expected to have competency in Windows-based computer file structures and software, including the major Microsoft office suite of tools: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

You should know intermediate level word processing with Word, including how: 1) to work with a document in Outline View mode, 2) to manipulate tables and figures, and 3) to draw flow diagrams with the drawing tools. You should know how to make presentations in PowerPoint. You will make numerous oral presentations, and nearly all will be with a PowerPoint file that will contain figures from Excel, ArcGIS, and Idrisi.

GIS is a very technical field and requires knowledge of basic statistics. Statistical analyses are used in many GIS courses at Clark, so you should have good understanding of the basic statistical concepts such as probability, confidence interval, normal distribution, standard deviation, variance, correlation, regression, and residuals. You can prepare yourself by reading any Intro to Statistics textbooks or this book online – (chapters I-XV). Make sure to do Exercises at the end of each chapter.

We also recommend you to spend time reading about analytical capabilities of raster and vector GIS packages. You should visit the Clark Labs web site ( ) for information about Idrisi software, and the ESRI web site ( for information about ArcGIS Desktop. Also, please read about GIS applications to various fields at ( and (

We also urge you to arrive on campus with a digital version of your resume and keep it up-to-date. One of our major functions is to help you find employment upon graduation. We receive job announcements regularly; however, chances are that the announcement for the job that you really want will arrive on short notice during the time of year when you are most busy. So you should always have your resume up to date and ready to print and send.

Important Dates

You must be completely settled in Worcester by Monday, August 12th in terms of housing, banking, recovering from jet lag, etc.

August 13 is the official first day of the GISDE program.

From August 13-16, you will attend the required intensive GIS training workshop and GISDE Program Orientation. The GIS workshop will introduce you to the basics of IDRISI Selva software. At the end of the workshop, you will take a voluntary placement test which will assess your knowledge of Idrisi Selva and ArcGIS Desktop 10.1. Results of this test will show whether you need to take an Introduction to GIS course in your first semester at Clark. If you decide not to take this placement test, you will be required to take Introduction to GIS course in your first semester.

If you want to work with the two software packages prior to the workshop, you can download free trial version and practice your skills using data and tutorials included in the trial package. Idrisi Selva trial version will work for 30 days and can be downloaded here -  ArcGIS 10.1 trial version will work for 60 days and can be downloaded here -

During the following week (August 19-23) you will have University-wide graduate student orientation activities. Also, during August you will be assigned a faculty advisor who you will meet with you during this week and discuss your courses for the fall semester. Regular classes begin on Monday, August 26.

Living in Worcester

You might also be interested to know a little about Worcester, hometown to Clark. Worcester was one of the centers of the U.S. Industrial Revolution, and as such, has a fascinating development-environment history. It also has an ethnically diverse population: on the streets you can hear Spanish, Vietnamese, and many other languages. For many reasons, IDCE is fortunate to have the city of Worcester, and the Central Massachusetts region as a context to study and explore the complexities of many socio-economic and environmental issues.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about housing arrangements for the fall. You should plan on arriving early to secure housing. Some students have already visited campus and toured the surrounding area looking for apartments or made arrangements to stay in University-owned graduate housing. Graduate students usually share an apartment with two or three other students to reduce residential costs. Only you can decide which option best suits your needs.


If you need an I-20 form to obtain a U.S. visa, please return the appropriate international student information form to Brittany Crompton, c/o the IDCE Office. If you are an international student, this form was previously sent to you in the packet with your appointment letter.

IDCE staff will be in the office during most of the summer. Do not hesitate to call or write to them for additional information. Please remember to check the Admitted Students webpage ( regularly to help you prepare for your arrival and view questions asked by your peers in the FAQ section.

We look forward to seeing you in August to welcome you to a lively and productive year at IDCE


Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Master of Arts Program in Geographic Information Science for Development and Environment (GISDE)


[ Spotlight Profile ]

Claire Brill (GISDE '08)

Claire Brill (GISDE ‘08) is now the GIS analyst for the City of Worcester. While a student in the GISDE program, she won second place at the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association Student Paper Competition for her project Using GIS to Contrast Perceived Versus Preferred Priorities for Brownfield Redevelopment in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The paper, which came about through her involvement with the City of Worcester’s Mayor’s Brownfields Roundtable, compares the perceived priorities of decision-makers with the stated desires of stakeholders concerning brownfield redevelopment in Worcester. 

Read more | Other Profiles