Mapping Campus-Community Collaborations: Integrating Partnerships, Service-Learning, Mapping and GIS

National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education: National Conference, 2004

Voyage to Ithaka: Technology, Collaboration, and the Future of Liberal Arts Colleges
November 7-9, 2004

Last Updated: November 28, 2004

Abstract: Liberal arts institutions across the country are engaged in collaborative partnerships with neighboring communities to address local issues and concerns. On many campuses, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technologies shape the analysis of these local conditions. Community GIS embodies partnerships between educators, students, and community members, applying GIS to projects of value to the community. We explore service-learning as both a community-based research tool and an innovative pedagogy, and key principles and effective practices of successful community partnerships. Examples of collaborations between colleges and communities using GIS are detailed, as are key aspects of successful collaborations.

I. Mapping and Geographic Information Systems & Science
II. Service Learning, Reflection, and Partnerships: The University and the Community
III. Mapping Campus-Community Collaborations: The MITC Sponsored Conference
IV. Community Mapping and GIS Projects: Extended Examples
V. Closing thoughts on Community/University Collaboration with GIS

Presented by: Timothy Hawthorne
Department of Geology and Geography
West Virginia University

John Krygier
Department of Geology and Geography
Ohio Wesleyan University
Krygier WWW Pages

Melissa Kesler Gilbert
Director of the Center for Community Engagement, Department of Student Affairs
Otterbein College

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Community GIS Project: Ohio Wesleyan faculty & students working with community members & planners to develop city and county recreational trail plans.

Delaware (Ohio) Gazette
Friday November 22, 2002.

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Actual results: Rails to Trails conversion of CSX Railroad corridor through Delaware. Crosses Olentangy River on rusty but picturesque 19th century RR bridge:

I. Mapping and Geographic Information Systems & Science

GIS & Mapping & Spatial Thinking/Analysis

Rapid growth of GIS Research and Applications

Community Mapping and GIS: Two Sources

1. Academic Critique of Mainstream 'Big-GIS'

Project Varenius Home Page
"GIS is alternatively seen as a powerful tool for empowering communities or as an invasive technology that advantages some people and organizations while marginalizing others. This initiative will examine the two-edged nature of the GIS sword by defining and executing research projects that involve researchers looking critically at the use of GIS by community groups or by others using the technology in ways that impact individuals and communities."

From Empowerment, Marginalization, and Public Participation GIS homepage.
The fundamental question: "how does GIS affect the ways in which communities are able to build awareness of their surroundings, develop consensus, and argue persuasively for a better future?"
Michael Goodchild

from the Forward to Community Participation and Geographic Information Systems 2002.

An excellent overview of cross-disciplinary work on Community GIS projects worldwide, and related literature, up to 2001.


GIS and Society
Public Participation GIS (PPGIS)
Participatory GIS (PGIS)
Community GIS (CGIS)
Critical GIS
Feminist GIS

2. Mapping for Local Empowerment

"In our consumer society, mapping has become an activity primarily reserved for those in power, used to delineate the 'property' of nation states and multi-national companies. The making of maps has become dominated by specialists who wield satellites and other complex machinery. The result is that although we have great access to maps, we have also lost the ability ourselves to conceptualize, make and use images of place - skills which our ancestors honed over thousands of years."

Doug Aberley, ed., Boundaries of Home, 1993, p. 1

Low tech, grassroots, critical but does offer ways to wrestle mapping away from the 'powers that be.'

Uniting the Academic & Local Empowerment Traditions

"Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology provides great value for empowering citizen organizations and revitalizing communities."

"The use of GIS as a participatory tool raises critical technical, social, and theoretical issues that interest both practitioners and researchers who are concerned with the social consequences of its use. The PPGIS Congress will bring together participants with a rich diversity of experiences that include citizens and citizens groups, public officials, planners, technicians, librarians, policy scientists, and researchers. Presentation topics will range from urban neighborhoods to indigenous people, developing nations, environmental organizations, and virtual communities."

From Public Participation GIS Conference

PDF: Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) Guiding Principles
by Doug Aberley and Renee Sieber
Excellent summary of Community Mapping and GIS principles.

Community Mapping and GIS: origins in critique of Big-GIS as well as activist, grassroots, community-based projects that use mapping, GIS and spatial thinking to enhance understanding, empowerment, while promoting positive community development.

II. Service Learning, Reflection, and Partnerships: The University and the Community

Service Learning

GIS community-based work in higher education can be informed by the innovative pedagogy of service-learning. "Service-learning is a structured learning experience that combines community service with explicit learning objectives, preparation and reflection." (Bringle & Hatcher, 1995). Students engaged in service-learning provide community service in response to community-identified concerns and learn about the context in which service is provided, the connection between their service and their academic coursework, and their roles as citizens. Service-learning helps foster civic and social responsibility, is integrated into and enhances the academic curriculum, and includes structured time for students and participants to reflect on the service experience.

Bringle, R.G., & Hatcher, J.A. (1995). A service-learning curriculum for faculty. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 2, 112-122.

Defining Service-Learning
Principles of Good Practice for Community-Based Pedagogy


It is important in service-learning courses to provide opportunities for students to reflect on the service activity in such a way as to gain a broader appreciation of the intersection between their community-based work, their public contribution, and their academic journey.

Reflection can take many forms, including process meetings in the classroom, journal writing, formal essays, workshops, and class discussions.

The Six C's of Reflection

Building Community Partnerships

Partnership-building for community work between the academy and the community is greatly enhanced when both faculty and partners share community-identified goals.

"For community partners, a good community/campus partnership is characterized by careful preparation, excellent implementation, and meticulous follow-through."

Partnerships: Best Practices

Costs of Partnership to the Community Partner

Benefits of Partnership to the Community Partner

Indicators of Parity Between Partners

III. Mapping Campus-Community Collaborations: The MITC Sponsored Conference

Bringing the diverse issues surrounding Community Mapping and GIS together...

Conference Structure and Goals
Teams and Team Projects

IV. Community Mapping and GIS Projects: Extended Examples

Buffalo, New York:
Prototype Lower West Side Urban Housing PPGIS Project, 1996-97

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Distinguishing characteristic of PPGIS:
Provide access to data and basic GIS functions via a GIS interface to a broad and diverse array of community users.

Identify/Find GIS Functions:
Users can find existing public information, owner, or building violations.

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Feverish desire for highly localized data:

Limited data availability at local scale
Privacy issues
Limited understanding / analysis at one scale

Scale Change GIS Functions:
Compare neighborhood scale data to city scale data; locate absentee owner properties or home location.

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Distinguishing characteristic of PPGIS:
Important for community users to incorporate their own information (local knowledge, information, data) via the GIS interface on the WWW

Comment on Property GIS Function:
Neighbors notice a house is abandoned, or suspected crack house; report this information via the WWW-based GIS, and added to the WWW site database.

An 'open database': interesting implications

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GIS Database change via the WWW Function:
Allows a 'master user' - the community planner - to change the GIS database via the WWW

Change owner, violation status, add community derived information after it is checked or verified

Functionality of the site varies based on who is using it

Provides access to basic GIS functionality to community planner via the WWW (does not have to have actual GIS software).

Most General Conclusion:
The Technology for such community projects works! But the real problems are NOT technology! Project never implemented due to community, social, and cultural context.

Delaware, Ohio:
City and County Recreational Trail Plans, 2000-04

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Delaware City Recreational Trails Plan

Initial map, data and plan devised by OWU GIS course and community members was developed and implemented when Randy Smith was hired as city recreation director in 2001.

Smith has acquired development funds and property to be converted into trails

Exaction: 10% of any property being developed given to city for parks/recreation; some taken for trails. Developers must link any trails in development to city plan.

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Delaware County Recreational Trails Plan

Initial map, data and plan devised by OWU GIS course with Randy Bennett and members of the Delaware County Friends of the Trail (non-profit Rails-to-Trails organization).

Continued work, spring of 2004.

ArcIMS WWW GIS site of county plan under development.

Local Geographic Data and GIS Analysis for Trails Projects

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Conventional GIS Data:
Delaware Area Land Information System (DALIS)

Extensive, county-wide, frequently-updated GIS data from Delaware County.

High-resolution Orthophoto, parcels, road centerline, road right-of-ways, railroads, political boundaries, hydrology, subdivisions, 100 and 500 year floodplains, soils, census tracts, block groups, and blocks, 2' contours, etc.

Potential trails generated to connect certain parcels (schools, parks, etc.), account for terrain (contours), use existing right-of-ways, assess private vs public property, buffers, etc.

DALIS Downloadable GIS data
Conventional GIS Data:
GPS for field data collection.

Survey-quality GPS unit, Ipaq handheld computer. Data collected in same coordinate system (SPCS) as Delaware County GIS data. Exported as Arc .shp file.

Faculty/Student Research on 'Unconventional' GIS Data

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Unconventional GIS Data:
Mental Mapping for Qualitative local data

Mapping the 'perceived' landscape: fear, safety, neighborhood characteristics such as race, class, etc. Drawn with pencils on tracing paper over air photo of Delaware.
Unconventional GIS Data:

Composite Mental Map of Perceived Safety

Compiled from 18 mental maps of Delaware by community members.

Include as layer in GIS and use when determining potential trails; use in tandem with more conventional GIS data for analysis.
Composite Mental Map of Economic Class

Composite Mental Map of Race

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Relate proposed Rail-to-Trail Conversion to perceived safety, class, race.

Mapping a geography of potential conflict about trail development.

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Unconventional GIS Data:
Picture Sorts and Q-Method (Factor Analysis)

Assessing preferences towards Railroads and Trails: 19 photos of Rail and Trail and urban phenomena sorted by 18 participants into this 'Strongly Agree' to 'Strongly Disagree' structure.

Sorts analyzed by PQMethod Software which pulls out significant factors (commonalities in sorting) among all community member sorts.

Pictures sorted two times based on two criteria:

"I would like to see this next to my home."

"I would like to see this in the city of Delaware."

Hypothesis: General assumption that reaction against recreational trails is more likely among adjacent property owners ('NIMBY'); more positive reaction at the community level.

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Example Picture Sort

A representative sort of the most and least favorable things to have next to home.

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Example Picture Sort

A sort which runs counter to most of the community member sorts.

"I would like to see this next to my home" sorts: factor with eigen value over 1 is significant

Factor 1 (eigen value 7.9; explains 49% of variance): interpreted as "trails and green spaces are better than rails and industrial spaces."

Factor 2 (eigen value 2; explains 13% of variance): interpreted as "trails and green spaces are better than roads and development."

Relate factors, different images, and comments made by participants during and after they sorted the images. Importance of counter sorts! Complex, open to diverse interpretations! Advised by Q Method expert.


More support for trails next to home than anticipated; strong opposition to industrial spaces near home (not surprising); concern about roads and development near home (not surprising in rapidly developing Delaware).

"I would like to see this in the city of Delaware" sorts:

Factor 1 (eigen value 6.8; explains 33% of variance): interpreted as "trails and green spaces are better than rails and industrial spaces."

Factor 2 (eigen value 1.8; explains 21% of variance): interpreted as "trails and green spaces are better than unsafe spaces (roads, traffic)."

Factor 3 (eigen value 1.4; explains 9% of variance): interpreted as "trails and green spaces are better than roads and development."


Support for trails but for more diverse and diffuse. Emphasis on what participants do not want to see in Delaware as a community. Trails favorable, but concerns about development (roads, safety, commercial development, etc.) play a more significant role than they did in the "next to my home" sorts.

"In my neighborhood, people are always walking and riding bikes with their little kids. I don't want more people coming into the area, because it will bring more congestion and unsafe roads, plus I don't know all my neighbors like I used to...."

General Conclusions:

Messy, complicated, rich set of data generated!

Trail development often focuses on adjacent property owners, but pay attention to how trails fit into larger picture of community development.

Support for trails may be more a concern about safety and problems associated with rapid development.

Ambiguity of trails: Signify a shift from older industrial economy (railroads) to new service economy. Trails (particularly Rails to Trails) are thus part of the changes driving rapid development, concerns with safety, growth, etc.

Future Work

Evaluate images and select new set to further explore conclusions and to enhance ability to map the results. Important factors can be linked to land use data (available for each parcel in the county) to create a map of favorable and unfavorable land use "next to home" and "in Delaware."

V. Closing thoughts on Community/University Collaboration with GIS
Successful Community Mapping & GIS Projects: Benefit the community while enhancing teaching/learning, faculty/student research, and service.


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