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MGEM Interview with Kathleen Coupland, Coordinator for UBC Forestry’s Professional Masters Programs

Kathleen Coupland RPF, Ph.D. Coordinator for UBC Forestry’s Professional Masters Programs

GoGeomatics: What is the MGEM Program?  (When did it first start,  where is it,  when did it start, what is the purpose of the program, what is the timeline of the program?)

Kathleen Coupland:The Masters of Geomatics for Environmental Management is a 9-month course based intensive program focusing on providing students with the technical and professional skills to be a leader in the geomatics community. The inaugural class graduated in 2018 and is hosted within the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Forestry. The program runs from August – May. 

GoGeomatics: Why is the MGEM program important (special)?

Kathleen Coupland:The MGEM program seeks to fill deficiencies and upgrade skills inadequately addressed in many undergraduate degrees. The program aims to provide advanced technical skills in the processing, analysis and presentation of geospatial data.  

GoGeomatics: Who are the professors and instructors? (What makes them special?) 

Kathleen Coupland: MGEM is directed and led by Dr. Nicholas Coops, an internationally renowned expert in remote sensing, geomatics and forestry. Dr. Coops instructs courses throughout the duration of the program bringing all that knowledge direction into the learning space. Additionally, the program has expert instructors in GIS, taught by Dr. Paul Pickell, Landscape Ecology, Dr. Sarah Gergel and spatial statistics, Dr. Bianca Eskelson. 

GoGeomatics: How many students do you have in the program this year? Is there a typical background for students in terms of education or experience entering the program or is it very diverse? Can you give some examples? 

Kathleen Coupland:The MGEM program functions by having a small cohort size (~30) allowing for each student to have dedicated time with the instructional team. A typical incoming student has an undergraduate degree in a related science (biology, geography or forestry, to name a few) and often a small amount of experience either directly related to geomatics or a related field where they have seen the need for geospatial scientists. Every year the MGEM program has a diverse group, with students joining from around the world, with different work and educational backgrounds which added to the richness of the learning environment.  

GoGeomatics: Who should consider the MGEM program? (By this question I’m trying to get you to describe the type of people who are going to the most out of the program. What are they looking for in terms of education and skills that MGEM provides?)

Kathleen Coupland:The program’s short duration format is perfect for those who want to quickly enter the professional work force and upgrade a suite of technical skills. Graduates from the program are able to be back working in under a year! This condensed format means that the expectations of students are high and students who are willing to commit to learning, learning fast and being challenged are the perfect fit for the program. 

GoGeomatics: What are some of the hands-on and desktop skills that students will have in their toolbox by the time they graduate? 

Kathleen Coupland: Graduates have indicated that one of the best parts of the program is the amount learned in the short time period. The major skills learned are: Knowledge with GIS, remote sensing, image processing and coding. Students spend large amounts of time with esri products, qgis, Jypiter and R. Each student works through a project from conception to completion which provides them with project management, communications, networking and presentation skills. 


GoGeomatics: What types of roles are graduates moving into after graduation? 

Kathleen Coupland: Graduates from MGEM currently work around the globe in a variety of roles from supply line efficiency to wildfire mapping to data management. Most new graduates typically start out in a GIS Technician role, but can progress their career into higher level positions quickly. 

GoGeomatics: How can people interested in the program get more information? 

Kathleen Coupland: People who are interested in the MGEM program can check out our website (googleable with the key words: MGEM UBC) or can email the program coordinator (Kathleen Coupland) at kathleen.coupland@ubc.ca (Email also available on the website). 

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