Geographic Information Systems Course now at Maryville University


Maryville University will debut a new, unique, in-depth course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) beginning with its 2007 Fall Semester, said Dan Sparling, Ph.D., dean of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a new and innovative course taught by an expert who employs cutting edge GIS technology in his archaeological investigations. The course has wide applications and should be of considerable interest to both students and professionals in the community.”

The introductory course will deal with the theory and application of GIS with a primary focus on historical and archeological sites, incorporating a lab component employing the latest professional and open source (user-generated) computer software, said course instructor Todd Brenningmeyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of art history at Maryville.

“Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and related applications allow researchers and commercial users to map, analyze and make decisions based on observed phenomena with a spatial or locational component,” said Brenningmeyer. “For example, they are used to track and understand population changes in plants or animals based on environmental changes, topographies, human influence etc., site businesses based on demographic and transportation factors, as well as identify archaeological sites based on artifact distributions and unique spectral signatures.”

GIS can be employed in fields as wide ranging as political science or environmental science. Common everyday applications can be seen in technologies such as Google Earth or Mapquest. “GIS offers cutting edge technology just beginning to be used in the field of art history, and presents the student with a unique opportunity to learn to analyze the interaction between artist and topography,” said Brenningmeyer, who is an authorized instructor of the ESRI ArcView software that will be used in the lab.

“This software is the standard used by 95 percent of those involved in the field, and we have licenses for a full lab,” said Brenningmeyer. Students will learn to do such things as understand how the site of an ancient ruin was used by modeling patterns of site and building use. In addition, those passing the course will receive a certificate indicating they are trained in the software, significantly bolstering future employment opportunities. The class also has attracted attention from the commercial sector, since the lab component can be taken separately for a fee.

The class will be offered on Tuesday evenings from 6 – 8:50 p.m. and requires no prerequisites. Students taking the class can receive credit for art history or science.

Brenningmeyer also will teach another new art and design course: Myth, Meaning & Symbols in Art. This course will survey the visual representations of myths and the use of symbols in art from the Paleolithic period to the present. For more information on either of these new Maryville University classes, e-mail Brenningmeyer at

Maryville University, founded in 1872, is a private, coeducational institution offering approximately 50 undergraduate, seven master’s and two doctoral degree programs to 3,300 students. Ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of America’s Best Colleges in the Midwest, Maryville University prepares its students for successful and meaningful careers by offering programs that integrate liberal arts with professional studies. Among Maryville’s most recent graduates, 94 percent are employed or attending graduate school. Approximately 15,000 alumni work and live in the St. Louis region.