Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS)

Award Date: January 2013

Summary

     Ashraf Ghaly, Professor of Engineering, has been awarded a $6,500 Faculty Grant sponsored by the Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS) to support his project entitled "Educating the Educators on Mining Attributes of Underrepresented Groups to Spatially Introduce Knowledge Advancing Social Justice and Equality."  CHAS Faculty Grants help advance projects designed to promote high academic achievement among students with a focus on promoting success and satisfaction among students of color.  Professor Ghaly's winning proposal aims at taking advantage of a huge body of data available from governmental and non-governmental sources to spatially view information through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps.  Prof. Ghaly formulates a series of workshops for faculty of all disciplines to develop the ability to use tools that enhance and enrich the educational process in the classroom.  The focus of the proposed workshops will be on engaging the faculty in a meaningful learning experience related to issues that closely or remotely affect members of a minority or an underrepresented group. 

     This opportunity will make it possible to find answers to some arduous questions that may be easier to address in a spatial format. Without laborious effort in compiling the meaning of qualitative or quantitative data, plotted maps would display information that aid in addressing hard questions, which could be key in gaining insight and overcoming the inhibitions that students may traditionally feel when discussing delicate issues related to race, ethnicity, equality, resource distribution, political representation, and social and environmental justice. It is believed that the pedagogical structure of such a method will enhance students’ appreciation of what it takes to build a peaceful society, as the illustrated examples will be founded on factual data obtained from reputable and trustworthy sources.   

Abstract

     Professor Ashaf Ghaly's project "Educating the Educators on Mining Attributes of Underrepresented Groups to Spatially Introduce Knowledge Advancing Social Justice and Equality," aims at taking advantage of a huge body of data available from governmental and non-governmental sources to spatially view information through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps.  In his teaching of several courses to many students from a multitude of technical and non-technical backgrounds, Prof. Ghaly could easily see the excitement that appears on students’ faces when these custom built maps were shown. Displaying multi-layers of information in a colorful and visually appealing way help students comprehend the message the map attempts to display and gets them immersed in the spirit of the data.  The CHAS Faculty Grant enables Prof. Ghaly to offer two workshops for 20 faculty from across disciplines to develop the ability to use tools that enhance and enrich the educational process in the classroom.

     The focus of the proposed workshops will be on engaging the faculty in a meaningful learning experience related to issues that closely or remotely affect members of a minority or an underrepresented group.  The workshops will incorporate both the basics of GIS and its applications in data analysis and presentation. The basics and fundamentals of GIS will be covered with examples on how to build effective visual maps that communicate the information in a comprehensible manner. This will be followed by a hands-on training on how to find the desired data on the Internet, download it, spatially attach it to geographic locations in conjunction with the Census’ TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing) system, and present it in a map format. Time will be dedicated to accomplishing two tasks: the first is for each participant to work on a project of his/her own selection, and the second is to make an interactive presentation to the class to show the maps they created and to share the information that the maps communicate, and to explain its significance and relevance to a given classroom goal.

    Through these project activities, it is believed that five major advantages will be realized: (1) introduce members of the faculty to GIS as a powerful and versatile tool for data presentation and analysis; (2) provide the faculty with a hands on training on the use of GIS on an industry-standard platform; (3) give the faculty an opportunity to investigate an issue related to their interests in their projects; (4) open the faculty’s eyes to the limitless possibilities that the learned tools provide in almost any field of study; and (5) build self confidence and assurance that, no matter how complex and multifaceted a problem is, with proper analysis and presentation of data, conclusions can be reached.