Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

November 13, 2009

Geography department will stage
night of GIS demonstrations

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University’s Department of Geography will showcase a wide array of uses for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – from virtual 3D tours of the university campus to an exploration of Martian valleys – as part of a celebration of Geography Awareness Week (Nov. 15-21).

The demonstrations will be held in open-house format from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Room 114 of Davis Hall. Room 114 is the department’s Advanced Geospatial Laboratory, which is focused on GIS development. The free event is open to the public.

Davis Hall is located on Normal Road, diagonally across from the NIU Parking Deck. Free parking is available there after 7 p.m.

NIU’s Geography Department boasts one of the top GIS programs in the region, offering an undergraduate emphasis in GIS and GIS certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

A GIS is a computer-based mapping tool that takes information from a database about a location, such as streets, buildings, water features and terrain, and turns it into visual layers. The ability to see geographic features on a map gives users a better understanding of a particular location, enabling planners, analysts and others to make informed decisions about their communities.

GIS touches every life every day. It is used throughout the world to solve problems related to the environment, health care, land use, business efficiency, education and public safety. The power supply directed to homes function more efficiently because of GIS, as do the patrol cars and fire trucks that keep neighborhoods safe and the delivery trucks on the road.

Geography department demonstrations will allow visitors to:

  • Learn how to use GIS.
  • See a demonstration of a “geo-wall,” a 12-monitor system of computers able to generate large mapping images.
  • Explore the valley networks on Mars.
  • Find homes and property information through county Web-based GIS.
  • Explore the NIU campus in 3D.
  • Track the status of NIU Huskie buses in real time.
  • Navigate the NIU campus using the Virtual Campus Map.
  • Experience the 3D Virtual Reality Lab.
  • Talk to NIU students, faculty and GIS professionals.

Several other events are on tap for Geography Awareness Week, including the annual Career Day, which will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, in Room 121 of Davis Hall.

Career Day is a long-running tradition in the Geography Department that attracts students, alumni and friends. Alumni of geography and meteorology will return to talk about the importance of geographic knowledge in the real world, share information about their work experiences, advise faculty and students on the status of geographic and meteorological careers and recruit students for internships and other career related experiences.

This year, the department celebrates both the commencement of its Ph.D. program in January and the 50th anniversary of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The National Geographic Society also sponsors activities related to Geography Awareness Week. For games, activities and lessons about mapping, visit

For more information regarding the NIU events, contact Phil Young at or Sarah Blue at

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