By G. A. Volb
New Orleans District
THIBODAUX, La. -- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, signed its first Memorandum of Agreement with Nicholls State University, July 17.
The Memorandum of Agreement, or MOA, establishes the basis for mutual understanding and cooperation between the corps and the university, with a focus on the school's Department of Applied Science, Geomatics Program.
"Partnering with local universities is an important aspect of our vision to achieve a great engineering force of highly disciplined people to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to the nation's engineering challenges," said Col. Rick Hansen, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, New Orleans District commander. "The corps recognizes the regional challenges of subsidence and sea level rise, with their corresponding impact on the measurement of positions on earth and measurement of water levels. Having the only Geomatics Program in the Louisiana University System, Nicholls State University is uniquely poised to partner with the corps."
The agreement, signed by Hansen and university President Stephen Hulbert, also focuses on the advancement of Geospatial Engineering, Engineering, Science, and education through technology transfer, knowledge exchange, personnel development and student mentoring.
"Our survey and geospatial engineering sections are able to provide a vast amount of data resources, which the university can use for peer reviewed studies, data for students to study and produce their senior projects, and a pathway for the development of young professional geomatic graduates," said the Dwayne Blanchard, chief of the USACE district's survey section. "The university provides the corps expert knowledge, innovative ideas, and professional assistance with establishing our new UAV survey/mapping platform.
"We have hosted several interns over the last three years," said Blanchard, citing an example of the win-win relationship. "In June we hired our first graduate from the Nicholls State's Geomatics program. Kent Hebert graduated from the program with his B.S. in Geomatics in May, and was able to hit the ground running because of his direct experience with the survey section and vast knowledge in Geomatics learned at Nicholls."
"Our Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System is a complex structure made of earthen embankments, T-walls, flood gates, locks, and closure structures," continued Blanchard. "And Southern Louisiana is in an active subsidence area. To monitor performance of our system, to ensure the safety of our structures, and to accurately survey the system during periodic inspections we can now collaborate with the program at Nicholls and develop better ways to refine our process or change the process because of technology advancements."
Nicholls State leadership agreed.
"In the short term this MOA benefits the program graduates by exposing them to a rich undergraduate research experience that may motivate them to pursue graduate studies in the field of Geomatics," said Ram Balaji, Ph.D., head of the geomatics program. "This is an excellent opportunity for our faculty to work on research projects specific to this region and state. In the long term, we feel this partnership will be critical in developing State University. Agreement such as this will help act as a feeder program for professionals with varying technical skills to enter the USACE."
Balaji added that the geomatics program at Nicholls is a flagship program in the state of Louisiana.
"Traditionally Geomatics used to reside within the department of Civil Engineering," he said. "Due to the vast growth of the geomatics field beyond the Civil Engineering discipline, it's now required to identify it as a separate discipline with different licensure and certification paths for gainful employment, for example, Professional Land Surveyor, or PLS, Professional Mapper, or PM, Certified Photogrammetrist and Remote Sensing Specialist, Certified Hydrographic Surveying Specialist, etc."
"The Nicholls Geomatics program completed 10 years in May," Balaji said. "The projected enrollment for fall 2013 is around 65 plus students, covering over 25 parishes in the state. We believe a significant percent of our students exposed to the corps' internship programs and research projects could end up working as professionals in their surveying and mapping section."