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SUNY Potsdam Geology Professor Michael Rygel Honored with GIS Champion Award

October 10, 2019

SUNY Potsdam Geology Department Chair Dr. Michael Rygel Recognized as ‘GIS Champion’ by New York State GIS Association

SUNY Potsdam Professor of Geology Dr. Michael Rygel has been honored with the 2019 GIS Champion Award from the New York State Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Association.

Rygel’s award was presented at NYGeoCon 2019, the association’s annual meeting and the state’s premier conference on GIS. NYGeoCon was held in Syracuse, N.Y., from Sept. 23 to 25.

The GIS Champion Award recognizes exemplary support of the GIS profession and of the value of GIS technology in society. Rygel was honored for guiding the creation of SUNY Potsdam’s new baccalaureate program in geographic information science, which accepted its first students last year. Rygel recognized the need in the profession for undergraduate students trained in GIS, and saw an opportunity for SUNY Potsdam to serve that need.

“This interdisciplinary degree was designed in consultation with our alumni and partners in the private sector to give students the robust background in geography, natural science, computer science and math that they need to enter today’s high-tech workforce,” Rygel said. “The knowledge and skills gained as part of this program will make our graduates uniquely well prepared to help solve some of the most pressing issues facing our society.”

SUNY Potsdam’s Bachelor of Science degree program in GIS gives students the knowledge and technical skills needed to identify, analyze, interpret and solve spatially-based problems. The GIS program emphasizes geography, mathematics and computer science as core components of the course of study, alongside required and elective courses in the natural sciences. Students come away with a broad understanding of the relevant social, economic, scientific and spatial factors needed to solve complex problems.

The GIS major has six faculty members teaching a suite of courses each semester, including four sections of “Introduction to GIS” each year. The program requires a minor to focus students’ interests and foster the application of GIS across many disciplines, while creating a vigorous background in design and GIS technologies. This past May, four students graduated with GIS minors, and the first majors will be graduating with their degrees in Spring 2020.

The GIS major and minor are both housed in the College’s Department of Geology, which prepares students for careers in the sciences, or for further study on the graduate or professional level. To learn more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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