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MPA students engage GIS to plan county’s future

July 28, 2006

Using an advanced geographical database, a group of students at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke began work that may transform the future of government planning in Robeson County.

The students - candidates for the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree – were a group of talented professionals that included county managers, public health directors and North Carolina Highway patrolmen.


From left:  Cynthia Oxendine, Andrea Rakushin, Susan Kalmus, Chris Coudriet, Boyd Stanley and David Allen

Under the direction of Dr. Dan Barbee, the students used computer-generated map databases from the Geographic Information Services (GIS) to plan public health, public safety and community and economic development.        

“We have developed a GIS narrative model scenario for Robeson County going forward 20 years,” Dr. Barbee said. “It’s a living case study of government administration.”

The course was entitled “Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century” and was a one-week, “immersion” class that started early in the mornings and lasted into the wee hours with team meetings. Dr. Barbee’s goals for the students were to use advanced technology while employing scenario planning principles and the collaborative paradigm of government planning.

“It would not work without an exceptional group of students and that’s what I had,” Dr. Barbee said.

As Boyd Stanley, a planner for Monroe, N.C., said: “We started with nothing and located data layers to formulate maps of public safety and health and human services. This is a work in progress, but we took a hard look down the road of government service here.”

Stanley’s group focused on the expansion of high quality, paid fire protection. Franklin County Manager Chris Coudriet’s group looked at community development.

“We focused on risk and sustainability of communities,” Coudriet said.

Among the 22 members of the class who were working in teams on other areas were: Andrea Rakushin, an instructor at Catholic University in Korea; Cynthia Oxendine, director of the Hoke County Health Department; Susan Kalmus, a policy analyst for the North Carolina Department of Insurance; and David Allen, a lieutenant in the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Dr. Barbee said the course and the GIS project are a work in progress that he will employ in both undergraduate and graduate courses for the emergency management concentration of the MPS program.

“We will definitely use the work done here to build on in future classes,” he said. “These are pioneers, and they’ve done an incredible job putting the pieces together. It would have been a very daunting task without the level of expertise and motivation in this class.

“We are not trying to draw conclusions, but to present options for government leaders,” Dr. Barbee said. “One question we asked was how do you take these possibilities and get from here to there. The only way is to do it with a collaborative model of government instead of a bureaucratic and hierarchical one.”

For the project, Dr. Barbee collaborated with Dr. Dennis Edgell of UNCP’s Geography and Geology Department, Janet Robertson of the Lumber River Council of Governments and the Robeson County Tax Office.

GIS ( is a collection of computer hardware, software and geographic data for capturing, managing, analyzing and displaying all forms of geographically referenced information. The class used enhanced software GIS versions, including ArcView©, Communityviz© and HAXUS©, a FEMA product.

With GIS, it is possible to link attributes to location data, such as people to addresses, buildings to parcels, or streets within a network. A GIS is a set of intelligent maps and other views that show features and feature relationships on the earth's surface.

To learn more about UNCP’s MPA, please contact 910.521.6637 or email