Shashi ShekharDr. Shashi Shekhar, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Minnesota, has received the UCGIS 2015 Education Award.  He received this award for his myriad contributions to GI science education over the past twenty years. In 2003, Dr. Shekhar co-authored a textbook on spatial databases (Prentice Hall, 2003), which has become a GIScience classic. It transformed our view of a GIS from a static map to a spatial database, which can yield many maps customized to individual users. This book is highly regarded (700 citations) and is used to teach spatial database topics around the world.  His spatial database curriculum at Minnesota has become nationally known. He teaches course content at 3 levels, which he calls  “curiosity” (e.g., public interest news articles), “conceptual” (e.g., taxonomies, ontologies) and “technology” (e.g., mathematics, algorithms). This 3-tier format, along with his use of “active learning” methods, has made his courses popular on the U of M campus and students rate them highly. To reach GIScience students beyond the Minnesota campus, Shashi recently co-developed and co-taught a massive open online course (MOOC), titled “From GPS and Google Maps to Spatial Computing” on Coursera.   It attracted over 21,800 students from 182 countries.
Shashi has supervised more than 75 graduate students (including 24 Ph.D.s), many of whom have worked in the area of spatial databases. Shashi has also mentored many students under the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates, and summer programs for underrepresented groups. His doctoral advisees are serving major research universities (e.g., U of Iowa, Virginia-Tech., Rutgers, Univ. of Texas at Dallas, etc.) as well as premier federal laboratories (e.g., Oakridge National Laboratory, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)), and major GIScience companies  (e.g., ESRI, Oracle Spatial, SAS, IBM-TJ Watson, Microsoft).
In 2012-2013, Shashi served on the National Academies’ committee on “Future U.S. Workforce for Geospatial Intelligence”  to assess current education and training programs, identify gaps, and suggest ways to build necessary knowledge and skills to ensure U.S. supply of geospatial professionals for the next 20 years. The committee authored an influential report that is shaping GIS programs around the country. Earlier, he served two-terms (2003-2009) on the National Academies’ Mapping Sciences Committee, which provides independent advice to society and to government at all levels on geospatial science, technology, and policy including the issue of “human resources and education in support of the advancement of mapping science.”
Dr. Shekhar has left a mark at every level of GIScience education. His textbook, encyclopedia and massive open online course (MOOC) have helped educate tens of thousands worldwide.  He’s leveraged numerous service assignments and hundreds of speaking engagements to spread the word about GIScience. He is an advocate for GIScience education in national forums. In his own classroom, he is an innovative teacher who engages his students with “active learning” methods and original effective course design. He has mentored 75 graduate advisees, many of whom have risen to leadership roles in academia, industry, and government.  He has worked tirelessly to bridge the geographic information and computer science education agendas.