North American Surveying Educators Conferences

"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
The Holy Bible: Psalms 133:1


Sixty-eight years ago, during the summer of 1937, the first Surveying Teachers Conference was hosted by Iowa State College at Camp Marston, its summer survey camp at Rainy Lake, Minnesota. The sponsoring organization was the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, SPEE, through its Civil Engineering Division Committee VIII—Surveying and Geodesy. Now known as the American Society for Engineering Education, ASEE, it was the lead conference sponsor until the Seventh National Surveying Teachers Conference held in August 1971 at Oregon State University. With the elimination of the surveying committee within the Civil Engineering Division of ASEE, the conferences have since acted as a free entity with no direct and continuing affiliation to a professional surveying organization. It continues today due to the dedicated effort of past surveying professors such as Kenneth Curtis of Purdue University and Paul R. Wolf of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. If the conferences are to be continued, the new breed of surveying professors will have to carry it into the future and hopefully find sponsoring from a combined national surveying organization.

Professor Jack S. Dodds of Iowa State was the first conference director. The list of attendees included Earl Church, Syracuse University; G.H. Harding, University of Louisville; Andrew H. Holt, WPI; Brother A. Leo, Manhattan College; W.H. Rayner, University of Illinois; H.O. Sharp, RPI; and F.W. Welch, State College of Washington. Many of these professors were the surveying textbook authors of the day and involved in the profession. The 32 delegates spent two weeks at the camp discussing the future directions of the civil engineering-surveying profession. Much credit has been given to this event as the impetus that eventually created the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, ACSM, in 1941. Professor Dodds served as the second national president of ACSM and Professor George Harding served as the first executive director.

The Second National Surveying Teacher Conference was hosted by Case School of Applied Science at Camp Case, its summer surveying camp at Mohican Forest Park, Ohio in 1940. A resolution called for future conferences to be held at five-year intervals. Unfortunately, World War II interrupted this schedule and the Third National Surveying Teacher Conference was not held until 1952. It was hosted by the University of Illinois at Camp Rabideau, Blackduct, Minnesota.

It should be noted that the first five conferences were held by institutions at their summer surveying camps. Conferences followed in 1957, '62. and with a one-year extension in 1968. This sixth National Surveying Teacher Conference was held on the campus of Cornell University. A resolution was passed to meet on three-year intervals. This was accomplished in 1971, '74, '77, '80, with a one year extension in 1984, '87, '90 and '93. It was then resolved to meet on the current two-year cycle.


The early conferences had a committee structure that created an agenda for the sessions with invited discussion papers on the major program topics. Time was allocated for task-oriented working groups to probe the topics and after discussion they formulated resolutions which would be voted upon at the close of the conference. These resolutions were then presented for publication in conference proceedings, as presentations at national ACSM annual meetings or as articles in the Surveying and Mapping Journal of ACSM.

The core of the conferences included the resolution—working group format supplemented by discussion on classroom teaching methods, curriculum planning, laboratories, equipment required to support programs, and instructional lectures to provide the latest information on new equipment and materials. These lectures tended to bring the professor up to date and served as mini courses on new developments.

At the twelfth National Surveying Teacher Conference held at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Wisconsin, July 1987 it was noted that many Canadian and other country delegates should be recognized and the name of the event was changed to the North American Surveying Educators Conference. Four of the meetings have been held in Canada. Locations were the University of New Brunswick at Frederickton, New Brunswick (1977), the University of Calgary at Banff National Park, Alberta (1990), Laval University, Quebec City, Quebec (1995), and the Center of Geographic Sciences, Nova Scotia Community College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia (2003).


One attribute of these conferences has been the camaraderie that has developed between the delegates and also their families. Most of the delegates have become friends, forming relationships that last a lifetime. Networking among faculty is common in the profession and family vacations have been planned around the events. The first seven conferences were held in August so as not to interfere with the school year and to provide a relaxed atmosphere.

The academic year can consist of two semesters which end in mid to late May or three terms which can have an early finish in the first week of June or a late finish in the second or third week of June. The 1993 conference was held in the middle of May, the 1995 conference took place during the last week of May, and the 1997 event was held during the second week of June. Some educators were not able to attend these conferences because of classroom teach-ing commitments. The XX North American Surveying Educators Conference will be hosted by Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, Texas on June 8-11, 2005. The host faculty conference committee chooses the dates most convenient for them to hold the conference. The recent conferences held in the summer months have had larger attendance. The exception being the one held in Nova Scotia in 2003 where attendance was hurt by the Twin Towers episode of 2001. Only one resolution was developed at that conference.


These conferences have provided valuable information for the participants on new trends in the surveying profession. The ninth conference at the University of New Brunswick in 1977 had papers dealing with Land Information Systems, LIS, and short courses on Geographic Information Systems, GIS, and Global Positioning Systems, GPS. These were cutting-edge tech-nologies of the day. The tenth conference at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado had a number of ACSM Cartography professors in attendance who picked up the GIS ball and are still running with it today. The American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing,

ASPRS, is directly involved in the GIS activities. It would be to the advantage of the surveying profession if ACSM and ASPRS could work together as a unified front. Attempts to combine these organizations in the distant past have failed.

The North American Surveying Educators Conferences should have input from, to name a few, the GIS, GPS, land surveying, construction surveying, and photogrammetry and remote sensing surveying industries. This input should include information for programs and funding at both undergraduate and graduate levels. This has not been the case in the immediate past.

One way to correct this situation would be to have the education committees of ASPRS and ACSM ask the XX Conference if they can assume joint responsibility of conference programs and to provide leadership in the planning and committee structure of events. This would provide adequate funding for joint committee meetings to develop the timing, agenda, and location of the conference. It should not be allowed to wither away, but rather it should be the catalyst to reunite the surveying profession. Perhaps this could be the first step in melding ASPRS and ACSM into a united surveying voice. The students of the future need to hear a common theme about locating things in space: surveying.

If the surveying profession is to keep abreast of the changing technologies of the day, then the academic faculties should be engaged in research. Major private firms and government agencies should be invited to the conference to explain what they need and how funding can be found for joint partnerships at colleges and universities. Not only would this benefit the students, but the educated surveying profession as a whole.

Presently, the two-year planning cycle is too short a time for most schools to get up to speed to develop a broad enough program of multiple surveying sub-disciplines. The conference should be returned to a three or four-year cycle. Some programs have consisted only of written papers which ensure that the contributing professors have met their publication quota. It is the formal committee structure, the invited topic discussion papers, the working sessions, and the resolutions that make successful conferences. Let us not have the North American Surveying Educators Conference modeled after current national societal technical paper presentations. Instead, let the conference be a vehicle that transforms the profession through the educators, as ambassadors, to bring about the unification of the surveying profession.

Next topic: Graduate Surveying Programs


Wolf, Paul R. "Sixty Years of Teacher Surveying Conferences," Surveying and Land Information Systems, Journal of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, Volume 57, No. 3 September 1997.

About the Author

  • Robert J. Schultz, PE, PLS
    Robert J. Schultz, PE, PLS
    Robert Schultz is a professor of civil, construction, and environmental engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, where he teaches surveying courses. He is also a contributing writer for the magazine.

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