Innovation and improvisation enable Dr. Beth McMillan to engage her students every day in geology classes. The associate professor works to ensure her students receive not only the necessary lessons in earth science, but learn how to apply them to everyday life.
This approach ensures that Dr. McMillan’s students bring marketable skills to job interviews – no matter if their career paths include geology or not. One focus area for her classes includes using geographic information systems (GIS) to conduct research, and she worked to institute a GIS certificate program for students and central Arkansas professionals.
“GIS ties information to location,” Dr. McMillan said. “I’ve became interested in the technology as an undergraduate and have been teaching it as long as I’ve been at UALR. Every time I teach the class, I learn something new. We can use GIS to figure out business locations, habitats, and demographic studies. It’s truly a marketable skill that gets our students jobs.”
In working to set an example for her students, Dr. McMillan took on a mammoth challenge in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. First responders to the scene had no useful maps to locate homes, businesses, and victims, so she answered the call for those who had GIS skills and were “used to roughing it.” Her maps were used by Federal and Mississippi Emergency Management Agencies, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others who needed accurate information quickly. While her work was applauded in national media outlets, Dr. McMillan considers its implementation in the classroom more valuable.
Dr. McMillan earned a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado College, master’s degree from the Colorado School of Mines, and a doctoral degree from the University of Wyoming. She received the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) GISCorps Volunteer award in 2005 for her work in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Mississippi. Dr. McMillan is a member of the Geological Society of America, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and the Arkansas GIS Users Forum.