The Surveying Program at Louisiana Community & Technical College System

Frederic T. Dugdale, PLS
ince 1978, Louisianans interested in becoming survey technicians could obtain training at the T.H. Harris Campus of Acadiana Technical College in Opelousas, Louisiana, part of the Louisiana Community & Technical College System. The original program focus was developing civil engineering technicians, but the program has gradually broadened to include the surveying arena so that graduates can eventually work for surveying, engineering, and construction firms as well as government entities such as the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

The largest employers here are mainly surveying firms in the oil industry. To meet this need, the college is offering, for example, deep water hydrographic surveying, performed with highly sophisticated submarine equipment by several oilfield service companies in our area. Other courses added two years ago—as the result of input from local companies, the instructional staff, the craft committee, and others—include Introduction to Geographic Information Systems and Real Property and Land Development. The program was also moved to the Lafayette Campus to better serve the industry.

Recent changes to include the surveying community have not been limited to new courses and location; they include online research for project assignments using the NGS.NOAA website, Google Earth, and online tax records. Students are much more interested in learning when it involves computer technology, and these changes have invigorated not only the students but also the faculty. I know I’m excited about changing technology, new things, and a desire to give back to the students.

Seventeen second-year and 10 first-year students are currently enrolled, representing an increase from the last few years. As we also know, increased enrollment is about word of mouth. I have students coming because of enrolled friends, brothers, cousins, etc.

The typical student is within a couple of years of having finished high school and has entered with little or no knowledge of surveying. Over the course of five semesters, he or she learns various aspects of surveying both in the classroom and in the field, including, but not limited to, the history of the Public Land Survey System, Louisiana specific laws, traversing, sunshots, AutoCad, GIS, and GPS.

Where possible (but limited by liability concerns), the classes conduct actual surveys for the benefit of the students. Students find monuments and take pictures to verify existence, and they conduct elevation certificate surveys and complete forms (but don’t sign them). When the opportunity presents itself, they find existing property corners (but don’t replace them if they’re missing).

The program has expanded its reach for the students who are able to attend for two years and then transfer key courses to the Nicholls’ State University and the geomatics program in Thibodeaux, Louisiana. This is in cooperation with South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The instructional staff also proctors the NSPS CST exam on a yearly basis or as requested with sufficient interest. CST review courses are offered as requested. 

The core courses are recognized by the Louisiana Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (LAPELS) board and are applicable toward the required 30 hours for licensing.

The associate degree program is emphasized to a greater degree with accreditation from the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE), and the proximity of the two campuses to each other has helped tremendously. It has been difficult for a student to achieve this degree in the recent past, but access to the degree is now rolling ahead. Major employers are also emphasizing the need for an associate degree.

The program is recognized for the students it has prepared to enter the workforce as equipment operators, CAD technicians, etc. And according to students, advancement is fairly rapid to the level of party chief. This cooperative effort has resulted in a modernized program that is up to date in course offerings and that serves the students, industry needs, and the community as a whole.

Frederic T. Dugdale, PLS, is an instructor of Civil, Survey & Mapping at Acadiana Technical College, Lafayette, Louisiana.

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