Roger Colwell began his career in mapping as a Terrain Analyst in the United States Army for three years, he followed that up by getting his bachelor of arts from USM in Geography with an emphasis in GIS, graduating December 1993. From that point his profession progressed from working in the Planning Department of the City of Hattiesburg, Geotek Management Services Company at the Stennis Space Center, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Planning Systems Inc. at the Stennis Space Center, ESRI, Hartman Engineering Inc. in Picayune & New Orleans, to where he is serving as a GIS Manager at the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority – East for the past 11+ years. During Roger’s time with ESRI, he was instrumental in the founding of the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies. Along with a small group of founding members, he promoted greater communication and cooperation among all those with interest or working in GIS. MAST began as a small Gulf Coast user group named the South Mississippi GIS User Association, and in 2002 Roger led a major effort to take this local group statewide. In the Fall of 2002, Roger was elected as the first President of the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies. MAST’s purpose and efforts were derailed in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina, but Roger rallied the organization to revitalize and elect new leadership. From that resurrection of MAST, we went on to become an official non-profit state organization and MAST is an official 501(c)(3) incorporated non-profit. MAST is is grateful for Roger’s founding contributions. He has been blessed with his wife for 28 years, who he met at USM and they have two sons, Elijah and Josiah.
Mike Miller was a founding board member of the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies and the original author of the bylaws of the organization. Over the years Mike contributed the to organization as a both a board member and officer. Mike championed statewide data standards, interorganizational data sharing, and mentorship of geospatial community members. Mike’s big heart for helping others led to the mentorship of many community members that went on to contribute to our field. In this way Mike acted as an invaluable force multiplier for geospatial development in the state of Mississippi. To this end, the Mike Miller Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually at the Mississippi Geospatial Conference in his memory and in honor of his commitment to mentorship during his life.
Scott A. Samson, Ph.D, originally from Nebraska where his GIS career began using dot matrix printers to symbolize maps with ASCII characters, retired from his position as Associate Extension Professor with the Mississippi State University GeoResources Institute in 2019. Scott received his Ph.D. at the University of Alabama and subsequently went to work for an Extension Service in Kentucky. While in Kentucky, Scott also participated in a training program to teach GIS skills to prisoners to provide them with employment opportunities upon their release. Throughout his career, Scott was extremely dedicated to education, which led to his outstanding efforts post Hurricane Katrina. After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state of Mississippi, Scott immediately understood the absence of spatial data and GIS training while he was providing field support for disaster relief. During disaster recovery, as a certified ESRI trainer, Scott developed a program to deliver training throughout the state with a mobile GIS lab consisting of the latest versions of ArcGIS Desktop and twenty-four laptops that could be used at hosting agencies for training. In 2006, Dr. Samson was named one of ESRI’s Top 5 Instructors. While communicating with local governments during this time, Scott realized that some smaller counties and cities were unable to afford commercial GIS software licenses and developed the Intro, Intermediate, and Advanced QGIS open source GIS courses. Scott’s work with local governments, professional organizations, and colleagues has been invaluable and his impact on GIS in the state follows the Mississippi Association for Spatial Technologies mission: to promote, educate and provide assistance in professional development for the use and application of spatial technology in the state of Mississippi.
Walter “Wally” Belokon was a dedicated employee of MARIS for 30+ years where he mentored much of the Mississippi geospatial community. He served as a pioneering focal point in Mississippi GIS specializing in Remote Sensing in the early 1980s becoming an important part of countless projects, such as land use/cover classification, legislative redistricting, contour elevations, and MS Archives and History. Wally, originally from the Chicago area, started his career as a regional planner at the Kisatchie-Delta Regional Planning and Development District in Alexandria, LA during the late 1970’s before coming to Mississippi to work at IHL in 1981. He retired in 2012 but continued working as a contract geographer for the MS Dept. of Transportation. Even after fully retiring he remained active in the GIS community regularly attending professional meetings and conferences; we always looked forward to seeing Wally during those times. Wally is one of the key founders of Mississippi GIS and our resulting successes.