Student Resources

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Health Insurance

GIST students are eligible to participate on a voluntary basis in an injury and sickness insurance plan underwritten by United Healthcare Insurance Company. For online enrollment, visit the website, click on “Find My School’s Plan” link and follow the online instructions or call (800) 767-0700.

Esri Software Support

We make extensive use of the Esri software ecosystem in many of our courses. Many master’s students use these tools in new and interesting ways for their thesis projects. Students often take advantage of the Esri Support Center by opening a Global Account. This free service can greatly extend the resources available to help you in building your own knowledge base and skills using their software tools and a large and rich variety of open source extensions.

Library Resources

USC Libraries provide specific GIS support through Katharin Peter, Social Sciences Data Librarian.

Travel Support

We encourage students to present their work at conferences to build their professional profile. GIST online students do not pay the USC Student Programming Fee and therefore are not eligible to apply for the USC Graduate Student Government (GSG) Travel Grant program, which is funded in part by the programming fee. Students enrolled in other USC residential programs who are taking GIST online courses may pay this fee and therefore may be eligible to apply for funding from this source. See for more information.

Spatial Sciences Institute Los Angeles Geospatial Summit

We encourage GIST students to attend and participate in the Institute’s annual one-day conference, the Los Angeles Geospatial Summit, typically held in late February. The Geospatial Summit provides the opportunity for GIST students to hear how various industries are utlizing GIScience and technologies, get career advice, learn about specific job opportunities, and network with industry professionals, GIST alumni and faculty, and students and faculty from other Southern California area GIS-related academic programs.

Resume Book

Each year the Spatial Sciences Institute produces a book containing the resumes of current masters and graduate certificate students. The USC GIST Resume Book introduces the qualities and capabilities of the GIST student body to the related spatial sciences industries, and is just one of many ways in which the Spatial Sciences Institute supports the professional development of GIST students.

Networking and Career Development

In addition to the annual production of the USC GIST Resume Book, the Spatial Sciences Institute encourages GIST students to take advantage of numerous networking and career development opportunities and resources.

The GIST faculty hosts a webinar with the USC Career Center on resume preparation, interviewing techniques, and job search resources.

The GIST Programs will provide GIST certificate and master’s students in good standing with a USC student business card, printed with compliments of the Spatial Sciences Institute.

Students are encouraged to take advantage of travel support to attend important conferences and workshops, such as the CalGIS Conference in the spring (or the equivalent conference in other states or regions), the Esri International Developer Summit in Palm Springs in March each year, and the Esri International User Conference in San Diego in July each year. The Spatial Sciences Institute hosts a booth and a networking reception at the Esri International User Conference, and cordially invites alumni and students to come by both venues.

The Institute also hosts an annual Los Angeles Geospatial Summit with industry and other academic partners, presented with the aim of facilitating professional connections and the exchange of ideas within the regional geospatial community.


Students receive notices of companies and organizations offering paid and unpaid internships throughout the year. Many students have found internships to be a helpful way to transition into the geospatial professional world.

Esri Development Center Student of the Year Competition

As one of the leading university entities recognized by Esri as an Esri Development Center (EDC), the Spatial Sciences Institute organizes the USC EDC Student of the Year competition, which recognizes exemplary contributions to the development of novel GIS-based tools, techniques, or models.

The EDC Student of the Year Award includes a plaque, a small cash prize (past prizes have been $500), and the opportunity to present your work at the Esri Developer Summit held in Palm Springs, California in the second half of March every year. The USC awardee’s project also may be entered in the International EDC Student of the Year competition by the faculty evaluation committee. This competition is open to all Esri Education Development Centers and the winner chosen by Esri receives a plaque, a cash prize and registration, hotel, and travel funds to attend an award ceremony at the Esri International User Conference held in San Diego, California in July each year.


Those who apply must be currently enrolled in a USC GIST program in the semester in which they apply or they must have completed one of these programs in either spring or fall semesters in the previous year (e.g., 2015 if applying to the 2016 EDC competition). The work must have been completed within the past 12 months. Applicants must be able to provide copies of the final work product (GIS tools, software, models, multimedia, etc.) to the faculty evaluation committee upon request.

Judging Criteria

To apply, please e-mail a 1,000-word extended abstract describing your project and the novel aspects that advance the design and development of applications using Esri’s web, mobile and desktop geospatial technologies to Dr. Jennifer Swift. A faculty committee reviews the abstracts and selects one winner each year on the basis of:

      • level of creativity and innovation;
      • novelty of the approach, design, or system; and
      • potential for the project deliverables to help demonstrate and/or emphasize the efficacy of using GIS to solve real-world problems.

Important Dates
2/16/15          Deadline for submitting extended abstract
3/2/15            Winner selected and notified
3/10-13/15    Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs, California
7/20-24/15   Esri International User Conference in San Diego, California

Past Winners
2016 – Kacey Pham
2015 – Sima Moghaddam
2014 – Chris Weidemann
2013 – Nancy Milholland
2012 – Kaveh Shahabi
2011 – Ronald Lehman
2010 – Daniel W. Goldberg

Send questions to Dr. Jennifer Swift
USC EDC Program Director
AHF B57D | (213) 740-5841