B.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence

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The Spatial Science Institute’s Bachelor of Science in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence (HSGI) provides students with a scientific and technical grounding in human security, including how to evaluate security around the world, create and gather geospatial data, and design solutions that maintain or promote stability for human well-being. In this major, students engage with collaborative and interrelated disciplines, such as international relations, political science, public policy and the spatial sciences.

A background in HSGI is relevant for students interested in issues such as humanitarian response and relief, global human rights, the monitoring and prevention of genocide, international border conflicts, public health emergencies, environmental risks, refugee migration and crisis management. The program provides a framework for analysis and planning that positions graduates for a growing number of jobs and professions requiring a foundation in human security and geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) work.

This major will be well suited for students interested in work with global policy organizations, international NGOs, agencies at the federal, state and local levels, and organizations such as the U.S. Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Interior and Defense.

The USC B.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence degree is accredited by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation as an academic program that supports the development of a geospatial intelligence workforce.


Additionally, this major has been designed to support the academic programs of ROTC cadets at USC and veterans seeking to undertake or complete their undergraduate education. USC, through its Spatial Sciences Institute, is unique in being the only U.S. university offering this undergraduate degree program outside of one of the military service academies.

Meet a Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence Major

Eric Allen
Anousha Chandra

SSI in the GEOINT Community

Human security and geospatial intelligence is the ability to gather information:

  • to provide rapid and effective planning for and response to crisis situations;
  • to understand and keep pace with changing geopolitical landscapes;
  • to map (in two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms) areas affected by disaster and conflict;
  • to assess and plan for policy change; and
  • to investigate resources in areas affected by man-made and natural events.

HSGI includes the ability to describe, understand and interpret geospatial data over space and time, and to use critical thinking, geospatial reasoning and analytical techniques to provide decision-makers with informed recommendations and strategies addressing human security challenges. Read about "Perspectives on Intelligence Collection."


HSGI students learn from SSI faculty who are leading human security and GEOINT experts. Lead faculty include:

  • COL [R] Steven D. Fleming, Ph.D., with more than 30 years of remote sensing and military experience, including two deployments in Afghanistan and service as an academy professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York;
  • Gregory F. Treverton, Ph.D., professor of the practice of international relations and spatial sciences and former chairman of the National Intelligence Council;
  • Steven Lamy, Ph.D., professor emeritus of international relations and spatial sciences and an expert in foreign policy analysis and human security; and
  • Michael Orosz, Ph.D., research associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and spatial sciences and an expert in homeland security.

Guest speakers and advisors to the Spatial Sciences Institute’s HSGI initiatives include GEN [R] David Petraeus, a Judge Widney Professor at USC and former CIA director; LTC Ian Irmishcher, assistant professor of geosciences, United States Air Force Academy; and Ryan McAlinden, director for modeling, simulation and training, USC Institute for Creative Technologies and adjunct assistant professor of spatial sciences.

The scope and number of positions for which a B.S. in HSGI would support continue to grow rapidly. Private sector, government and not-for-profit entities currently are seeking qualified individuals for positions with titles such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) intelligence analysts, geospatial analysts, imagery analysts, GIS specialists, spatial data managers, foreign service officers with the U.S. Department of State, military officers for those commissioning from ROTC commands, and research positions.

Current positions (which include civilian positions) are available in companies such as those who are corporate sponsors of the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) annual GEOINT Symposium, the largest conference of geospatial intelligence professional worldwide. Other organizations looking to hire individuals with an undergraduate HSGI background include public safety agencies and NGOs that support humanitarian and emergency responses such as FEMA; and comparable state, regional, and local agencies; NASA; and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer. Department of Defense and DOD support agencies in the intelligence community (IC) seeking to hire individuals with this background include the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO); and the Department of Homeland Security.

The learning objectives for the B.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence degree are:

  • Explain key concepts from humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences, and illustrate the relevance of these disciplines to human security and geospatial intelligence at the intersection of the spatial sciences, international.
  • Communicate evidence-based ideas and articulate positions orally and in writing.
  • Apply a variety of digital and online geospatial applications including remote sensing applications and geographic information systems.
  • Synthesize and analyze information to identify geospatial problems and devise solutions related to human security.
  • Illustrate how the principles and applications of geospatial intelligence can be used in building healthy, livable and secure communities.
  • Determine how geographically referenced data can be gathered and organized to support a large number and variety of collaborative projects.
  • Critique how geospatial data can be visualized, analyzed, and modeled to inform human security and planning, and by doing so, support international and national security requirements.
  • Analyze how various societies co-exist and evolve in human security settings and how globalization connects near and far-away places and actions.


Whether in the classroom or in the field, HSGI students can work on research projects with interdisciplinary faculty from the Spatial Sciences Institute, and, in particular, in SSI’s Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence Lab. Additional research opportunities are with SSI’s affiliated faculty and units across the university, including the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and with visiting scholars and research collaborators with entities such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Naval Postgraduate School.

SSI human security and geospatial undergraduate researchers have published their work in peer-reviewed journals, presented posters and talks at national and international conferences, and have won prestigious scholarships, awards and fellowships, such as Fulbright and Boren scholarships.


Pre-Major Requirement

An introduction to the basic tools of statistics. Descriptive statistics; probability; expected value; normal approximation sampling; chance models; tests of significance.

Major Requirements

Comprehensive introduction to contending theoretical and analytical approaches; development of critical, evaluative, cognitive, and analytical competencies regarding historical and contemporary issues.
The focus is intelligence to improve the making of policy, with attention to collection; overt and covert, operations; domestic intelligence; and oversight in democracies.
Explore causes of human security threats, challenges to state sovereignty, and actions to address failed states, conflicts and protect people through humanitarian intervention.
Key concepts in international security studies; historical evolution of international warfare and diplomacy; contemporary international security issues.
Modern political ideologies; their assumptions, perceptions, and prescriptions regarding political stability and social injustice: anarchism, communism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and fascism.
Institutions, legal context, and processes of public policy and management. Contemporary theories of public policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Public managerial challenges and reforms.
Contemporary management theory; the nature of complex organizations; organization and intergovernmental arrangements; roles and responsibilities of managers; managerial and organizational effectiveness; organizational structure and dynamics.
Introduction to the complex relationship between human development and natural hazards which are increasingly causing damage and displacement to human populations throughout the world.
Develop the requisite knowledge and practical skills to source, analyze, and produce GIS and simulation-based projects with unmanned aerial systems-derived data.
Role of maps and spatial reasoning in the production and use of geographic information for representing and analyzing human and environmental activities and events.
Conceptual foundations and techniques of statistics and how they can be used with geographic data to produce actionable information across spatial science domains.
The various ways in which geography can be used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze, model and visualize information. Laboratories are organized around ArcGIS software suite.
Fundamentals of spatial modeling and remote sensing and how to use GIS customization and programming to streamline complex spatial analysis and modeling workflows.
Introduction to basic geospatial intelligence knowledge and related practical applications that assist in informing decision-making in a variety of human security settings.

Practicum Capstone

Create conceptual solutions for a real-world human security and geospatial intelligence issue by developing a problem set and recommended solution to the same.


The B.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence degree can serve as a progressive degree path to obtaining a USC masters degree with the baccalaureate degree in just five years. Progressive degree pathways are available into SSI’s M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology, M.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence, M.S. in Spatial Data Science, and M.S. in Spatial Economics and Data Analysis. Other progressive degree pathways also are possible; please email Monica Pan, SSI Academic Programs Director, at


Talk with COL [R] Steven D. Fleming, Ph.D., professor of the practice of spatial sciences and the Institute for Creative Technologies, about the advantages of being a Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence major or adding HSGI as a double major. Email him or call him at (213) 740-7144.