GEOINT Connections

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USC Spatial Sciences Institute hosts NGA, USGS, and USGIF leaders to kick off SSI’s designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences

From the way first responders access a disaster site to how security forces protect human lives, geospatial intelligence or “GEOINT” has become fundamental to how we operate in the world. With the explosion of Big Data and accelerating advances in geospatial sciences and technologies, government agencies, industry, and the academic community are recognizing the importance of working together on research and workforce education to maximize the GEOINT potential in addressing global issues.

Leading this collaboration is the USC Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) through its associations with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). The NGA and USGS have included USC through its Spatial Sciences Institute in the first cohort of universities nationwide to be designated as Center for Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences (CAE GS), and the USGIF has accredited the SSI Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence. High-level representatives from the NGA, USGS, and USGIF recently traveled to the Spatial Sciences Institute as part of the CAE GS program launch.

Dr. Lenora P. Gant, senior executive for academic outreach and STEM, led the NGA delegation, accompanied by Alicia Bynum-Bryant, executive officer; Edward Gardner, program manager and liaison, and Senior Program Managers Derek J. Davis and Kip Wolf of her academic outreach team. Dr. Gant also coordinated the participation of the three subject matter experts assigned to support the USC Spatial Sciences Institute: Benjamin Foster, GEOINT capabilities integration officer; Kerry Jones, research and development scientist; and Eric L. Richardson, NGA representative, Center for Information Dominance Unit San Diego.

Representing the USGS was Kari J. Craun, director, National Geospatial Technical Operations Center. Dr. Darryl G. Murdock, vice president of professional development, represented the USGIF.

In welcoming the dignitaries to SSI, Dr. Mark Todd, vice provost for academic operations, said, “The designation as a Center for Academic Excellence in Geospatial Sciences, and USGIF accreditation of our Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence are important credentials for us.” Todd added, “We also are excited that NGA Director Robert Cardillo and others of your respective organizations currently have the objective of collaborating to develop an agile workforce, individuals who are well-prepared to tackle complex situations of human security and intelligence, and to work in open source spaces as well as classified ones. Here at USC, we are mission-aligned with these goals. Central to our USC culture and vision is that through collaboration, we can improve the world for the better. Our Spatial Sciences Institute is one of our leading examples of interdisciplinary collaboration for teaching and research, which lead to the actionable ability to help solve what our provost refers to as the ‘wicked problems’ of the world.”

Dr. John P. Wilson, SSI founding director and professor, said, “The Spatial Sciences Institute academic programs and research initiatives not only produce the kinds of actionable information which decision-makers need, but also educate and train the creative spatial thinkers who can change the paradigms by how we will process geospatial data into the future.” Wilson added, “As a result of our discussions, we have many concrete plans for how to work with the subject matter experts and resources of the NGA, USGS, and USGIF in developing new methodologies and analytical capabilities, and to provide real-world context to our students in their courses and thesis work.”

After attending the Institute’s annual Geospatial Summit and meeting with SSI faculty, students, and alumni, the visiting GEOINT leaders likewise had many take-aways. Gant said, “We are looking forward to building upon our partnership with USC in critical mission emphasis areas of research, technologies development, emerging analytics, and professionalization.” Murdock said, “Our meetings were an important opportunity to learn in greater detail how an interdisciplinary group at an R-1 university such as the USC Spatial Sciences Institute is approaching GEOINT workforce development and developing new paradigms through its research.”

Craun concurred, adding, “The USGS also benefits from working with academic partners such as USC as a Center for Academic Excellence. We can learn how our data is being used and applied, and how we as a multidisciplinary scientific organization can collaborate more closely with university faculty, students, and alumni.”

As a member of and accredited program by the USGIF, the Institute annually participates in the annual USGIF GEOINT Symposium, the nation’s largest gathering of industry, academia, and government to include Defense, Intelligence and Homeland Security Communities as well as commercial, federal/civil, state and local geospatial intelligence stakeholders. Institute leadership, including Wilson and COL[R] Steven D. Fleming, Professor of the Practice of Spatial Sciences, participate in annual NGA meetings with researchers and members of the Intelligence Community.

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