A private research institution, Boston-based Northeastern University emphasizes experiential learning, or the integration of the classroom with the real world by engaging students in professional internships, research, and service projects around the world. Northeastern’s graduate geographic information technology (GIT) program within the university’s College of Professional Studies has thrived under such experiential learning initiatives.

Since being awarded USGIF accreditation in September 2014 under the Foundation’s Collegiate Geospatial Intelligence Certificate Program, Dr. Cordula Robinson, associate teaching professor, said the GIT program has greatly benefited from the designation.

“Northeastern has a robust, advanced online component,” Robinson said. “We’ve recently seen the field of GEOINT just explode and have seen a crowd drawn to our program.”

One reason for the program’s popularity is the unique online element Robinson mentioned. Students have the option to either complete the program entirely online or partially online paired with brick-and-mortar classes at the Boston campus. The program is designed for working professionals seeking to expand their knowledge and advance their skills.

From project management to database design, the program offers a range of courses for students to explore, as well as concentrations in geographic information systems and remote sensing. Approximately 350 students have graduated since the program launched in 2009—and are now employed across U.S. government, military and industry, in addition to a handful of graduates located internationally.

“With the unleashed power of GEOINT, there’s a real need to make these skills more available so the workforce is prepared,” Robinson said.

One Northeastern University student who enhanced his skills through the program is George “Stan” Bosarge, a senior research laboratory manager at the University of South Alabama’s Fisheries Ecology Lab. Bosarge completed the GIT program with a focus in remote sensing earlier this year, and was one of the first students to receive a USGIF GEOINT Certificate from Northeastern. Bosarge was also the recipient of the 2015 USGIF Academic Research Award.

“It was a very positive experience—the class participation in my mind was the best aspect because you’re engaged with the instructors and it’s more about application and discussion rather than learning the mechanics and assignments,” Bosarge said.

Participants gather around the computer of Sophia Liu, a research geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey, during a “Crisis Mapping for Humanitarian Action” education session hosted by Northeastern University at the GEOINT 2015 Symposium.

U.S. Air Force Geospatial Intelligence Analyst Kevin Boyle was also one of the first students to achieve a USGIF GEOINT Certificate at Northeastern upon completion of the GIT program in June.

“Having been in the military since 2008, the biggest advantage was seeing the other side of GEOINT, and being more exposed to commercial software,” Boyle said. “Bringing those skills and training back to the Air Force was a great bonus.”

To showcase the GIT program, Northeastern had a strong presence at USGIF’s GEOINT 2015 Symposium in June. Not only did the university exhibit in the Symposium’s exhibit hall, but Northeastern faculty members also led training sessions on humanitarian crisis mapping and presented lightning talks on both crisis mapping and C4ISR.

“The faculty loves sharing their expertise with students and—this year, for the first time—GEOINT 2015 attendees,” Robinson said. “It all ties back to Northeastern’s online experiential learning. We bring the best of what online education has to offer by fostering a powerful relationship between learning and working.”

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Posted by Lindsay Tilton Mitchell

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