Delta State University BAS-GAI student and USMC Reservist Gunnar Kaltenberger produces a map sheet for a county-level atlas for first responders in Texas coping with Hurricane Harvey.

After assessing geospatial workforce needs, Delta State University (DSU) in Mississippi created a bachelor of applied science degree in geospatial analysis and intelligence (BAS-GAI).

According to Talbot Brooks, director of DSU’s Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies (GIT), more than 100 students have enrolled in the major since it launched in fall 2016.

“Geospatial technology has typically been a set of add-on courses or a certificate or minor for a geography major,” Brooks said. “Now, it has grown broad enough to be its own field, and students recognize that.”

Brooks pointed to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) rapid growth and the Department of Labor’s recent expansion of the standard occupation codes for geospatial technologies as “market signals that [GEOINT] is its own thing and academia needs to shift to prepare that workforce.”

DSU’s new degree is accredited as an applied science program and is offered both online and on campus. Enrolled students receive fundamental training in remote sensing, GIS, positioning, programming, analytics, and statistics. Requirements include 53 core credit hours, including 15 in geography and electives, on top of the traditional liberal arts curriculum.

Students must also complete one semester of internship or capstone project work with an industry partner before earning a degree. DSU has partnered with industry leaders such as NGA and the Department of Homeland Security to establish a workforce pipeline in which civilian and military students confront real-world problems.

“Our students aren’t only well educated and versed in the theory and skills, but the field experience is going to make them competitive when they graduate,” Brooks said.

The internship requirement was heavily influenced by the school’s partnership with the Marine Corps. Currently, half of DSU’s BAS-GAI students are active-duty Marines who will spend their final semester conducting capstone projects related to their careers.

Internships aren’t the only hands-on experience they’ll gain. In the past several weeks, students and staff volunteered to produce U.S. National Grid maps of the areas in Texas and Florida most affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively. These maps continue to assist Urban Search and Rescue Teams by highlighting critical infrastructure locations and points of interest.

“This mapping project gives us a chance to make a contribution to a real-world problem,” said Marine reservist Tanner Overcash, a sophomore. “It’s very much like the missions the Marines are called on for, responding to hurricanes and typhoons all around the world. Hopefully, we helped make things better for the people who are suffering from Harvey and Irma.”

DSU’s new program is also designed to prepare students to sit for USGIF’s Certified GEOINT Professional exam series, the GIS Certification Institute exam, and the journeyman surveyor exam upon graduation.

DSU was recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence by NGA in spring 2015.

For more information about GSU’s program, visit gis.deltastate.edu.

Photos Credits: Delta State University. Headline image caption: A cover sheet for an atlas produced by the DSU GIT Center in support of Hurricane Harvey relief. The center produced 20 such atlases totaling nearly 3,000 map sheets in less than 48 hours.

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Posted by Andrew Foerch