The University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) opened its doors in 2010 with the goal to help students at all academic levels see the world through a spatial lens. Whether a student is studying international relations, architecture, engineering, or sociology, the SSI teaches the importance of spatial thinking and brings new and enhanced meaning to their area of focus.

“We purposely created an institute with the goal to look outward and be inclusive,” said Dr. John Wilson, the SSI’s founding director and a professor of sociology, architecture, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, and spatial sciences at USC. “Our programs collaborate and are organized with other units on campus—we have this idea that we can help lots of different people simultaneously. We’re about training a small number of spatial scientists but a large number of people across a whole range of disciplines that will go out into the world spatially enabled. It’s been rewarding to see all the novel and important ways ‘spatial’ can be implemented.”

The institute’s online graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence was accredited by USGIF in 2014, and the SSI became a USGIF Organizational Member the same year.

The institute recently introduced some new degree offerings, including a master’s degree in spatial informatics, which was developed in collaboration with
USC’s computer science department. This program is beginning its second year and attracting students from around the world. The institute also launched a Ph.D. in population, health, and place with the start of the current fall semester. Check out profiles of some of the students taking this inaugural degree.

A new minor in human security and geospatial intelligence was also introduced this semester. U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Steven Fleming, a professor of the practice of spatial sciences at USC, said this new minor benefits individuals seeking a career in national security.

“Young professionals serving with the Department of Defense upon completing their undergraduate education need to have good global thinking and problem solving skills,” Fleming said. “Those pursuing degrees in international relations and doing work with the U.S. State Department would also benefit from this minor. These are just two examples of the applicability of the minor. We’re trying to reach out to different populations of students that we know need these sets of skills and academic background in order to do their work successfully.”

The SSI continues to develop its offerings for the future, according to Wilson.

“We’re trying to think of new and important ways to be of service to humanity, and at the same time, be of service to the various student bodies engaged and affiliated with USC,” he said.

Visit spatial.usc.edu to learn more about the institute.

Photo Credit: University of Southern California, Spatial Sciences Institute

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Posted by Lindsay Tilton Mitchell

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