2023 USGIF Scholarship Awardees
USGIF has awarded more than $1.7M in scholarships since launching the program in 2004. This year's winners represent a diverse and multi-talented group who demonstrate a shared desire to impact change through the use of geospatial intelligence tradecraft.
Stu Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship
Uchenna Osia is pursuing a Ph.D. in Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University under Dr. Bethany Cutts. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her doctoral research combines geospatial analytics, data equity, and environmental justice (EJ). She has interned at various institutions, including Yale University and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and completed a Fullbright Grant. She aims to collaborate cross-sectorally with professionals and stakeholders to integrate EJ principles into the geospatial intelligence field. She strives to contribute to a future that is equitable, resilient, and secure.
“Receiving the Stu Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship not only affirms my confidence in my research but also represents a revitalized dedication to its fundamental purpose of serving communities. It means striving to be a leader and exemplar like the namesake of this award. Additionally, it allows me to share my work at conferences worldwide with the hope of contributing, in some small part, to all the incredible work the geospatial community does. Moreover, it grants me some financial freedom while pursuing my degree. This recognition spurs a tremendous sense of pride and joy.”
North Carolina State University
Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications
University of Maryland
Alexia Hernandez is pursuing a master's degree in Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS) at the University of Maryland (UMD), where she works as a Graduate Research Assistant at UMD's Applied Research Laboratory for Intelligence and Security (ARLIS). She has gained valuable experience through obtaining a bachelor's degree in criminology and criminal justice, with minors in technology entrepreneurship and GIS, and interning with ARLIS, the Department of Justice, and NASA DEVELOP National Program, and recently spending some time interning with the Esri Intelligence team. Her interests lie in utilizing GIS and remote sensing to analyze climate change, environmental degradation, and national security.
“Scholarships have been invaluable to my educational journey, providing me with the financial relief that has allowed me to fully dedicate myself to my studies. My introduction to the GIS/geospatial industry through GEOINT sparked a passion that has propelled me towards this career path. This scholarship serves as a recognition of my unwavering commitment and interest in utilizing geospatial technology to improve decision-making processes through spatial analysis and data visualization. I am sincerely grateful and honored to have been awarded this scholarship, as it will significantly contribute to my academic and professional journey in the field.”
Reinventing Geospatial, Inc. (RGi) Scholarship for Geospatial and Engineering
Grace Henson is currently working on a Bachelor of Science in Geography with a minor in GIS at Park University. Introduced to GIS by the U.S. Army Geospatial Engineering school in 2020, Grace grew to love GIS and now has a strong interest in cartography, biogeography, and environmental planning. Aside from school, Grace works as a full-time GIS Analyst, spending the past four years providing geospatial support to the Texas Army National Guard both overseas and at home. Outside of school and the guard Grace also works as a civilian GIS analyst.
“The USGIF RGi scholarship is an incredible honor for me to receive. As a first-generation college student and as a younger member of the GEOINT community, I'm deeply humbled by the generosity of RGi and the USGIF. This scholarship will not only lessen the financial burden of my education but open doors to valuable networking and mentorship within the GEOINT community. I'm excited to further my education and build connections within the geospatial intelligence field.”
Maxar Scholarship for Diversity and Innovation in GEOINT
Johns Hopkins University
Jennifer Jun is currently pursuing an M.S. in Geospatial Intelligence from Johns Hopkins University and is a project manager and research associate for imagery analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. Previously she worked at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) and the Pew Research Center. Her academic interests include leveraging imagery analysis and open-source research to better understand security developments worldwide, especially in North Korea.
“The Maxar scholarship is an incredible honor and opportunity, both financially and professionally. I am grateful to become part of the USGIF community and further progress my academic and professional pursuits in GEOINT.”
EVONA Scholarship for Diversity in STEM
Yazan Hasan attends the University of Maryland, where he is pursuing two degrees in Environmental Science and Technology as well as Geospatial Data Science, with a minor in Sustainability Studies. He looks forward to his impending graduation in Spring 2024. Yazan's educational background is one that has been marked by a drive to tell compelling stories that are global in scale. As a natural storyteller with a passion for science communication, he knew declaring a major in Geospatial Data Science would give him the tools to make his research more effective and accessible. Yazan's specific interests regarding GIS include environmental justice and climate change. He is particularly interested in how geospatial intelligence can be used to create climate change resiliency in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“As a fully self-supporting student, winning this scholarship relieves a tremendous burden for me as I enter my senior year at the University of Maryland. There is nothing I cherish more than my education, and for that reason, the generosity of this scholarship is not lost on me and will certainly not be taken for granted. I hope to connect with the USGIF community and make valuable personal and professional connections, preparing me for the workforce as I graduate this spring.”
University of Maryland
AWS Scholarship for Inclusive Leadership in GEOINT
Sharifa Karwandyar obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography – Geospatial Analysis. Shortly after graduating in the fall of 2019, Sharifa interned with the NASA DEVELOP program and the USGS to gain research experience. She is interested in understanding existing landmine detection and demining efforts and hopes to improve upon existing methods with emerging machine learning techniques and remote sensing applications. Sharifa will begin her master’s degree this fall with an emphasis on improving existing landmine and demining techniques and understanding how it has impacted affected communities.
“Winning the 2023 AWS Scholarship for Inclusive Leadership in GEOINT award is a great honor. This scholarship will grant me access to materials and knowledge to further my master’s research and education. I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to learn from others in the GEOINT community and showcase my research in the near future. I am humbled to have been recognized as an emerging scholar in the GEOINT field and am immensely grateful to the community.”
GDIT Horizons Scholarship
Artem Khaiet recently graduated from Prospect High School and is enrolled in Harper College for fall 2024. He plans to eventually transfer to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he will major in computer science. Artem was initially drawn into the field of geospatial intelligence during his participation in the Remote Sensing event at Science Olympiad. During his academic career, he has researched how data science, machine learning, and GEOINT intersect to provide value and discover insights about societies worldwide. Artem wants to employ this knowledge in the public sector to make a difference.
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. This scholarship will help me worry less about paying off student loans and more about making the world a better place. As someone whose goal in the future is to give back to society, I find it inspiring and deeply symbolic that I start this new chapter of my life by accepting an award from an organization that spends its time and effort helping deserving young prospects in the geospatial sciences industry. In addition, membership in the wider GEOINT community will undoubtedly prove just as useful, if not more useful, than the financial aspect of the award, so thank you again.”
Leidos Scholarship for AI/ML Advancement
Florida Atlantic University
Joseph Gyegyiri, an international student from Ghana, is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Civil Engineering with a concentration on geomatics engineering at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). During his undergraduate studies, Joseph majored in Geomatics Engineering at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. During that time, Joseph became aware of the immense potential of GIS and remote sensing. As a research assistant at FAU's Center of Water Resiliency and Risk Reduction, he contributed to developing flood inundation models using geospatial technology. Joseph's research interests focus on applying machine learning, deep learning, GIS, and remote sensing for environmental monitoring, particularly in disaster resilience and post-disaster management. He aspires to become a geospatial analyst, utilizing his skill sets to make a positive impact and tackle global challenges.
“Winning the Leidos Scholarship for AI/ML Advancement is an incredible honor for me as a student from an underrepresented community. This scholarship represents more than just financial support; it symbolizes the belief that my potential and aspirations are valued. With these funds, my academic expenses will be more affordable, allowing me to focus wholeheartedly on my studies and research. I am profoundly grateful to the foundation and the selection committee, who saw the potential within me. This scholarship not only benefits me personally, but also serves as a beacon of hope for others, demonstrating that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve these prestigious accomplishments.”
GeoFutures STL Scholarship
Lillian Nix is a junior at Lindenwood University, where she is working towards a bachelor's degree in environmental science. Having already taken multiple GIS courses and participating in a summer internship with the City of St. Charles GIS department, Lillian will acquire her certification in GIS by the end of 2023. Lillian strives to combine her passion for environmental protection and sustainability with geospatial intelligence, a multidisciplinary approach to solving human security. She hopes to contribute to environmental protection by analyzing patterns and disturbances of the Earth's geography. These disturbances could be national security concerns such as natural disasters, deforestation, and climate change.
“I was sitting at my kitchen table when I received the email that I had been awarded the GeoFutures STL Scholarship and immediately burst into tears. This scholarship means so much to me because I will be able to continue my educational journey at Lindenwood University. I want to especially thank my GIS instructor, Tara Vansell, who sent me the scholarship information and introduced me to the world of Geographic Information Systems. This year we will be working on furthering my academic research project as I have been invited to present at the May 2024 GEOINT symposium.”
Globe Building St. Louis Scholarship
Saint Louis University
Eric Richmond is studying Geographic Information Systems at Saint Louis University. He has focused on a variety of skills and interests that apply to the geospatial world throughout his education. What began as a focus on human and economic geography, with an emphasis on areas of the developing world, eventually transitioned into the development of technical skills during his undergraduate program. From creating maps and performing spatial analyses to computer programming and remote sensing, Eric has enjoyed the rich intersection of technical experience and human outcomes during his education. Currently, his geospatial interests are primarily concentrated in the GEOINT field, specifically the application of remote sensing and big data analyses.
“I truly appreciate being awarded this scholarship. Being able to utilize the funds for room and board and other educational and living expenses gives me the opportunity to focus my mind and attention more on my current sentiment analysis project. With how difficult it can be to find affordable rent, this money will go a long way to ensuring I am in a secure position for the next semester and beyond. Besides the financial benefits of receiving this award, the opportunity to say I've been a recipient of the USGIF scholarship carries weight on NGA internship applications, which is a future goal of mine. Overall, I am extremely grateful and will apply myself in order to achieve as much as I can in the coming year while finishing my GIS master's degree.”
Westway Services Group Scholarship for Veterans
Rick Yocius started his educational and professional career by enlisting in the U.S. Army in 2009 as an Arabic Cryptologic Language Analyst. There he learned the power of leveraging multiple Intelligence disciplines to meet mission objectives. Rick deployed twice to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to lead tactical intelligence collection teams, ultimately earning the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart. Rick now works as a Systems Engineer and Intelligence SME for the Army's Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer to create a fused simulation environment enabling individual, crew, and collective training for Army GEOINT and other Intelligence Soldiers.
“Winning the USGIF Westway Services Group Scholarship for Veterans will greatly help in finishing my Master of Science degree in Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning (AI/ML). AI/ML is a field recognized as being crucial to national defense and a subject of interest within the Intelligence Community. This scholarship provides me the ability to focus on research and the application of AI/ML to difficult problems related to training GEOINT and Electromagnetic Warfare using modeling & simulation."
Colorado State University Global Campus
Esther Oyedele is a first-generation scholar with a Bachelor's degree in Geophysics and a Master's degree in Geology. Currently studying for a Doctoral degree in Geosciences, Esther's research focuses on utilizing satellite observations, hydrologic and climate data to investigate the profound effects of ongoing droughts in the southwest USA. By integrating geospatial intelligence, she aims to enhance understanding of this pressing environmental and socio-economic challenge, directly impacting national security. Esther's research aids in identifying vulnerable regions, comprehending water resource management issues, and facilitating decision-making processes for mitigating drought effects across critical sectors tied to national security.
“Winning the USGIF 2023 Doctoral Scholarship is a tremendous honor for me. It not only provides financial support for my education and research expenses but also signifies recognition of the potential impact of my work in addressing critical national security challenges. I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the USGIF community and apply geospatial intelligence to advance our understanding of complex global issues. I am eager to make meaningful contributions to the field, and I express my sincere appreciation to the judges and mentors who have supported me along this journey.”
Barira Rashid is pursuing a master's degree in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) at Arizona State University. She holds a bachelor's degree in environmental sciences from Fatima Jinnah Women University. Her coursework has encompassed various aspects of geospatial analysis, remote sensing, cartography, and spatial data management, and she actively engages in research projects and internships, gaining hands-on experience with cutting-edge geospatial technologies and methodologies. Barira's specific interests lie in utilizing geospatial data to address environmental monitoring, conservation, and disaster management. She is passionate about leveraging geospatial tools and techniques to contribute to sustainable and informed decision-making processes.
“Winning the USGIF Scholarship is an immense honor and a great recognition in the GIS domain. It symbolizes my dedication and passion for the field of geospatial sciences. This prestigious scholarship not only provides financial support for my education but also opens doors to unparalleled opportunities for networking and professional growth. It validates my commitment to advancing geospatial technologies and their applications. With this scholarship, I can further my education and actively contribute to the geospatial community. It motivates me to push boundaries, explore innovative solutions, and make a lasting impact in the field. I am truly grateful for this award and the opportunities it has opened for me.”
Arizona State University
University of Colorado, Boulder
Christopher Picard is pursuing a Master's degree in Geography from the University of Colorado Boulder. He is a recent graduate of Dartmouth College, where he received a B.A. in Environmental Earth Sciences. During his undergraduate education, Chris was fortunate to have an internship at the United States National Ice Center, where he was introduced to remote sensing of the cryosphere and learned about the importance of geospatial research to national security. This formative experience has led Chris to be interested in applying remote sensing and other computational techniques to study current and future changes in Earth's high latitude regions.
“I am honored to be an award recipient of the 2023 Graduate Scholarship! I want to thank the USGIF for supporting young geospatial researchers, as this financial assistance and connection to a broader community is massively impactful for students entering the field. Financially, this scholarship is significant to me because it will provide important funding that will help support me during my graduate studies. In addition to financial assistance, I am looking forward to engaging with this new community in graduate school and during my career.”
Maureen Howard is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington majoring in Marine Biology and minoring in Geospatial technology. Maureen has been interested in geospatial technology since her first class in high school, and during her time in college has implemented GIS in multiple internships and independent studies, ranging from aeronautical analyses to coral reef conservation. While Maureen is intrigued by a wide variety of geospatial tools and applications, she is especially interested in utilizing geospatial technology as a citizen science tool to educate on the importance of issues such as climate change, local habitat conservation, and more.
“I am beyond thankful to have been selected for an undergraduate scholarship, especially since this funding will allow me to focus solely on my education. As an out-of-state student, my tuition tends to run on the higher side, and following a family emergency this past year, being able to pay for my education was becoming a stressor that made everything much more challenging. Thanks to the generosity of USGIF, the cost of my tuition will no longer be something weighing on my mind this upcoming year, allowing me to pursue more GEOINT-based classes before my graduation in spring 2024.”
University of North Carolina Wilmington
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
Louis Catalano received his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering with a minor in Science, Technology & Society from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Currently, he is pursuing a Certificate in Geospatial Information Science at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. His research interests focus on unmanned aerial systems and their innovative applications in GIS, remote sensing, and geomatics.
“Receiving the USGIF scholarship is a tremendous honor. This award will allow me to pursue an education in GIS and further develop my skills and research in the GEOINT field. Equipped with this knowledge, I will be dedicated to applying GEOINT to solve many problems through my military service as well as volunteering my new skills to help communities around the world.”
Graduating High School Seniors
Ahilan Eraniyan has always been passionate about using maps to tackle problems he cares about. A National Geographic GeoBee national finalist in middle school, he continued his exploration of geospatial data throughout high school. He wrote a geographical analysis on the effects of political divides on healthcare and education quality, led his Science Bowl and Science Olympiad teams to multiple state-level finishes as an Earth Science and Biology specialist, and helped hundreds of students discover geography through various community efforts. A United States Senate Youth Program delegate, he will study Biology and Global Health at Duke University this fall.
“I'd like to thank the USGIF scholarship committee for reviewing me and selecting me among many qualified applicants for this award. I've been incredibly excited to attend Duke for months, but I've also been worrying about how I can reasonably afford it. The USGIF scholarship will help me close that financial gap and help me realize my dreams in college!”
Liliana Silva looks forward to furthering her geospatial knowledge by attending the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, this fall, where she will double major in geography with a GIS concentration and computer science. Liliana started her GIS experience in her junior year of high school when she took courses in partnership with James Madison University. There, she learned ArcGIS, ArcGIS Pro, and programming with Arcade. Liliana placed two years consecutively in the Esri Virginia Story Map Competition and completed a final project in partnership with the FCPS school district.
“It is truly an honor to have received the USGIF Graduating High School Senior Scholarship. This opportunity not only aids me financially but it allows me to further my knowledge in the Geospatial industry by becoming a member of this spectacular foundation. I am excited to see what the future holds and expand my knowledge in future research opportunities.”
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
University of California Los Angeles
Yuzuna Kudo is an incoming freshman at UCLA studying environmental science and GIS. She completed the GIS program at her high school, where she worked on various projects exploring the intersection of social and environmental issues—which led her to present at the Esri Ocean, Weather, and Climate Forum. She accelerated her career in the legal field by competing in mock trial/moot court competitions and serving several local, state, and international councils to support climate solutions and policymaking. She hopes to uplift communities disproportionately affected by climate change through environmental law and technology.
“It is an honor to be selected as an awardee for this scholarship, and I would like to thank the scholarship committee for taking the time to review my application. For me, this scholarship has not only been an inspirational experience, it has provided an opportunity to relieve the financial burden of pursuing higher education. With the help of this scholarship, I will focus on advancing my career in GIS and environmental law and look forward to enacting change.”
Aidan Durant is an incoming first-year at Whitman College, located in Washington State. Durant plans to declare a major in astronomy-geology and minor in biology, with hopes to pursue graduate school in planetary science. Durant loves maps—he owns a collection of hand-made maps he has been creating since age two. Durant participated in orienteering during his middle and high school years, which enabled him to sharpen his geospatial skills. As team captain and medalist of his rural high school's Science Olympiad team, Durant developed a deep appreciation for remote sensing, geomorphology, planetary systems, and computational modeling.
“I am incredibly grateful to have discovered USGIF and honored to have been selected as a scholarship recipient. Like many undergraduate students, I am challenged with paying for college while striving to minimize debt. I am looking forward to my first year of undergraduate study and being a new member of the USGIF. I am proud to be part of this professional community centered around the innovative use of geospatial technology. Thank you, USGIF!”
Marcus Helm is a 2023 graduate of Washington-Liberty High School, located in Arlington, Virginia. He earned the IB diploma, developing interests in foreign languages and geography. The Geospatial Tools and Techniques class offered through James Madison University also piqued his interest in border regions and geographic inequality. He used ArcGIS to analyze the coal industry's decline in central Appalachia and the resulting community poverty. He determined potential wind energy locations as an alternative energy source for the region. Helm is a rising freshman at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he plans on majoring in Geography and investigating more geospatial topics.
“I am very grateful to USGIF for this scholarship. I plan to put it towards my undergraduate studies at Middlebury College as I enter the field of geospatial intelligence. I feel that I have only just scratched the surface with the research I have already done, and I look forward to investigating the relationships between geospatial intelligence and many other fields. I am honored for this recognition and would like to extend my thanks to those at USGIF for selecting me for this award, as well as for all the work they have done to advance the discipline of geospatial education.”