A Promising Future for the GEOINT Profession

USGIF awards highest annual scholarship amount to date to 28 exceptionally qualified students


USGIF recently awarded $126,000 in scholarships to individuals studying GEOINT and related topics. This is the largest annual amount USGIF has distributed to date, thanks to the contributions of USGIF Organizational Members committed to investing in GEOINT education. Since the USGIF Scholarship Program began in 2004, the Foundation has awarded more than $1.2 million to students with aspirations in GEOINT.

USGIF offers scholarships annually to outstanding doctoral candidates, graduate students, undergraduate students, and graduating high school seniors. Accompanying these scholarships are two awards funded entirely by USGIF Organizational Members: The first-ever Reinventing Geospatial Inc. (RGi) Scholarship for Geospatial and Engineering, a $10,000 scholarship awarded to an undergraduate student pursuing engineering and geospatial disciplines who demonstrates financial need; and the third Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications sponsored by Riverside Research, which awards $10,000 to a graduate student studying remote sensing who plans to enter the defense intelligence workforce.

RGi Scholarship for Geospatial and Engineering

David Runneals
Northwest Missouri State University
Geographic Information Science

Runneals credits both his formal and informal education for his present success. He discovered his passion for GIS in 2008 through his 4-H club. He currently studies GIS with an emphasis in emergency and disaster management and is interested in using geospatial technologies to enhance disaster response. He believes GIS can help save lives through improved coordination and more informed decision-making.

Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications

Joshua Michael Turner
North Carolina State University
Geographic Information Science and Technology

Turner served as a geospatial analyst for the United States Air Force for 15 years and completed his bachelor’s degree in intelligence studies from American Military University. He participated in a 10-week rapid feasibility project using geospatial capabilities to solve real-world environmental issues through the NASA DEVELOP program. His goal is to use his education and experience to transform succinct, algorithm-derived geospatial information into complete, actionable military intelligence.


Katherine Cavanaugh
University of California, Los Angeles

Cavanaugh received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with concentrations in applied physics and remote sensing from Gettysburg College in 2016. Post-graduation, she conducted various geospatial Earth science projects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she developed research interests in coastal ecology. For her graduate work, Cavanaugh is studying the dynamics of large kelp ecosystems using both satellite and UAV imagery.

Jaclyn Guz
Clark University

Guz holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in environmental studies with minors in geography and geographic information science. For her doctoral dissertation, she aims to understand how changes in climate can affect fire regimes, post-fire regeneration, and future forest disturbances. Guz plans to combine fieldwork and geospatial modeling to conduct research on forest disturbances in the Rocky Mountains and the Swiss Alps.

Carolynne Hultquist
Pennsylvania State University

Hultquist is studying geography and social data analytics specializing in fusing sources of geographic information to better understand complex environments. She has conducted research in energy, complexity theory, machine learning, and the use of geospatial technologies during hazards. The focus of her current research is to use computational methods for spatiotemporal analysis and modeling the effects of natural disasters on humans.

Christopher Olayinka Ilori
Simon Fraser University

Ilori’s research focuses on satellite-derived bathymetry for nearshore waters. He received his bachelor of science in geography from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. He also holds a postgraduate diploma in geographical information science from the University of Nottingham in the U.K. and a master’s degree in sustainable environmental management from the University of Greenwich. He has worked in the areas of GIS and climate change in the U.K. and Japan, and is currently a remote sensing analyst with TCarta Marine in Denver, Colo.

Scott Pezanowski
Pennsylvania State University
Information Science and Technology

Pezanowski was previously the geospatial technology lead at the GeoVISTA Center and an assistant research professor of geography at Penn State. He has also held positions at Esri and MapQuest. Pezanowski is applying machine learning and other data science techniques to detect descriptions of animals moving through geographic space found in text sources. Pezanowski holds a master’s degree in geography from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State.


Jacob Fuson
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Geographic Information Systems

Fuson holds master’s degrees from Florida State and Pennsylvania State University. He is a full-time graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in the GIS and Web Map Program. His research interests include generative adversarial neural networks, recursive neural tensor networks, and quantum computing.


Cesar Jhonatan Garrido Lecca Rivera
University of Redlands
Geographic Information Systems

Rivera holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences. He is developing an integrated GIS framework for public health assessment in collaboration with Esri. Based on the CDC’s CASPER method, the framework allows health agencies to optimize the collection of community health needs for emergency preparedness and response. Rivera plans to apply machine learning techniques for the second phase of his project.

Travis Meyer
Pennsylvania State University
Geographic Information Systems

Meyer’s graduate research is focused on using object-based image analysis and LiDAR data for automated extraction of coastal features and vegetation. Meyer is also enrolled in Penn State’s graduate GEOINT and Remote Sensing certificate programs. His geospatial interests include social media analytics, custom tool development, feature extraction, image processing, and elevation modeling. Meyer served nine years in the military as an enlisted Marine and later a Naval officer. 

Andrew Ryan
George Mason University
Geoinformatics and Geospatial Intelligence

Ryan graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geography from Virginia Tech in 2015, after which he completed an internship with the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Geographer. He entered George Mason’s graduate program in 2016 and began working as a geospatial analyst with Radiant Solutions. Currently, Andrew is back at the Office of the Geographer as a cartographer and is finishing up his master’s degree. Andrew’s research interests include cartography and geo-visualization, spatial data mining, Python, and machine learning.

Sarah Spalding
University of Texas at Austin
Global Policy Studies

Spalding received her bachelor’s degree in government and politics with a minor in GIS from the University of Maryland, College Park. Prior to attending graduate school, she was an unconventional weapons and technology researcher/GIS analyst and then a geospatial data management consultant for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In her master’s studies, she is specializing in security, law, and diplomacy. Spalding is interested in using GIS to better implement policy and support national security efforts.


Jake T. Burstein
University of South Carolina

Burstein’s passion is using marine geophysics and GIS for seafloor mapping. This field uses acoustic echo-sounding technology to study the seafloor surface and subsurface, and enables scientists to discover the ocean’s secrets, such as deep-sea coral reefs, mid-ocean ridges, or sunken vessels. GIS is vital for marine geophysicists to accurately plot, integrate, and spatially analyze multiple datasets.

Milovan Dakic
Indiana State University
Political Science and Geographic Information Science

Dakic is in his third year of Air Force ROTC and hopes to become an intelligence officer. He is interested in foreign languages and cultures, and recently finished his first year studying Persian. He believes the cultural and human aspects of geography can provide an additional way to conduct analyses and extract valuable geospatial intelligence, and enjoys examining the link between traditionally non-geographic concepts and their locations.

Margaret Hackney
Mercyhurst University
Intelligence Studies and Political Science

In addition to a double major, Hackney is also seeking a minor in religious studies. She has also applied her technical and cultural knowledge in three intelligence analyst internships with the Department of Defense and one with the Department of State. In her analytic roles, she leverages geospatial methods to assess national security challenges. Hackney hopes to use GEOINT to better understand conflicts, threats, and operating environments.

Haley Kathryn King
George Mason University
Geography and Geographic Information Science

King is passionate about GEOINT and plans to enter George Mason’s accelerated master’s degree program in geoinformatics and geospatial intelligence. As a GMU Ambassador, King serves as “The Face of Mason,” supporting a variety of institutional and community service needs. She is also a member of Mason Mappers, a club that helps advance the tradecraft of mapping and geospatial analysis. King is a geospatial analyst intern with Dewberry Engineers & Consultants.

Candice Lee
University of Georgia
International Affairs

Lee is knowledgeable in international affairs, Korean, GIS, and global affairs. Her focuses include security, nuclear nonproliferation, and East Asian regional affairs. Lee is enrolled in the Air Force ROTC program and intends to commission upon graduation as an intelligence officer. She has interned with the NASA DEVELOP program and is a Richard B. Russell Security Leadership Program scholar.

Pearl Leff
Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College & Lander College for Women
Geography and Computer Science

Leff is passionate about using computer science to enhance GIS. Her exposure to GIS through her research in the use of machine learning to classify hyperspectral imagery as well as her experience writing software for geospatial companies has led to her fascination with satellites and remote sensing. She is also interested in GEOINT applications in the Middle East.

Claire Mercer
Ohio State University

Mercer specializes in spatial analysis. She aspires to work in national security after interning for the U.S. Defense Department and State Department. Mercer was a student assistant for the 2018 Esri User Conference and plans to intern with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) as a visualization specialist in summer 2019. Her interests include interactive web-mapping, 3D modeling, and remote sensing.

Rachel Pierstorff
University of Denver
Geography and Applied Computing

Pierstorff focuses her studies and research on the geospatial dynamics of cities. By pursuing double majors as well as double minors in urban and international studies, she blends the critical-thinking skills of the social sciences with the technical knowledge and analysis of geospatial technology and computer science. She plans to apply her GIS and problem-solving abilities to improve the efficiency, self-sufficiency and security of urban areas.


Alexander Chrvala
Towson High School in Towson, Md.; now attending the University of Mary Washington

Chrvala has applied GIS to regional transportation, urban development, and environmental issues, including creating a proposal for a new interstate highway. He’s always held an interest in current events and geography, and dreams of a career as an analyst at NGA.


Srijay Kasturi
South Lakes High School in Reston, Va.; now attending the University of Maryland
Computer Science

Kasturi became interested in indoor GIS applications when he started to explore the challenges faced by the blind community through his science fair projects. He is studying computer science so he can learn how to build systems to assist the visually impaired in understanding their surroundings with the primary motivator being to bring context to those who have difficulty gathering information themselves.

Madyson Larson
Xenia High School in Xenia, Ohio; now attending the University of Cincinnati

After she discovered a passion for chemistry, Larson’s grandfather expanded her STEM horizons when he introduced her to geospatial intelligence. After many lessons and research, Larson was delighted to realize she could combine her love for chemistry with GEOINT. She is interested in using her chemistry studies in support of GEOINT in areas such as environmental issues and characterizing nuclear weapons.

Christopher Lee
Dripping Springs High School in Dripping Springs, Texas; now attending the University of Texas at Dallas
Computational and Applied Mathematics

Lee learned about the influence geospatial sciences have in the real world through his AP Human Geography class, which depended heavily on the use of rendered GIS data. He dreams of developing a scalable, efficient method to create a 3D reconstruction of the world by combining existing geophysics and geospatial analysis techniques with computer vision and machine learning.

Keelin O’Hara
Albermarle High School in Charlottesville, Va.; now attending the University of Mary Washington

O’Hara studied GIS in high school through a dual enrollment program with James Madison University. Two of her final projects included an analysis on the effects of climate change on coral reefs, and observing urbanization using land classification data. O’Hara plans to focus her studies on either human or environmental geography and to pursue a GIS certificate.

Adam Wallace Potter
Oak Park River Forest High School in River Forest, Ill.; now attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mechanical Engineering

In addition to mechanical engineering, Potter plans to minor in computer science. In high school he developed skills that can be applied to rovers, satellites, and large-scale data analysis through his work with his school’s VEX Robotics team and through personal projects involving computer vision and robotics.


Brandon Staple
Longmont High School in Longmont, Colo.; now attending the University of Colorado Denver
Computer Science

Staple’s computer science interest is in deep machine learning networks. He has interned at Google and the National Security Agency. His goal is to employ advanced artificial intelligence techniques to enhance the collaboration between analysts and computer systems.


Maxwell Thorpe
David H. Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo.; now attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thorpe is interested in digital analysis and data management. He enjoys working with numbers, charts, and maps to present data in a clear manner. Thorpe has completed an internship with the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri, is currently working for the Boone County Assessor as a GIS intern, and also completed an independent study project involving GIS.

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