A Tale of Two USCs

USGIF GEOINT certificates now offered at Universities of Southern California and South Carolina


In late 2014, USGIF increased its number of accredited schools to 12 with the addition of two USCs—the University of Southern California and the University of South Carolina. Both universities proved to offer outstanding programs for students interested in geospatial intelligence.

John Wilson (standing) and Keith Masback talk with Stephanie Kolbus (center) and Shuk Wai So (right), two students achieving the University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence. Photo Credit: Geoff Kass

USGIF’s Collegiate Academic Accreditation Program offers GEOINT certificates to students meeting high academic standards. Accreditation ensures a pipeline for students with the necessary knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the professional GEOINT workforce.

University of Southern California

Launched in 2010, the University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute (SSI) offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs focused in geodesign, geospatial intelligence, geospatial leadership, geohealth, spatial studies, and geographic information science and technology.

“We’re well-situated to present a cutting edge and vibrant set of academic programs and research to achieve measurable success,” said Dr. John Wilson, SSI director and a professor at the institute. “Everything we do at SSI is interdisciplinary and we are dedicated to helping students look outward for opportunities, especially in geospatial intelligence.”

SSI students can earn the USGIF GEOINT certificate after successfully completing the institute’s online graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence. The graduate certificate consists of 16 credits and includes online classes in spatial thinking, spatial analysis, spatial modeling, remote sensing for GIS, cartography and visualization, and a capstone in GEOINT tradecraft.

University of South Carolina geography students and faculty receive the USGIF GEOINT Certificate of Accreditation presented by USGIF Vice President of Professional Development Dr. Darryl Murdock. Photo Credit: University of South Carolina

As one of many ways in which SSI plays a leadership role in the geospatial arena, it hosts the annual Los Angeles Geospatial Summit, which offers students, faculty, and industry members the opportunity to gather in the Los Angeles area to discuss advances in the spatial sciences and the accompanying geospatial technology. Students may present papers, learn about local organizations at an industry fair, and listen to keynotes and panels hosted by senior leaders.

“The Institute has been presenting the summit for five years now as a way to foster a sense of community among the geospatial world in the Los Angeles area,” said Susan Kamei, SSI associate director. “We wanted to offer an annual opportunity for all participants to learn from geospatial leaders as well as from students through their paper and poster presentations. It’s a chance for all to share ideas, learn about emerging trends, and expand their networks.”

At the 2015 summit, USGIF CEO Keith Masback gave a luncheon keynote address and personally presented SSI with its formal USGIF accreditation plaque.

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina’s department of geography was established in 1963 and is the only program in the state to offer both undergraduate and graduate geography degrees.

“What makes our program stand out is our department’s long history with the school,” said Dr. Sarah Battersby, GEOINT program co-coordinator for the university’s geography department. “Former department professors, Drs. John Jensen, David Cowen, Robert Lloyd, and Theodore Steinke, have made long-lasting contributions in the field of GIScience. We also have many research offerings as well as a number of departmental and affiliated research organizations for our students to participate in.”

Geography student Terrance Randolph reviews images from the Donnelley Low Country Historic Aerial Photography Collection project conducted by the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina. Photo Credit: University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina offers USGIF’s GEOINT certificate as a stand-alone credential available through its geography department. The certificate is available to undergraduate students who complete the required 21 credit hours in topics such as cartography, remote sensing, LiDAR, photogrammetric digital surface mapping, and GIS.

“It’s important that students have the USGIF certificate as an option so they can adopt the knowledge learned and use it to think more spatially as well as use it for their future careers,” said Dr. Cuizhen “Susan” Wang, an associate professor of geography and co-coordinator of the GEOINT program.

The university’s proximity to Fort Jackson, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, and Shaw Air Force Base has helped the department generate interest in the USGIF certificate among current and former military personnel aiming to expand their GEOINT skills. The faculty has also seen interest in the certificate among incoming freshmen and current geography students.

Phillip Allan graduated in May with a dual bachelor’s degree in international studies and geography with a concentration in GIS and remote sensing. He also achieved the USGIF GEOINT certificate.

“I really do believe the certificate will help open doors for my future career,” Allan said. “I’ve had a long interest in geography, and I enjoy solving problems of where things are and why. I support the USGIF mission in what they’re doing for the GEOINT Community, and I’m hoping to become a part of that community with a career in the public sector.”

GEOINT 2023 Student Posters

Beginning January 23, USGIF will accept applications for student posters to present at the 2023 GEOINT Symposium, May 21–24, in St. Louis, Missouri. Current students at the undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. levels are eligible to apply for the Student Poster Contest.

Jayedi Aman, 2022 USGIF Scholarship Recipient

University of Missouri doctoral candidate Jayedi Aman spoke with trajectory about his research bringing together GIS, architecture, and urban planning to keep our communities safe and secure.


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