A Wind of Change

USGIF Director of Academic Programs Dr. Camelia Kantor on the Foundation’s recent academic accomplishments and upcoming goals


Dr. Camelia Kantor, USGIF’s director of academic programs, joined the Foundation in July 2017 from Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. In less than 10 months, Kantor has forged many new partnerships and initiatives for the Foundation. In this interview, Kantor reflects on her first year so far and looks toward future goals.

What were some major highlights in your first year with USGIF?

My first year with USGIF can be described by the Hugh Prather quote: “Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.” It’s been a journey! When I accepted this position, I was a tenured faculty, my house was paid for, and I was engaged in an active Romanian community in Columbia, S.C. Then I moved here and started all over with my husband and daughter.

I think the most important achievement from my first year at USGIF has been managing the daily exchanges and communication with individuals from across the GEOINT enterprise without much prior exposure to it. I am an academic, so there were times when I would sit in meetings and not understand many of the defense and intelligence acronyms, but strove to make sense of the communication based on the context. But I am a quick learner and, while I am still learning, I now feel confident in my capacity to contribute to the discussion.

Another highlight of my first year is the realization of the important role USGIF plays in the community, and that we have the support of a significant number of volunteers who help us advance the GEOINT tradecraft. And, I see a lot of potential for the Foundation’s role to be even more significant. Volunteer support has allowed my colleagues and I to form a number of new industry partnerships. In the past year, we have added two new scholarships; improved our selection process for USGIF’s State and Future of GEOINT Report and scholarship program; and rethought the formatting of our GEOINT Essential Body of Knowledge (EBK) and accreditation process. In addition, we increased the visibility of GEOINT Symposium lightning talks, and this year will introduce a dedicated stage for them at the Innovation Corner (Booth 1751) in the exhibit hall.

What’s in store for the future of USGIF’s Collegiate Accreditation Program?

The Foundation’s accreditation program is my primary focus, and I strive to make the accreditation process both rigorous and flexible enough to allow for market changes. We just published our 2018 Accreditation Guidelines that replace those created in 2013. The revisions to the standards represent substantive improvements and mirror best practices from accrediting organizations, while reflecting best practices and the needs of the GEOINT Community.

We are now using USGIF’s GEOINT EBK as a core integrator and organizer of GEOINT education from academia to the professional world. USGIF accreditation provides a pathway for growth as well as a mechanism to address programs that no longer comply with the standards. As GEOINT has matured and evolved, so has USGIF’s Collegiate Accreditation Program. I am hopeful that the GEOINT Community, especially those interested in hiring GEOINTers, will appreciate and recognize the value of students graduating from our rigorously evaluated programs.

We are also reorganizing our volunteer structure by strengthening and clarifying the role of USGIF’s Academic Advisory Board and Academic Committee—now named the Accredited Programs Committee—and its subcommittees. This will help set clear objectives to better support academia and advance the GEOINT tradecraft. Most important, however, is we are seeing ongoing commitment to USGIF accreditation among our schools: the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Military Academy recently gained renewed academic accreditation, and James Madison University and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa’s NOVA Information Management School received full accreditation following provisional accreditation in 2016.

What new USGIF partnerships will benefit the Foundation’s accredited programs?

We have been very successful in establishing and, in some cases, strengthening our relationship with several industry partners. For example, USGIF signed memorandums of understanding with the DigitalGlobe Foundation, Hexagon Geospatial, and Boundless in an effort to provide our 14 accredited schools with free and simple access to software, data, imagery, and technical support. In the fall, we partnered with NVIDIA to offer an essay challenge in which three winners from our accredited schools were awarded an NVIDIA GPU. We also partnered with Caliper, which offered its Maptitude software to our schools for free, as well as with Reinventing Geospatial, which introduced a new, needs-based scholarship. All this in under one year—it’s amazing!

I am on the lookout for additional partnerships; in particular, those that would help our faculty—especially individuals in their early career—gain funding for research and curriculum development, support for students in the form of travel grants to present their research, and volunteer career mentors whom we could pair with students. There is still a lot of work ahead of us, and as an educational nonprofit we rely on our dedicated members, partners, and volunteers—which aren’t mutually exclusive—to help us achieve such advancements and successes.

What can GEOINT 2018 attendees expect to see from academia this week?

Obviously the GEOINT Symposium is not a primarily academic conference, but we are making efforts to offer our academic collaborators opportunities to showcase their expertise. Attendees will have the chance to hear from academic presenters via lightning talks, several panels at GEOINT Foreword, and in the Academic Pavilion of the exhibit hall. We will also share information on our accredited programs at USGIF (Booth 1147), as well as gather professionals from throughout the community onsite via meetings with USGIF’s joint Certification Governance Board, Academic Advisory Board, and Accredited Programs Committee.

Are there any opportunities for experienced professionals to share their knowledge with students at GEOINT 2018?

Students will showcase their research via posters throughout GEOINT Foreword. Additionally, USGIF is once again hosting a Student Assistant program in which students have the opportunity to attend the Symposium for free via a work-study agreement. These specially selected students will wear red shirts throughout the event. This year, with support from Hexagon Geospatial, student assistants, along with other college students attending the Symposium, will have the opportunity to take part in an interactive workshop using Hexagon’s Smart M.App platform.

Some 2017 USGIF Scholarship Program recipients will also be in attendance, taking advantage of the complimentary Symposium registration we offer to all scholarship winners.

Year by year, we hope to increase our academic offerings. I encourage all attendees to visit the student posters, the Academic Pavilion, and, ideally, to follow up with students and faculty by providing support for internships, faculty exchanges, mentorship, etc. A basic principle of urban planning and development is that high levels of education and the presence of universities draw highly technical and innovative companies to a region. This reiterates the value of academia and what it can offer the GEOINT Community.

Headline Image: In February, USGIF’s Dr. Camelia Kantor gave a lighting talk titled the “Power and Potential of GEOINT” at the USC Spatial Science Institute’s LA Geospatial Summit.


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