The Next Generation of GEOINTers

Meet the 2017 USGIF Scholarship winners


USGIF awarded $117,000 in scholarship funds this year to students studying the geospatial sciences and related disciplines. The annual USGIF Scholarship Program recognizes the achievements of graduating high school seniors as well as undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. The program’s goal is to further the advancement of the geospatial tradecraft.

USGIF awarded 26 scholarships this year to six high school seniors, six undergraduate students, 10 graduate students, and four doctoral candidates. The Foundation also awarded the $10,000 Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications for the second year. The Ken Miller Scholarship is presented to a master’s degree candidate studying remote sensing who plans to enter the defense, intelligence, or homeland security workforce.

Since the USGIF Scholarship Program began in 2004, more than $1.1 million in funds have been awarded to students with GEOINT aspirations.


Andrew KnightAndrew Knight
University of Georgia

Knight holds a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University in geographic science with a concentration in applied geographic information sciences. His research goals include applying remote sensing methods to humanitarian issues. For his thesis, Knight is studying the intersection of machine learning and unmanned aerial systems. He currently works as a research assistant at the University of Georgia’s Center for Geospatial Research.


Michael BradyMichael Brady
Rutgers University

Brady, a former enlisted member of the U.S. Coast Guard, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geography at Hunter College of the City University of New York under the GI Bill. In his doctoral research, Brady maps shoreline risks with whaling communities that live along Alaska’s northern coastline. He is particularly interested in collaborative research using participatory geospatial methods.

Carolyn S. FishCarolyn S. Fish
Pennsylvania State University

Before returning to graduate school, Fish was a cartographic product engineer at Esri. She also completed her bachelor’s degree in geography at Penn State University and her master’s degree in geography at Michigan State University. Fish’s research aims to understand how maps are designed and used to convey climate change in many contexts, including national security, with the goal of improving such visualizations for better decision-making.

Cara MurphyCara Murphy
Rochester Institute of Technology
Imaging Science

Murphy is a full-time employee at Systems & Technology Research and a part-time Ph.D. student with the Center of Imaging Science at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Previously, Murphy received her bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics at Merrimack College and her master’s degree in imaging science with a concentration in remote sensing from RIT. Her work focuses on solving problems in forensics, defense, border protection and monitoring, and other law enforcement and intelligence applications.

James WalkerJames Walker
University of California, Los Angeles

After a decade of working in the nonprofit sector, Walker returned to school to obtain a bachelor’s degree in global studies and a master’s degree in geography from UCLA. His doctoral research is focused on the adoption of remote sensing and GEOINT analysis by human rights groups. Using methods drawn from critical geopolitics and science and technology studies, his research explores how GEOINT technology empowers non-state actors in their efforts to shape international crisis response.


Roxanne AhmadiRoxanne Ahmadi
Pennsylvania State University
Homeland Security-GEOINT

Ahmadi is currently an intern with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and graduates with her master’s degree this spring. Ahmadi’s research interests are object-based image analysis and automation as well as the increasingly relevant integration of human geography and remote sensing.



Colin BunkerColin Bunker
Ohio State University
Electrical and Computer Engineering

Bunker earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. He currently works at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, as a Pathways intern. His research interests include object detection and tracking, high-level scene recognition, and image geo-location.



Courtney ConnorCourtney Connor
Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies

Connor holds a bachelor’s degree in modern languages and literatures with a minor in psychology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Her interests lie in GEOINT fusion and how algorithms and software can be streamlined to aid in the successful identification and rescue of human trafficking victims, while also bringing their traffickers to justice.


Jace EbbenJace Ebben
Pennsylvania State University
Homeland Security – GEOINT

Ebben works in St. Louis for Booz Allen Hamilton as a geospatial analyst assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Ebben served for six years as an intelligence analyst in the Wisconsin Air National Guard and attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in geography and political science. Ebben also holds a graduate certificate in geospatial intelligence analytics from Penn State. His current interest is in machine learning and its application as a force-multiplier for analyzing remotely sensed information.

Linnea JohnsonLinnea Johnson
George Washington University
Data Science

Johnson graduated in 2013 from Mount Holyoke College, where she studied geography and Chinese. During her time at Mount Holyoke, she had several internships and research experiences that allowed her to work with geospatial technologies, and received several scholarships to improve her Chinese language abilities. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Johnson spent a year in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar, and upon her return began working as a research specialist with the Department of Defense.

Phil McTiguePhil McTigue
Northeastern University
Emergency Management & Geospatial Information Technology

McTigue’s collegiate education began with an undergraduate degree in homeland security from American Military University. His concentration is focused on geospatial information and intelligence as it relates to homeland security. One of his specific areas of interest is the use of unmanned aerial systems for imagery capture.


Travis MeyerTravis Meyer
Pennsylvania State University
Geographic Information Systems

Meyer’s undergraduate degree is in marine environmental science from the State University of New York Maritime College. He spent nine years as a U.S. Marine and Naval officer. Meyer’s research is focused on using bathymetric LiDAR and photogrammetry to analyze the vulnerability of American coastlines to sea level rise, coastal erosion, and storm surge. Meyer is currently a curriculum developer and instructor at the Naval Meteorology & Oceanography Professional Development Center.

Andrew RyanAndrew 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 State Department’s Office of the Geographer. He currently works full-time as an all-source geospatial analyst with DigitalGlobe. Ryan’s research interests include social media analysis, activity-based intelligence, data mining, machine learning, and deep learning.

Jesse SpragueJesse Sprague
University of New Mexico
Computer Science and Geography

Sprague earned a bachelor’s degree in Earth and planetary science from the University of New Mexico, and has worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and private firms using geospatial information sciences for environmental management. Sprague now runs a spatial data company and is interested in deep belief networks and virtual augmentation of human experiences with low-latency spatial data.


Luke M. DeJongLuke M. DeJong
American Military University
Homeland Security

DeJong brings his experience in the Marine Corps geospatial intelligence field to his pursuit of a degree in homeland security. He believes the future of our nation and the safety of American citizens can be best secured through using intelligence gathering to prevent terrorist attacks.



Norman Dela FuenteNorman Dela Fuente
University of California, Los Angeles

Dela Fuente’s geospatial interests include disaster response, urban planning, and nation security. He is also in the UCLA Army ROTC program and upon graduating will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the California National Guard. Dela Fuente plans to utilize the leadership and critical thinking skills he’s learned as an Army officer to complement his civilian career.


Daniel GurleyDaniel Gurley
James Madison University
Geographic Science

Gurley is interested in the use of GIS to better implement international development programs and humanitarian responses to crises. He is currently a returning intern with the State Department’s Virtual Student Federal Service using remote sensing and research to help the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations select sites for new embassies and consulates. He is also involved in a research lab focusing on the infrastructure, history, and biodiversity of Gonâve Island in Haiti and its surrounding coral reefs.

Erin ManthErin Manth
Mercyhurst University
Intelligence Studies

Manth has spent two summers as a GEOINT analyst intern for a federal agency and has previous work experience at the National Student Leadership Conference on Intelligence and National Security. Manth is interested in GEOINT applications to national security and humanitarian response, specifically in the Middle East and North African regions.


Emma McFeeEmma McFee
University of Utah

McFee is continuing her pursuit of a geography degree with an emphasis in hazards, resources, and human security. Her passion for GEOINT stems from experiencing two major floods while growing up in Upstate New York. After being displaced from her home twice, she knew she wanted to help people in similar situations. She is also interested in how GEOINT can influence business decisions.


Elijah StapleElijah Staple
University of Colorado Boulder
Computer Science

Staple’s computer science interest is in deep machine learning networks. He has interned at two major Silicon Valley companies, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Staple’s goal is to employ advanced computational techniques to enhance the GEOINT tradecraft by enabling analysts to provide actionable intelligence to policy and decision-makers.



Robert CordtsRobert Cordts
South Lakes High School in Reston, Va.
Now attending James Madison University

Cordts became interested in GIS after taking a dual-enrollment geospatial analysis class offered through James Madison University in his senior year of high school. For his final project, Cordts used GIS tools to analyze where to place a new swim team in his hometown to increase participation in swimming among minorities and low-income families. He is majoring in geographic information science and looks forward to solving real-world problems.

Caitlin GormleyCaitlin Gormley
Sayville High School in West Sayville, N.Y.
Now attending the University of Toronto

In high school, Gormley was fortunate to gain experience in GIS as part of her school’s scientific research program. Her research used geospatial methods to investigate hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts to the health of local communities. She was subsequently named one of the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholars. Gormley hopes to major in urban studies and human geography with a minor in geospatial information systems.

Lily Nalulani JenkinsLily Nalulani Jenkins
Molokai High School in Kaunakakai, Hawaii
Now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In her free time, Jenkins would participate in wetland and fishpond restoration projects and conduct research projects on the effects of invasive marine species on coastal ecosystems. While conducting these research projects, Jenkins found her passion for using geospatial technology as a tool to tackle environmental issues. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a master’s degree in information systems.


Haley KingHaley King
Tuscarora High School in Leesburg, Va.
Now attending George Mason University

During high school, King studied geospatial sciences through a dual enrollment program with James Madison University. Her final projects focused on first responders and precision agriculture. King also completed pre-college software development courses and cybersecurity courses at George Mason University and was a GIS analyst and summer intern for Dewberry. King plans to study geography and GIS.


Joshua Queja OrtezaJoshua Queja Orteza
Westside High School in Jacksonville, Fla.
Now attending the University of Florida

Orteza is majoring in mechanical engineering and participating in the Army ROTC program, and is interested in both aerospace and national security. If he earns a commission as an Army officer, Orteza would like to work with satellites, either helping maintain them or using the information they provide. Later, as a civilian, Orteza intends to work on satellites with a large aerospace company.


Timothy VrakasTimothy Vrakas
Brookfield East High School in Brookfield, Wis.
Now attending Stanford University

Vrakas is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. For the past two years, he has explored interests in this field through his work for the Arizona State University Mastcam-Z Team, developing imaging hardware and software to support the cameras on NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover. Vrakas hopes to continue this work while in college.


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