Four years ago, I left my tenured associate professor position in academia to join USGIF and lead its educational programs. A stand-alone geographer with multidisciplinary research and teaching interests, I discovered GEOINT by chance. When opportunity knocked, I was very excited at the idea of joining a community of like-minded, geospatial people coming from all walks of life into the very complex and broadly reaching discipline of GEOINT.
While meeting with many teachers and trainers of GEOINT and working on building a career pathway into the field, I realized the wide gap between the “GEO” and the “INT” sides of GEOINT. As I was leading GEOINT collegiate accreditation reviews, I gained further insight into academic programs that have been fully engaged with the “INT” side, mostly due to their geographic proximity to the Defense Department and Intelligence Community and their instructors’ military or government background. I saw a discrepancy between those programs and others interested in GEOINT but which lacked the specific tradecraft knowledge and exposure. Colleges further away from the thriving DC or St. Louis communities serving socio-economically disadvantaged students (including many first-generation Americans) had great geospatial curricula, experienced teachers, and commitment to service. However, these bright minds found it difficult to define “GEOINT” and how it differs from or complements geospatial science and technologies. Thus, the question, “What makes GEOINT GEOINT?” came up repeatedly in our conversations and, interestingly, in conversations with senior GEOINTers who seemed to have the same challenge. In 2020, USGIF began an effort to answer that question for a broader audience as part of our GEOConnect Series’ Introduction to Geospatial Intelligence: Present & Future training, now available on-demand. We recommend it as an entry point to understanding GEOINT.
Similarly, at almost every annual gathering of the USGIF-Accredited Programs Directors, a related question arose, “What resources do we need to teach GEOINT?” USGIF responded initially by expanding its GEOINT Essential Body of Knowledge (EBK) as a GEOINT curriculum framework for education and professional development at the high school, college, graduate, and journeyman level. But we learned that was still not enough. The EBK covers technical competencies very well but is less comprehensive regarding the tradecraft and intelligence side of GEOINT.
In 2021, USGIF partnered with the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence (GeoTech Center), a collaborative effort between colleges, universities, and industry to expand the geospatial workforce located at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Louisville, Kentucky. When GeoTech Center provided support via a National Science Foundation award, USGIF saw the opportunity to develop GEOINT modules and offer full, open-access curricula. Teachers, students, and those looking to join this community but cannot afford a return to traditional schools can teach, learn, or refresh their knowledge. After almost three years of collaborating with GEOINT subject matter experts, curriculum designers, and volunteers from academia, industry, and government, USGIF recently released the new content as open access. USGIF developed and launched three courses: Introduction to GEOINT, Essentials of Data Visualization, and Foundational Data Science.
And we didn’t stop there. We built upon those course resources by launching the GEOINT Anthology on the USGIF website in May of 2021. This additional element brings together other learning resources, such as complimentary training offered through other entities and validation of knowledge (including two significantly discounted self-assessments for high school and college students). We built these courses and launched the Anthology to help teachers of GEOINT, current students, and entry-level or experienced practitioners reach their academic and career potential and keep up-to-date on new technologies.
Thinking back on the times when I struggled to develop new courses and resources for my classes, I have a smile on my face. Teachers like me, especially those at the beginning of their careers, now have a great starting point and resources to further enrich their GEOINT teaching. But this is just the beginning of the journey to discover GEOINT. More needs to be done by our community overall to ensure that the GEOINT Anthology continues to expand and offer new and up-to-date resources. If you are reading this and can share case studies, images, datasets, etc. that could further improve the released lessons, please reach out. It does take a village!
– Dr. Camelia Kantor, USGIF Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professional Development
To learn more or to contact us, visit USGIF Anthology.