Joel Max: Applying GEOINT to Emergency Management

When Joel Max, a 2015 USGIF scholarship recipient, recalled attending USGIF’s GEOINT Symposium for the first time in June, he described himself as a “kid in a candy shop.”

Joel Max

USGIF Scholarship recipient Joel Max (right) takes a tour of the areas affected by the 2013 Colorado floods in Larimer County with a county commissioner and Senator Cory Gardner. Photo Credit: Laura Levy

When Joel Max, a 2015 USGIF scholarship recipient, recalled attending USGIF’s GEOINT Symposium for the first time in June, he described himself as a “kid in a candy shop.” This was Max’s first opportunity to be immersed in the world of GEOINT—but it certainly won’t be the last.

Max is an emergency management coordinator for Larimer County, Colo., acting as a liaison between the county government and the public. Much of his job is to help local communities continue to rebuild after the 2013 Colorado floods. Max also sits on a number of committees related to preventative radiology, nuclear detection, and counterterrorism. He previously achieved a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies with a concentration in North Africa, and the Middle East, from Colorado State University.

Though Max has a background in emergency management, it wasn’t until last year that he discovered geospatial intelligence and its benefits for emergency and disaster relief.

“I was aware of satellite imagery, but I didn’t realize it was its own field,” Max said.

While Max and his wife were on their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic in 2014, they met Kevin Jackson, USGIF awards subcommittee chair. Jackson introduced Max to GEOINT and from there Max was hooked.

“Joel has shown a great deal of enthusiasm and commitment to explore the geospatial intelligence tradecraft and its relevance in the world as well as the academic, professional development, and potential career opportunities available,” Jackson said. “More importantly, I believe Joel Max is representative of the next generation of GEOINT young professionals and the GEOINT Community would be well-served to have him as a part of it.”

Max is now pursuing a post baccalaureate certificate in geospatial intelligence applications via Pennsylvania State University’s online program.

“Applying for the scholarship was a great way to gain momentum and encourage me in this direction,” Max said.

In addition to winning the scholarship, Max was also selected to participate in USGIF’s Young Professional Golden Ticket Program at GEOINT 2015. As part of the program, Max gained admission to the entire conference and participated in exclusive networking activities at no cost.

“GEOINT 2015 was an incredible experience—it hit everything I was hoping it would,” Max said. “The networking was the biggest takeaway for me because I met so many people and heard about their backgrounds in GEOINT. I also got to speak with NGA Director Robert Cardillo one-on-one at a YPG luncheon, and that was very encouraging.”

Following his experience in the Golden Ticket Program, Max is now an active member of USGIF’s Young Professionals Group (YPG) and is working with other young professionals in the Colorado area to start a monthly YPG networking event.

Upon completing his certificate from Penn State in spring 2016, Max hopes to apply his many new skills in an emergency management and homeland security career.

Return to Feature Story: Carrying on the Tradecraft


USGIF Member Spotlight: Arete

We caught up with John Wilson, Director of IC Programs at Arete, to discuss the organization’s role in the advancement of geospatial intelligence and what the future holds


USGIF Member Spotlight: Satellogic

Satellogic's Matt Tirman shared why the organization joined USGIF and how it is helping to accelerate innovation.


USGIF Member Spotlight: Arcfield

Trajectory spoke to Arcfield Chairman and CEO, Kevin Kelly, about the services the company provides and what excites him most about the future of GEOINT.