Penn State Launches First Online Geospatial Intelligence Program

June 25, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
University Park, Pa. — In light of a greatly increased demand for qualified analysts in the intelligence, defense, and emergency management fields, Penn State has developed a new online certificate program in geospatial intelligence (GEOINT). The five-course, 14-credit postbaccalaureate program is designed to provide students with the core competencies required to effectively and ethically provide geospatial analysis to key decision makers at defense, governmental, business, and non-governmental organizations.

Geospatial intelligence is a combination of remote sensing, imagery capture, geographic surveying, and geo-political analysis. Its uses vary widely and can be applied to military planning, environmental resource preservation, and even strategic retail store placement. Since a 2004 call to significantly increase the number of geospatial analysts in the government, the demand for qualified individuals has far outpaced the development of newly qualified professionals.

There is "a critical need" for this kind of educational offering, according to K. Stuart Shea, President and Chairman of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). "Programs such as this that orient students to a broad set of technical and critical thinking skills relevant to the geospatial intelligence profession will guarantee a robust and qualified workforce to meet the needs of the growing geospatial enterprise."

"There's a tremendous need to teach critical thinking and spatial problem solving, not just in the realm of defense," said lead faculty member Todd Bacastow. "Consider that practically everything that affects us has a location on the Earth. Where do you place your resources? How are events on the earth related?"

Rather than simply developing students' proficiency with technology, Penn State's Geography faculty want to develop students' abilities in critical thinking and spatial analysis, while promoting cultural sensitivity and high ethical standards to students in the field.

"We're moving past displaying data," explained Bacastow, "Our goal is to providing the critical insight that helps decision making and policy— and ultimately good choices."

The capstone course for the program is a virtual field experience. It will require students to problem solve a crisis situation modeled after real world experiences—complete with unexpected curve-balls thrown in by the instructors.

"Our goal is to educate someone in the concepts spatial analysis including critical, careful, and complete thought," said Bacastow, "not a mechanical analysis of something without real understanding."

Penn State's Geospatial Intelligence Certificate program is the first online program of its kind in the nation. The certificate requires less than two years to complete, and is set to launch in Fall 2007. More information is available at: