Freshman Stephen McFall, senior Mariah Perkins, GIS Program Director Stewart Bruce, and USGIF President Keith Masback come together in the presentation of the Academic Achievement Award to WC GIS. The award commended the organization that demonstrates the top geospatial intelligence program or project at the GEOINT Symposium.
Photo Courtesy of USGIF

By Aubrey Hastings
Student Life Editor

Washington College has been placed among the nation’s best and brightest of the geospatial intelligence tradecraft. A select group of GIS Interns recently attended the GEOINT Symposium 2012 in Orlando, Fla. where their innovative work has been recognized as superior in their field. WC GIS received the 2012 Academic Achievement Award commending the organization that demonstrates the top geospatial intelligence program or project at the national convention.

The WC team beat out 230 other organizations.

Dr. Maxwell Baber, USGIF Director of Academic Programs, said, “The Washington College GIS Program is the definition of high achievement, providing students with opportunities to experience a wide range of GIS capabilities that no only impact education at all levels, but also connects students with real world problem solving opportunities in support of state and federal governance.

Stewart Bruce’s entrepreneurial approach has enable collaborations with major government and industry partners, and every student member of his team experiences active learning benefits through the various funded projects that have built the Washington College GIS Program into a significant academic player within the GEOINT community, standing tall among major collegiate contemporaries such as George Mason University and Penn State.”

The GEOINT Symposium is the nation’s largest intelligence event of the year sponsored by the USGIF Foundation, the only organization dedicated to promoting the tradecraft and building a stronger community of interest among the many disciplines involved in geospatial intelligence.

Since 2003, the symposium has provided attendees with unique opportunities to learn and network with leading experts and organizations in the field. The anthem that rings is “a new innovative way, not a duplicated way.” Every exhibitor booth is filled with cutting edge technologies and a wealth of expertise.

Freshman Stephen McFall was among those who attended GEOINT. Accompanying Stewart Bruce and senior Mariah Perkins on stage to receive the Academic Achievement Award was especially significant, considering McFall’s achievements in geospatial technology coming into WC. Because of the college’s training, McFall won the national USGIF scholarship as a graduating high school senior and was given the opportunity to attend this year’s symposium as a member of the WC team.

“Attending the conference alone was an honor, I met with so many companies in the geospatial intelligence field who will hopefully be my future employer,” said McFall.

WC GIS is no stranger to GEOINT, and annually exhibit the most recent project that has been tackled. Brushing shoulders alongside companies such as Google, DigitalGlobe, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington College holds their own in the race of technology innovation. “It feels good to know that I work with some of the brightest and best in the Geospatial Intelligence community,” said GIS Data Clerk, Stephanie Ireland.

Not only is WC GIS well acquainted with GEOINT because of continued dedication and commitment, but just as WC has strong ties throughout the Delmarva region, the ties expand even farther in the world of geospatial intelligence.

“I am always surprised at how many people I meet at the GEONT Symposium who have a relationship with Washington College,” said Stew Bruce. “Ms. Tish Long, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), knew about our small liberal arts college because her nephew graduated from WC several years ago. I asked Director Long if she would come out to campus and give a talk about NGA next spring and I think she will take us up on the offer. Director Long also made a point to tell all the WC students at the booth to apply for jobs at NGA.”

It should come as no surprise that there were WC alumni at the symposium. Matt Langan ’93, founder of L&R Communications, a geospatial marketing firm, was thrilled to hear the name of his alma mater called at the awards presentation.

“It’s exciting to see the Washington College GIS program grow over the years,” he said. “By aggressively working with industry members and government leaders, the program has become a major player in the geospatial sector, which will ultimately benefit the students when they graduate.

The GEOINT Symposium is a wealth of information and possibility for students. It is a rare opportunity for students to converge with the defense intelligence world. In fact, WC was the only exhibitor represented by undergraduate students, which drew a lot of attention and inquiry from businesses.

“Winning the academic achievement award was a huge accomplishment, and brought many visitors to our booth. Because of the hard work and dedication of WC students and staff in the GIS program, companies were offering our students internship and partnership opportunities for future projects,” said Erica McMaster, GIS Project manager.

Senior Tyler Brice has had the opportunity to attend GEOINT for the past three years and understands what winning this national award means for WC. “I have watched the GIS lab grow and expand since my first year, and to watch us win this award during my senior year puts how far we have come into prospective,” he said.

There is no doubt that all of the students at the lab work extremely hard inside and outside of the lab, and to be recognized by federal companies nationwide is truly astounding.

Senior Jess O’Brien agrees, “It was great to be recognized for all of our hard work. I just wish everyone from the lab could have gotten up on that stage to accept the award. Afterwards nearly everyone knew the name of our little liberal arts college on the Eastern Shore.”

The world of Geospatial Intelligence is a journey of pace and momentum where the question is not “are we changing,” but “are we changing fast enough?”

According the Director of Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Michael Flynn, “This is a team sport, we must adapt to advance our interests and sustain our leadership.” WC GIS strives daily to sustain momentum, pick up the pace, and adapt quickly to the latest technological innovations.

The Elm

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