Indiana University of Pennsylvania is now a part of a select group of universities that can provide specialized training courses for current and future federal intelligence employees.

John Benhart instructs students in operating an unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a drone.

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) Academic Consortium (UAC) announced in January that IUP is one of the 11 universities that offer accredited geospatial intelligence programs chosen to be a part of the $5-million initiative slated to run through 2025.

The courses are a part of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's GEOINT Learning through Academic Programs, to facilitate the transformation of the analytic workforce into a data-savvy, technologically adept workforce of the future.

Other universities in the UAC are: Pennsylvania State University, Johns Hopkins University, George Mason University, University of Maryland, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Dallas, Delta State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Central University, and University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

At IUP, any student can enroll in the coursework and complete the Geospatial Intelligence Analysis Certificate. The certificates are comprised of the same coursework that is earmarked for NGA employees to receive. Faculty members in IUP's Department of Geography and Regional Planning deliver the courses.

“Being selected as part of the consortium is just another step demonstrating that IUP is providing its students and the wider national intelligence community with advanced capabilities in sought-after, high-demand employment sectors,” John Benhart, department chair and faculty member, said. “NGA employees will be taking the same courses and curriculum that our IUP students are in our geospatial intelligence certificate programs.”

The NGA is a combat support agency under the US Department of Defense and a member of the US intelligence community whose primary mission is collecting, analyzing, and distributing geospatial intelligence in support of national security. In addition to using GEOINT for US military and intelligence efforts, NGA aids states during natural and man-made disasters, and security planning for major events, such as the Olympic Games.

Students in IUP courses like Advanced Remote Sensing, Intelligence Process and Policy, and Spatial Analysis Techniques learn the scientific knowledge base and technical skills to analyze geographic data and satellite images taken of the earth's surface to identify patterns and produce actionable intelligence.

“These are high-paying jobs in the United State intelligence community,” Benhart said. “Our graduates have been offered positions with the NGA. By being included in the UAC we'll be offering our coursework to current employees of the agency. This technology is constantly changing. The skills are evolving, and our courses are keeping up with demand in the government sector as well as the private sector.”

Only 17 universities in the United States are GEOINT-accredited programs. IUP's program was accredited in 2019. Funds from the $5-million initiative will go toward paying for employees to enroll in coursework at the 11 participating institutions. Coursework can be offered in a variety of ways; instructor-led in-person, online, and self-paced.