2021 USGIF Scholarship Award Winners
To further the advancement of the geospatial tradecraft, USGIF is dedicated to assist promising students studying GEOINT, geospatial sciences, and related fields. The annual USGIF Scholarship Program recognizes the achievements of graduating high school seniors, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.
USGIF has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since launching the program in 2004.
Congratulations to this year's winners!
Ken Miller Scholarship for Advanced Remote Sensing Applications
Evelyn Burch Jones
“The Ken Miller scholarship is an incredible gift that will fund my tuition as well as several of my technology needs for my research, alleviating many of my concerns. Because of this scholarship, I will be able to work fewer hours and dedicate more time to my coursework, research, and engagement with the GEOINT community.”
Evelyn Burch Jones is an imagery analysis intern for the Department of Defense and is pursuing an M.S. in Geospatial Intelligence from Johns Hopkins University. Jones recently finished an internship with USAID in GIS, graphic design, and research. Previously, she interned on Capitol Hill and completed a fellowship with a D.C. think tank. She has also contributed GEOINT reports on topics ranging from refugee crises to environmental disasters through the AllSource Analysis Network. Jones is currently researching patterns of land cover change related to forced migration. She will pursue a career in the intelligence community after graduation.
RGi Scholarship for Geospatial and Engineering
“Winning this scholarship is a life-changing event for me...Before college, I had never heard of GIS, remote sensing, or GEOINT. This scholarship is great because it is a clear way to say, ‘Hey, this field exists, it can be extremely rewarding, and people will support you for pursuing it.’”
Adrian Seemangal is a rising junior majoring in Geographical Sciences and minoring in Russian Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. He first became interested in geospatial sciences through remote sensing, as he was fascinated by the concept of using false-color imagery to reveal information that our eyes cannot see. Upon joining the geography program, the other aspects of geospatial sciences (GIS, spatial data science) also captivated him. His research interests include programmatically solving GEOINT problems with spatial data science, using drone platforms for agile imagery collection, and using machine learning to automate applicable analysis processes.
“The USGIF scholarship fund will provide significant support for my dissertation research on the changing Arctic system. I am proud to accept this award from the USGIF community and apply it to understanding one of our most fragile ecosystems by the means of geospatial intelligence.”
– Clare Gaffey
Chelsea L. Cervantes de Blois
Chelsea L. Cervantes de Blois is a Ph.D. candidate in Geography, Environment & Society and a Population Trainee alumna from the University of Minnesota. She has an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s department of Languages & Cultures of Asia, focusing on Transcaucasia and Eurasia, and a B.S. of International Agriculture & Natural Resources from UW-Madison’s Soil Sciences and Agriculture & Applied Economics departments. Her Ph.D. research focuses on the human-environmental dimensions of environmental and technological hazards in Eurasia. She creates geospatial models for decision-making processes coupled with social vulnerability and cultural and environmental factors with remote sensed imagery and toxic site data.
Gaffey holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a concentration in biology and a master’s degree in geography with a focus on geographical information systems from the University at Albany, SUNY. Her master’s thesis utilized data collected from in situ, UAV, and satellite sources to monitor phenology of white spruce. Gaffey’s current doctoral work combines remote sensing and field work to examine the changing dynamics of autumn primary production in the Pacific Arctic Region, and on the use of UAVs for polar research.
Krista West is beginning her third year in the San Diego State University/University of California, Santa Barbara Joint Doctoral Program (SDSU/UCSB JDP). She has an M.S. in Remote Sensing Intelligence from the Naval Postgraduate School and a B.A. in Geography with a minor in Geological Sciences from UCSB. West uses remote sensing to identify landscapes at risk of wildland fire, and aims to arm firefighters with timely and relevant data needed to protect themselves and the communities they serve. Her goal is to become a university-level professor and inspire others to solve problems using geospatial technology.
“Pursuing a graduate degree while working full-time can be a real challenge. Add family and other responsibilities into the mix, and the difficulties only multiply. The USGIF scholarship program affords me the opportunity to close the gap between my GI Bill percentage and full tuition. This is a huge help, and couldn’t be more appreciated. Thank you, USGIF!”
– Loren Russel
Tim Prestby’s undergraduate studies in cartography and geographic information systems (GIS) exposed him to the wide range of what cartography and GIS have to offer. He immersed himself in both research related to geospatial data science and cartography. As Prestby worked through these projects, he realized that his true passion lies with cartography and data visualization. Now, at Penn State, he is pursuing a Master's in geography and studying the role of story maps in communicating the spread and effects of COVID-19. Broadly, his current geospatial interests are geared toward understanding how/why people trust maps and how trust can impact decision-making.
Katherine Toren holds a B.A. in Geography from UCLA and is pursuing her M.S. in GEOINT at the University of Maryland College Park. She enjoys the intersection of technology, science, and creativity and is most motivated by projects which improve the world leveraging GEOINT. Most recently, she and a classmate won the UMD Big Data Challenge 2021. With prior experience at NASA, Esri, L3Harris Geospatial, Oxford University, and various technology startups, Toren plans to rejoin the geospatial community after graduate school and contribute her expertise in remote sensing, geospatial analysis, and product management to advancing the GEOINT tradecraft.
“The USGIF scholarship is particularly special to win as I am super passionate about GEOINT regarding geography and cartography. The scholarship is more than financial support, it is also a gateway to fostering connections within the GEOINT community. For that, I am truly grateful.”
– Tim Prestby
Dave Cook is a data science, GEOINT and AI/ML practitioner in Washington, D.C. He is passionate about the transformational power of AI/ML in GEOINT and MULTI-INT, particularly in building operational standards and best practices for data pipelining and readiness. Over his 25+ year career in the public and private sector, Cook has focused on solving complex challenges in law enforcement, intelligence, defense, health, and across leading corporations worldwide. Believing that bad data is worse than no data, and good data is more a marathon than a sprint, Cook embraces the power of lifelong learning, disciplined training, and endless reinvention.
Samantha Hubner is a master’s degree candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University as part of the Map Your Future program. She concentrates in International Security Studies, Geospatial Intelligence, and Technology Policy with language specializations in advanced Mandarin Chinese and French. She split her summer between Honolulu and Southeast Asia conducting case study research that integrates her interests in geospatial data science, cyber statecraft, and national security. She plans to continue geospatially-focused research and pursue publication as a Research Fellow with the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies beginning this fall.
Georgia Bass graduated early from UMass Amherst in 2019, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and geography with a concentration in GIS. She is currently pursing a master's degree in Global Security Studies with a concentration in Strategic Studies from Johns Hopkins University. During her undergraduate years, she interned several places including at Texas A&M University as a NSF REU CyberHealth GIS intern. In addition, Bass also interned at the DoD where she built an interactive database of terrorist activity in the Maghreb. Her research and career interests center around the intersection of cyber, geospatial intelligence, and national security. Bass plans a career in public service.
Loren Russell is pursuing a master's degree in geographic information systems from Pennsylvania State University. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an M.S. in international relations from Troy University. Russell served on active duty as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force and continues to serve in the National Guard. Russell’s research interests focus on the application of geospatial intelligence tradecraft to the collection, processing, exploitation, and dissemination of perishable remote sensing data collected during emergency response operations.
“Receiving a scholarship from USGIF is my greatest honor...I feel reaffirmed in my mission to use geospatial information sciences to influence climate readiness and infrastructure policy. I am excited to continue my collegiate career as a member of the USGIF community. ”
– Paulina Hruskoci
Aaron Pacheco’s academic career began with electrical engineering, but it was not long before finding his real passion in geography. With a love for languages and exploring the world, his experiences fit well the interdisciplinary nature of a non-traditional student program. Along with the GIS and geography departments at Minnesota State University, Pacheco’s studies have led to several rewarding projects including analyzing labor migration dynamics in Central Asia, performing geoeconomics research for the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and most recently, working as research fellow at Stanford University utilizing microwave remote sensing to analyze the boundary layers of tropical cyclones.
Christopher Lee is a senior at the University of Texas at Dallas studying computer science with a minor in GIS. During his time there, he has worked closely with the GIS department in developing machine learning models to analyze remotely sensed data from satellites and LiDAR, with an emphasis on utility and infrastructure sectors. He currently works for ROCK robotic where he specializes in artificial intelligence pipelines for classification and analysis on large-scale point cloud datasets. His hope moving forward is to advance the state-of-the-art in GEOINT using computer vision, allowing for a greater understanding of the world around us.
This fall, Quinn Heiser will be a third-year student at Western Michigan University majoring in Geography and Geographic Information Science and minoring in Philosophy as well as Computer Science. Through academic research at the university, he has studied the dispersion of STIs in low-income areas in southeastern Michigan, population projections based on existing construction for Charlotte County, Florida, and the prevalence of cases of diseases of the nervous system in Michigan counties. Some of Heiser’s geospatial interests include computer vision, the advancement of unmanned aerial vehicle technology, and the ethical implications of remote sensing on human concerns.
Red Willow Coleman
Red Willow Coleman is a senior at Harvey Mudd College and is majoring in mathematical and computational biology with an emphasis in environmental analysis. Previously, she has interned at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Planet Labs, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and was a participant in the NASA DEVELOP program. She is particularly interested in using geospatial data to better inform urban environmental policy decisions. She also hopes to develop GEOINT products that can be used for more accurate natural disaster prediction, response, and recovery.
“This scholarship gives me the flexibility to continue pursuing what I love, with funds going towards computer parts and other research equipment. With my parents supporting multiple children through college, the USGIF scholarship allows me to put more time into my studies and give back to the GEOINT community through open-source software and collaboration.”
– Christopher Lee
Paulina Hruskoci is a junior studying Geospatial Information Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas. She is interested in the applications of GIS for sustainable development and environmental policy. As an Undergraduate Research Scholar, she researched transboundary hydraulic fracturing pollution from a geospatial perspective under Professor Anthony Cummings. As a GIS Intern for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, she led a digitization project for 1100+ Aggregate Production Operations across Texas. Outside of her GIS work, she has served as an Eco Rep, Sustainability Teaching Assistant, and Student Government Senator at her university.
MK Futrell is a sophomore at Texas A&M University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Spatial Sciences, an environmental geospatial technology-centered major. She is fascinated by the uses of geospatial intelligence in the environmental sciences, especially in the field of ecology. Futrell’s favorite courses have shown her how people can use geospatial imagery, information, and analysis to secure and protect the natural world. Her career goal (after graduating and getting her master's degree and Ph.D.) is to work as a geospatial analyst and study human-environment interactions via GIS and remote imagery to solve wide-ranging issues.
Graduating High School Seniors
“ In a society where it is easy to lose sight of education as a blessing and a privilege, I appreciate each class and every opportunity to grow, not only as a future geospatial professional, but as an individual. I am so grateful for USGIF's aim to expand quality education...it makes the field more accessible to those interested but lacking resources.”
– Grace Augusta Thorpe
Throughout their years in high school, Arpi Keshishian participated in a three-course Geographic Information System pathway which included GIS and Remote Sensing, Geology of Disasters, and Environmental GIS. In each of these courses, Keshishian completed various projects using ArcGIS, ArcGIS Pro, and ArcGIS mobile apps. In those projects, they used GIS to illustrate real world issues ranging from a tragic boat fire to environmental problems within their community. Keshishian is strongly interested in using GIS for environmental sustainability projects, as they can use data to create maps that help find solutions to environment-related issues.
Grace Augusta Thorpe
As a recent graduate of Maggie L. Walker Governor's School, Grace Augusta Thorpe will be attending the University of Richmond to study Geography and the Environment. For her first year, Thorpe was selected for a living-learning community related to global climate change and the spatial inequalities of environmental disasters. She is particularly interested in obtaining a Geographic Information Systems certification to expand on the land use digital mapping and ArcGIS database experience she gained during her recent internship at a land conservancy. Thorpe's interests lie in balancing computer-based geospatial analysis and the understanding of human relationships with geography to holistically investigate the interdisciplinary nature of the field.
Krithika Chockalingam graduated with High Honors from BASIS Scottsdale where she was the president of the UNICEF club, co-founder of Quid Pro Grow, and blood drive coordinator for the Red Cross. Currently, she is a student at Georgia Institute of Technology majoring in Computer Science with a concentration in modeling and simulation. Chockalingam is interested in urban planning and development, disaster mitigation, and education. She hopes to one day work on projects related to the development of smart cities where she will be able to connect her interests in geospatial mapping, new technologies, innovation, economic development, culture, and population.
Ryan Munn graduated in the top three percent of the Class of 2021 at Cherry Hill High School East in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He is attending Drexel University in Philadelphia this fall as a Computer Science major, with a focus on game development, artificial intelligence, and deep learning. His geospatial interests primarily relate to programming map applications. However, he also hopes to one day lead innovations in geospatial technology and combine it with his passion for fishing by developing a cheaper and more convenient technology to track underwater movements of fish without a boat, antennae, or sonar buoys.
“Education has always been of the utmost importance to me, and this scholarship allows me to continue following my dreams and pursuing a career that I am passionate about...This scholarship is also a reminder of my potential to give back to society and I will make sure to continue giving back to my community and the world. Thank you!”
– Krithika Chockalingam
Anderson Donald Githens
Anderson Donald Githens' education has been a bit of a rocky journey. He had a significant problem with paying attention during classes. But over time, he gradually overcame this. Githens first gained interest in GIS during his 11th grade classes where he did a research project on this career. Over time, he gradually investigated it more and realized it was a concept he enjoyed. At that point, he began to apply to colleges with good GIS programs and chose Texas A&M Corpus Christi. He plans to start a career recording data for map creation.
Greg Hallman is currently a student at Purdue University studying in the first year engineering program. He plans on majoring in aerospace engineering, with a focus in satellite propulsion devices. Hallman is also interested in researching how propulsion devices can improve the quality of geospatial tools in satellites. These geospatial tools could be used for data collection and atmosphere analysis of Earth and other planets within the solar system. This data will be critical for future colonization missions and studies into our galactic neighborhood. The prospects geospatial has for future development is what makes Hallman excited to work in this field.