Three geography students win USGIF Scholarships

Monday, February 23, 2015 - 9:08am

By Kathy Cappelli

Every year, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation honors a range of students interested in using geospatial science to address human security challenges. Open to graduating high school seniors, and undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students, the USGIF chooses applicants based on an application process that evaluates academic and professional accomplishments in fields related to geospatial intelligence. The 2014 Scholarship Program winners included three Penn State students; undergraduate Everleigh Stokes and graduate students Seth LeMaster and Nouman Hussain.

For Stokes, a Penn State senior, this is her second time winning the scholarship (she first won in in 2012). Stokes is interested in using GIS technology for public health and humanitarian issues, such as mapping the spread of disease. Just last summer, she interned with the Army Corps of Engineers, building a HADR design system. The Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster, or HADR, was built for the Department of Defense to help them assess different international humanitarian assistance investments. Stokes researched relevant background information on DOD goals and objectives that would better allow her team to build the HADR system. “Seemingly incomparable humanitarian aid projects can be compared, and it allows us to create an optimized portfolio,” she said. “We take that to the DOD and say, ‘here are the projects that you should fund and here’s why.”


Aside from her internship and studies at Penn State, Stokes is also involved in a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities, from playing on the women’s water polo team to being part of the EMS Student Council, running the EMSx2 program that brings high school students to the University Park campus for tours. “I love showing off the college and majors that we offer through EMS,” Stokes said. This coming September, she has an internship with National Geographic Channel in their research department. “I have always been intrigued by the National Geographic Magazine; the pictures alone are incredible, and I’m really looking forward to the experience of it.”


The 2015 USGIF Scholarship Program is now open and accepting applications. Since the program began in 2004, the USGIF Scholarship Program has awarded $792,000 in scholarships, helping further the education of more than 170 GEOINT students. Applications are due by April 20.


LeMaster, working as the GIS lead for the Arkansas Geographic Information Office, is working toward his master’s degree through Penn State World Campus. “As a kid, I was always interested in maps, especially as they related to history and military events,” LeMaster said, adding that during his undergraduate years at the University of Central Arkansas, he became intrigued by how geography relates to and influences national security, war, and politics.


LeMaster gained field experience through his deployment with the Arkansas National Guard, when he spent a year in Afghanistan as a geospatial intelligence analyst providing GEOINT support to special operations forces. “Given the nature of my mission in supporting special operations forces, I was fortunate to gain experience in many aspects of the profession,” LeMaster said. “I had the honor of working with all branches of our nation’s military, as well as members of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.” The best part of his work there was sitting down with the special operations teams after their missions to figure out what they liked or did not like about the product. “They were often very grateful for our work, and there was a lot of satisfaction in knowing that our products helped these teams accomplish their missing efficiently and safely,” LeMaster said.


Now, with the Arkansas GIS Office, LeMaster enjoys projects where spatial data and analysis help elected officials and the state’s government work more efficiently, including health care analysis, statewide 9-1-1 program studies, and emergency response situations.


Nouman Hussain lives in Washington, D.C., and works as a geospatial analyst for the Department of Defense. “My interest in GIS began with I first started working with large amounts of coordinate data and working with statistical concepts to try to better visual this tabular data on a map interface back in 2012, he said, “The MGIS program was the foundation of my GIS background and truly helped me propel into the field and truly learn from the most basic of geoprocessing concepts to some of the most advanced geostatisical theories and methods.” Hussain is on track to graduate from the MGIS program in December 2015, and he intends to pursue a Ph.D.