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IESA earns national recognition as Center of Academic Excellence

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Dr. Jeff Turk, IESA director, and student Logan Moore with a drone.

The Lewis F. Rogers Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis (IESA) at the University of North Georgia (UNG) has been selected as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) in Geospatial Sciences (GS), the only institution in the state with that designation and one of only 25 in the nation.

UNG received the honor from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The two agencies created the designation in an effort to build long-term partnerships with academic institutions to advance leading-edge research in geospatial sciences.

The designation will provide additional workforce options and internships for UNG students and enhance IESA’s position towards securing future grants and research opportunities.

“IESA’s designation as a CAE for Geospatial Sciences affirms UNG commitment to meeting our nation’s need for students with a background in creating information from location-specific data,” said Dr. Andy Novobilski, chief research officer. “This skillset, with its application to security and business development, provides students and faculty with new opportunities for professional growth.”

Geospatial technology is the range of tools used to analyze, measure and visualize the earth's features, through global navigation satellite systems, GIS, remote sensing, surveying and internet mapping technologies. It is both indispensable and ubiquitous, from planning shopping centers and assessing economic markets to managing famine relief. The U.S. Labor Department considers the field primed for growth, from about 850,000 employed in the industry today, to more than 1.2 million by 2019.

IESA currently offers a bachelor’s degree in environmental spatial analysis as well as several associate degree pathways, minors and undergraduate certificates in related disciplines. Dr. Jeff Turk, IESA director, believes the designation will attract potential students currently considering other programs.

"We feel that a CAE in GS will assist in attracting students to our programs, as the designation validates quality in the IESA programs, Turk said. "Students considering other institutions may more readily identify the recognized quality and reaffirm the value of our programs and choose a degree from UNG and IESA. The validation is also important for potential employers of our graduates as it provides a standard of quality in the courses and programs that may provide an edge toward our students as they seek employment."

The CAE promotes academic excellence in geospatial sciences, methodology, research and development. To that end, IESA will work with experts in the NGA, USGS, other agencies and organizations to promote leading-edge curriculum, research and student experiences.

Earning the CAE designation was a two-year process that included assessment and the validation of geospatial science academic criteria as well as assessing faculty credentials and research. In addition, the application required the submission of student academic and research activities, including student projects, for evaluation by reviewers at NGA/USGS. The process required submissions from all IESA faculty and staff involved in geospatial and related disciplines.

The CAE status is valid for one year, and for IESA to maintain its certification, it will need to stay current with evolving technology, methods and research expanding disciplines relative to the geospatial sciences. The entire curriculum will be reviewed semi-annually with IESA submitting updates and documentation at the end of each semester and through possible site visits by NGA/USGS personnel. 

Depending on the growth of the program, IESA may pursue additional CAE in GS designations in one or more specialized focus areas – including geospatial analysis, information science, cartographic science, geovisualization, remote sensing/ imagery science, photogrammetry, aeronautical analysis/engineering, navigation and location – which may result in additional course offerings in the future.

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