USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute
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Q&A with Professor Steven Fleming

This is a segment of our multi-part series honoring the active service members and veterans who’ve taken or who teach USC’s Geographic Information Science and Technology graduate programs by allowing them to share some of their most memorable experiences.

For today’s article, we talked with COL [R] Steven D. Fleming, a professor of the practice of spatial sciences at USC and retired colonel in the U.S. Army. Fleming serves as lead faculty of USC’s M.S. in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence as well as the Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence. He has extensive command and staff experience as well as operational combat experience, having deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

To read the other articles in this series, click the following links:

1. How did you get involved with geospatial work in the military?

I worked in the GEOINT field as a professor at the United States Military Academy (West Point, NY) for about 10 years prior to joining USC. In addition to my work with USMA, I used GEOINT techniques and technologies on multiple deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

2. How do you envision the future of GEOINT? How do you think the USC program can help position students for that future?

The future of GEOINT is increasingly computational, analytical, and visual. This mandates good dialogue between developers and users, so that all sources of disparate information are properly integrated and that software actively supports users. Our program at the Spatial Sciences Institute addresses these challenges by producing leaders and managers within teams who can form interagency working groups, and GEOINT users who are adept problem solvers.

3. Why did you choose to teach in the USC GIST program?

I chose to join the GIST team here because, parallel to SSI’s work, USC is a leader in addressing wicked problems (e.g., human security). One part of the solution to problems like human security is to create the next generation of GEOINT leaders. The administration, GIST programs and SSI vision are focused on producing quality graduates to answer this calling. Furthermore, the faculty are assembled to leverage multidisciplinary expertise and leadership across the GEOINT field.

4. What has been one of your favorite GEOINT projects to work on, either with students in USC’s graduate programs or in your career?

I’m immensely proud that we currently have students working with the Intelligence Community (IC) and with non-profit organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Physicians for Human Rights. The latter is designed to integrate satellite-based algorithms to detect possible human rights violations in multiple countries across the world. The former exposes students to the inter-`workings of the IC. In total, our students are energized by cutting-edge research that they are learning and by contributing to organizations that are involved in using GEOINT to address the “wicked problems.”

For more information about our support for U.S. service members and veterans, visit our USC Military and Veterans page.


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