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NGA, SLU Partner To Encourage Student Interest In Geospatial Jobs

An artist's rendering of the new $1.75 billion NGA West headquarters in north St. Louis.
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
An artist's rendering of the new $1.75 billion NGA West headquarters in north St. Louis.

Students from across the region will gather at St. Louis University Monday to explore careers in geospatial technology.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and SLU are co-sponsoring the free one-day conference, which will bring together experts from industry, academia and government. Organizers hope the event will spur student interest in geospatial careers and establish St. Louis as a leader in the field.

Geospatial technologies — ranging from satellite imagery to the GPS unit in your car — are becoming an increasingly important part of our lives.

But the possibilities go far beyond helping you navigate from point A to point B, said Ken Olliff, vice president for research at St. Louis University.

“Mapping health disparities in urban areas, understanding the distribution of food and water around the world — these are all areas where geospatial tools are being used and will be used even more in the future,” Olliff said.

Researchers have also used satellite images to track looting at cultural heritage sites in the Middle East and document coral bleaching events.

Nearly every industry relies on geospatial technology in some way, said Olliff, and that has created a significant demand for skilled workers — particularly in the St. Louis area.

“We’re seeing this incredible momentum that’s being built in terms of establishing the St. Louis region as a national center for the geospatial industry,” Olliff said.

The NGA plans to break ground on its new $1.75 billion western headquarters in north St. Louis this year.

The conference is part of an effort to develop new partnerships with researchers and industry leaders, said David Berczek, NGA’s division chief for the Office of Corporate Communications.

“We want to start bringing all of those partners together now, rather than trying to wait for a new campus to start an effort like this,” he said.

Students are the primary focus of the conference, which will include a recruiting fair and mentoring lunch.

“The time is right to start generating an interest in students to pursue a skillset that would get them in line for either a career with NGA but also to grow all those supporting networks here in the area,” said Berczek.

A live stream of the conference will be available on the St. Louis University website, beginning at 8:25 a.m. on Tuesday, April 9.

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

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Shahla Farzan is a PhD ecologist and science podcast editor at American Public Media. She was previously a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.