$12M federal contract to MU to found education program for National Intelligence Agency

Sailors, pilots, military service men and women deployed around the world, and government officials who make national security decisions all rely on the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to provide them with timely geospatial information that is critical for planning and decision-making. The University of Missouri College of Engineering has just been awarded a five-year, $12 million contract to deliver a comprehensive data science education program that will provide cutting-edge analytical training for the NGA workforce and potentially other members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). This new program will address key education and training needs identified by NGA.

The program is a collaboration between the MU College of Engineering's Center for Geospatial Intelligence (CGI) and the MU Informatics Institute's Data Science and Analytics (DSA) master's degree program. The newly established effort is part of the NGA College's Learning Outreach program that partners with qualified academic institutions and industry partners to address key education and training gaps within the NGA. Mizzou will provide a comprehensive data science education program that includes databases and programming, statistical analyses and predictive modeling, data visualization and data mining, cloud-based computing, and machine learning among other specialties that will help develop the NGA and IC workforce.

"Our faculty are thrilled to be able to support NGA's effort to equip its workforce with the data science skills necessary for NGA to make sense out of the overwhelming volume of government, commercial, and open-source geospatial information they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis," said Curt Davis, director of the CGI and professor of electrical and computer engineering. "The information that NGA provides to policymakers and members of the U.S. armed services on a daily basis is vital to our national security. Faculty from MU's Center for Geospatial Intelligence have worked on a wide variety of NGA and IC-funded projects over the last 10 years, so we have a great appreciation and deep respect for the NGA mission."

The MU Data Science and Analytics master's degree was developed as an online-only program for professional workforce training. The DSA program then was adapted to meet specific NGA requirements for on-site instruction at NGA locations in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. MU faculty members who hold appropriate security clearances and have data science expertise will teach at these locations, and this will allow government participants to earn graduate-level credit at MU for all the program courses. As a result, NGA and other IC workforce participants enrolled in the program will have the ability to earn a graduate certificate in data science and a master's degree from the University of Missouri.

"This award from the NGA -- one of the largest in the College's history -- highlights the excellence of instruction the College of Engineering faculty provide using cutting-edge technologies that are necessary in a complex and data-driven world," said Elizabeth Loboa, dean of the College of Engineering. "This collaborative, diverse team of scientists showcases the College's commitment to teaching, innovation, research and outreach."

NGA estimates about 1,800 participants from 60 different work roles will take courses from the program, with more than 500 NGA employees completing a program of data science courses that will help them earn a graduate certificate in data science.

"We are excited to teach the NGA workforce our philosophy of data science as a collaborative, iterative lifecycle spanning data acquisition through interpretation and delivery of data-driven intelligence," said Grant Scott, director of the DSA program and assistant research professor in the MU Center for Geospatial Intelligence. "We have developed a state-of-the-art approach to data science education built upon cutting-edge technologies, best-practices in adult-learning pedagogies, and repeatable collaborative science."

The multidisciplinary team of data scientists also involved on the contract includes Sean Goggins, associate professor in the MU Informatics Institute and the MU Colleges of Engineering and Education; and Tim Matisziw, associate professor in the MU Informatics Institute and the geography department of the MU College of Arts & Sciences.

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