Career Profile: Max Baber
Max Baber describes himself as a late bloomer. He discovered geography in his mid-30s while working as a commercial real estate researcher in Atlanta. At that time -- the late 1980s -- the job required him to identify property locations by poring over deeds and lengthy metes and bounds legal descriptions contained in multiple bound volumes of county tax maps. Observing a growing need for computerized mapping, he was introduced to GIS technology and decided to pursue a master's degree in geography at Georgia State University, which led to a Ph.D. from The University of Georgia.
After completing his doctorate, Max spent a decade teaching at three different universities, most recently as an Associate Professor of GIScience at The University of Redlands in Southern California. Recognizing the broader benefits of promoting the "greater good" he found himself especially drawn to the service aspects of a faculty career and volunteered with a number of professional organizations. In 2009, Max fully embraced this service role, joining the staff of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) as Director of Academic Programs.
USGIF was founded in 2004 to "promote the geospatial intelligence tradecraft" and to develop a stronger community of interest around the development and application of geospatial intelligence (or "GEOINT") to address national security objectives. Max's position was created to steward the accreditation of collegiate geospatial intelligence programs, administer a robust scholarship program, and develop resources to support geography education at all grade levels. "I enjoy being an evangelist for geospatial intelligence and advocating for a growing community of problem-solvers who are applying geospatial analysis to human-scale challenges across the full range of natural and social sciences," he explains. He contends that we now live in an "age of spatial reasoning," as evidenced by the widespread use of geospatial applications on portable smart devices and their transformative impact on human behavior."The evolution of geospatial capabilities is accelerating," says Max, "and the GEOINT community is expanding the boundaries of innovation."
Max observes that geospatial intelligence professionals are similar to academics in many ways. "This is a community of scientists and analysts who do their best work unbiased by outside influence," he explains. "GEOINT professionals express the same passion for our discipline that I’ve experienced among colleagues in higher education, and they are performing their responsibilities for many of the same reasons: to reveal meaningful information about our dynamic and complicated world and to contribute actionable knowledge to help solve real-world challenges." Max asserts that geospatial intelligence is a broad and complex field that extends well beyond traditional notions of national defense, pointing out that analysts focus on a wide variety of inherently geographical issues such as climate change, natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and resource accessibility.
The geospatial intelligence field will offer tremendous opportunities for geographers during the foreseeable future because a sizable proportion of its workforce is approaching retirement age. Although candidates from a variety of disciplines will find career opportunities in this field, all prospective GEOINT analysts must have a solid educational foundation as well as proficiency in the essential skills of spatial reasoning and the application of geospatial science and technologies. And that's where USGIF comes in: ensuring that the next generation of workers is equipped to meet the challenges the country will face in the decades to come. "USGIF accreditation provides quality assurance to GEOINT employers that graduates meet established geospatial standards and competencies largely developed by partners across the broader geospatial community," he says. "USGIF embraces our standing among these geospatial partners. Collectively, we are providing a great service to our nation."
This profile was published in 2012 by Dr. Joy Adams.