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Saint Louis University Launches New Geospatial Institute

ST. LOUIS (Oct. 8, 2019) – Saint Louis University has established a new Geospatial Institute to support and accelerate research, training, and innovation in the rapidly growing fields of geospatial science and technology.

Vasit Sagan, Ph.D., with student

Vasit Sagan, Ph.D., associate professor of geospatial science, works with a student. Sagan will serve as the new institute’s faculty director. File photo

The news was announced Oct. 8 during the Geospatial Gateway Forum, formerly known as Tech Showcase West, which was hosted by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation in St. Louis.  The announcement comes as the region continues to emerge as a national hub for all things geospatial. 

Also known as GeoSLU, the new SLU Geospatial Institute brings together faculty and students from various disciplines to use geospatial research tools to solve challenges and to enhance graduate and undergraduate education as the University prepares future geospatial scientists and innovators. 

“SLU’s new Geospatial Institute draws together the expertise of almost 40 faculty across the University who are advancing geospatial science, applying emerging tools to real-world problems and training the next generation of geospatial leaders,” said Kenneth Olliff, SLU’s vice president for research. 

“We’re augmenting this expertise with new investments from our Research Institute, through industry collaborations, and with our academic and innovation partners,” Olliff continued. “Our goal is to become one of the nation’s leading academic geospatial institutes and thereby contribute to elevating St. Louis as a geospatial center of excellence.” 

The SLU Geospatial Institute will: 

The institute’s primary areas of research will include a wide array of themes involving artificial intelligence, machine learning and informatics to respond to the challenges of today. Key research areas include:

In launching the Geospatial Institute, SLU is seeking to strengthen collaborations with other universities, including the University of Missouri system schools, Washington University in St. Louis and Harris-Stowe State University, as well as innovation partners in the region, including Cortex and T-Rex.

The Geospatial Institute also builds upon SLU’s existing relationship with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). In January, the University signed a partnership agreement with the NGA, and the organizations also partnered on a widely-attended GeoResolution conference in April. 

The GeoSLU announcement is exactly the kind of initiative needed to fulfill the potential of NGA, Saint Louis University’s growing status as a geospatial academic center of excellence, and St Louis’ leadership in the vibrant geospatial economic community.”

Robert Cardillo, former director of the NGA

Vasit Sagan, Ph.D., associate professor of geospatial science, will serve as the new institute’s faculty director, while Ness Sandoval, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology, and Enbal Shacham, Ph.D., professor of public health, will serve as its associate directors. 

Robert Cardillo, former director of the NGA, will advise the institute as part of his work as a Distinguished Geospatial Fellow at SLU

“My decision over three years ago to build NGA’s future campus in North St. Louis was based upon a small — but growing — geospatial ecosystem that was developing,” Cardillo said. “The GeoSLU announcement is exactly the kind of initiative needed to fulfill the potential of NGA, Saint Louis University’s growing status as a geospatial academic center of excellence, and St Louis’ leadership in the vibrant geospatial economic community.” 

The origins of Saint Louis University’s new Geospatial Institute lie in an internal Big Ideas competition to define university-wide strategic research priorities. SLU’s ability to invest in geospatial science and other areas of research was greatly enhanced in 2018 when Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield made a historic $50 million gift to accelerate research growth at the University. GeoSLU is among the projects supported by the Sinquefield-funded SLU Research Institute. 

For more about the SLU Geospatial Institute, visit slu.edu/geoslu


Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place. For more information, visit slu.edu.