Online Geospatial Education Faculty

Our Certificate and Master's Degree programs are designed and taught by these outstanding educators from the Department of Geography:

Anthony C. Robinson, Ph.D.

Anthony Robinson is Associate Professor of Geography and Director for Online Geospatial Education programs at Penn State. He coordinates faculty and staff to handle student affairs to ensure the long term sustainability and strength of Penn State's online geospatial education portfolio. He also serves as Assistant Director for the GeoVISTA Center in the Department of Geography. His research focuses on the science of interface and interaction design for geovisualization and geovisual analytics tools. He has developed interface design and usability assessment methods for integrating geographic visualization tools with work in epidemiology, crisis management, and educational domains. His research efforts have involved characterizing how users assemble and collect their analytical results, studying the use of visualization tools using eye-tracking, and exploring issues related to map symbol standardization in the context of emergency management. In recent work he has explored the geographic dimensions of learner engagement to identify leverage points for spatial analysis and representation in learner analytics, designed methods for representing the presence of absence in big spatial data, and analyzed the design elements of viral maps. Anthony received his BS in Geography from East Carolina University in 2002, MS in Geography from Penn State in 2005, and PhD in Geography from Penn State in 2008. Anthony can be reached by e-mail at

Todd Bacastow, Ph.D.

Dr. Todd S. Bacastow is the professor of practice for geospatial intelligence in Penn State's Dutton e-Education Institute. His primary areas of expertise include geospatial intelligence technology integration, geospatial intelligence analytic methods, and geospatial intelligence education. Dr. Bacastow has worked with businesses and government on policy issues, has served on state and regional planning committees, prepared studies, providing expert testimony, and organizing numerous workshops. He established and leads Penn State's geospatial intelligence program, teaches geospatial intelligence courses, and serves on national advisory committees. He is the principal investigator (PI) of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and Penn State’s John A. Dutton e-Education Institute. The CRADA is focused on improving learning in the geospatial intelligence community. In his work, he has distilled the definition of the field to its fundamentals, and launched the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Geospatial Intelligence and the Geospatial Revolution." This course brought together over 27,000 professionals from around the world.

Before joining Penn State, Dr. Bacastow served in the U.S. Army in a variety of civil-military, leadership, and technical positions in the United States and Europe. He was previously an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Computer Science and an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy. Todd can be reached by e-mail at

Qassim A. Abdullah, Ph.D., CP, PLS

Dr. Qassim Abdullah (Phonetic pronunciation of first name: KAA-SIM) is an accomplished scientist with more than 40 years of combined industrial, research and development, and academic experience in analytical photogrammetry, digital remote sensing, and civil and surveying engineering. His current responsibilities include designing and managing strategic programs to develop and implement new remote sensing technologies focused on meeting the evolving needs of geospatial users. Currently, Dr. Abdullah is a lead research scientist and a member of Woolpert Labs team. His latest accomplishments include evaluating and introducing the Geiger and single photon LiDAR to the geospatial industry and leading Woolpert research activities in the field of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), its sensor calibration, and its workflow development. Dr. Abdullah publishes a monthly column “Mapping Matters”, in the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) journal PE&RS and he is the recipient of the 2010 prestigious Photogrammetric Fairchild award of the ASPRS. Dr. Abdullah serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and at Penn State teaching graduate courses on UAS, Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Most recently, Dr. Abdullah was awarded the Presidential Citation award from the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) in recognition to his contributions in co-authoring the new “Positional Accuracy Standards for Digital Geospatial Data”. Dr. Abdullah is licensed professional surveyor and mapper with the states of Florida, Oregon, Virginia, and South Carolina. He is also a certified thermographer by the FLIR Infrared Training Center and a Certified GEOINT Professional in Remote Sensing and Imagery Analysis (CGP-R) by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). Qassim can be reached by e-mail at

Ryan Baxter, M.S.

Ryan Baxter is an instructor for GEOG 482 - The Nature of Geographic Information. He has been at Penn State since 1997 specializing in Geographic Information Systems within the Dutton e-Education Institute, the Department of Geography and the Penn State Institutes of Energy & the Environment (PSIEE). In the Department of Geography, Ryan teaches undergraduate courses GEOG 160 - Mapping Our Changing World and GEOG 363 - Geographic Information Systems. At PSIEE, Ryan engages in research in the areas of biofuels and land use, and supports spatial data management and distribution projects. In particular, Ryan is the lead developer of the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access clearinghouse (PASDA) and the Penn State Data Commons. Ryan can be reached by e-mail at

Mark Corson, Ph.D.

Dr. Mark Corson is an associate professor of geography at Northwest Missouri State University, and a former faculty member in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy. Dr. Corson specializes in political and military geography, with regional expertise in Europe and Southwest Asia. He teaches the Trends in GIS course in the Northwest Missouri Department of Geography's master's program and, as a visiting associate professor at Penn State, is developing the Geographic Foundations of Geospatial Intelligence course for the certificate program in geospatial intelligence.

Dr. Corson is also a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. His military specialties are transportation and multifunctional logistics. In 2001, in Kosovo, Colonel Corson served as the deputy chief of the Multinational Brigade East Joint Implementation Commission and as liaison officer and trainer to Regional Task Group Six of the Kosovo Protection Corps. He was heavily engaged in the NATO peacekeeping effort to defuse the Presevo Valley and Macedonian insurgencies. He also commanded the 450th Movement Control Battalion during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) One. The 450th conducted theatre movement control functions in Iraq and later in Kuwait, from March 2003 to March 2004. It was instrumental in the planning and initial execution of the rotation of U.S. and coalition forces between OIF One and Two. This surge was the largest military movement since World War II. Colonel Corson now commands the 561st Regional Support Group (RSG), in Omaha, Nebraska. The 561st RSG is a brigade-level headquarters capable of conducting the full range of multifunctional logistics operations in any environment and across the spectrum of conflict. Mark can be reached by e-mail at

Peter Croswell, M.S.

Peter Croswell is the President of Croswell-Schulte Information Technology Consultants, Inc. in Frankfort, KY and an Instructor for PSU’s Online Master of GIS program. Mr. Croswell’s education includes a BA degree in Geography (with minor in Math) from the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany and Masters degree (Geography/Geology) from Western Illinois University with specializations in cartography, remotes sensing, and geomorphology. His work experience includes 6 years in state government working as an analyst and then manager of an early GIS program and environmental regulatory work in the State of Kentucky (Natural Resources Cabinet). Since the mid-1980s, he has been a consultant in GIS and IT getting involved in a large array of needs assessment, design, planning, and project management support work for federal, state, and local governments, utility companies, and other types of public sector and private organizations--including international work in Europe, China, and the Middle East.

Mr. Croswell is a past Board Member and President of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and is active in many professional organizations. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), GIS Professional (GISP), and ASPRS Certified mapping Scientist (CMS). He has written many papers, special publications, and several published books including the 2009 GIS Management Handbook. Peter can be reached by e-mail at

Jim Detwiler, M.S.

Jim Detwiler has been with the online geospatial program since 2000. His specialty is in programming and databases. He is currently lead instructor and author of GEOG 897D - Spatial Database Management and the administrator of a web-based dashboard used by other faculty, advisors and administrative staff to manage the program. Other courses developed by Jim include GIS Mashups (GEOG 863), GIS Application Development (GEOG 489) and GIS Programming and Customization (a prior incarnation of GEOG 485). He has also taught face-to-face sections of GIS programming courses to resident undergrads. Jim earned a bachelor's degree in earth science from Penn State and a master's degree in geography from the University of Delaware. Jim can be reached by e-mail at

David DiBiase, M.S., GISP

David DiBiase is the founding director of the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute and Director of Education at Esri. David came to Penn State in 1989 after earning his bachelor and master of science degrees in cartography at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He led development of the Postbaccalaureate Certificate and Master of Geographic Information Systems (MGIS) degree programs. Now a part-time instructor, David's specialties include introductory GIS and professional ethics. He has earned Penn State's Wilson Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mitchell Award for Innovative Teaching, the Association of American Geographers' Media Achievement Award, Esri's Special Achievement in GIS Award, and the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science's Educator of the Year award in 2005. In 2019 David was named an inaugural Fellow of the American Association of Geographers. He is a certified Geographic Information System Professional (GIS Certification Institute). David can be reached by e-mail at

Brandi Gaertner, Ph.D.

Dr. Brandi Gaertner, Assistant Teaching Professor of Spatial Data Science in the online Geospatial Education program, joined the Penn State faculty in 2021. Dr. Gaertner is a climate change hydrologist and GIS analyst. Her research focus is on evaluating historical and future impacts of climate change on surface streamflow and climate variables such as precipitation and temperature. She also uses remote sensing techniques, such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), to study the impact of climate change on lengthened growing seasons, evapotranspiration, and hydrology. Prior to joining Penn State, Dr. Gaertner was an assistant professor of Environmental Science at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.V. She earned her doctorate in Forestry and Natural Resources with a focus on Climate Change Hydrology from West Virginia University in 2019. Prior to pursuing her doctorate degree, she completed an M.S. in Environmental Biology with a focus on Aquatic Ecology. Dr. Gaertner has extensive experience and education in online teaching. She graduates in 2022 with an M.S. in Instructional Design and Online Technology. Dr. Gaertner also has a graduate certificate in University Teaching, has received several Quality Matters certificates for Online Education, and has taught and designed over 10 online courses at previous institutions. Brandi can be reached via email at

Panagiotis Giannakis, Ph.D.

Panagiotis Giannakis is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography and the Dutton e-Education Institute within the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences. He received his PhD from the University of Arkansas, where he also maintained a key role in the advancement of the Online Geospatial Certificate program. His research interests lie at the intersection of Economic Geography, Strategic Management, and Social Networks. More specifically, Panagiotis’ research focuses on the relationship between organizational and physical and/or social network space. Panos can be reached via email at

Adrienne Goldsberry, M.S.

Adrienne Goldsberry is an instructor of GEOG 482: Making Maps That Matter With GIS and GEOG 483: Problem Solving with GIS. She is also the advisor for students in the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems program. In her role as advisor, Adrienne is students’ guide through the certificate program and regularly communicates with current and prospective students to ensure that the appropriate faculty member, staff member, or administrator addresses their questions or concerns. Prior to joining Penn State, she was an online instructor for Michigan State University’s Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences and managed its online Professional Certificate in GIS. She has also worked as an urban planner for jurisdictions in California, Texas, and Michigan. Adrienne holds a BA in Geography from The University of Texas at Austin, and earned her MS in Geography from UC-Santa Barbara. Adrienne can be reached via email at

Amy Griffin, Ph.D.

Amy Griffin is an instructor for GEOG 586 - Geographic Information Analysis. She is currently a Senior Lecturer in Geography at UNSW Canberra in Australia, where she teaches a range of geography and geographic information science courses. Her research interests include investigating the perceptual and cognitive processes involved in map reading and applications of GIS to historical geography. Some of her recent research projects include using eye-tracking to evaluate the design of new geovisualizations and to study the visual interpretation of remotely sensed imagery, and in collaboration with several historians, a spatiotemporal analysis of Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. Amy can be reached by e-mail at

Stephen P. Handwerk, M.A.

Steve Handwerk joined the Dutton faculty in November 2012 after nearly 33 years with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and its predecessor organizations. Over half of his career involved the design, development, and management of large GEOINT training programs for NGA, the Intelligence Community, and their international partners. He now serves as the Manager of GEOINT Professional Engagement and Outreach, where he maintains contact with government, commercial, and non-profit organizations involved with GEOINT. Steve also serves as Dutton’s GEOINT career counselor, and is teaching GEOG 885. He received his BS in Geography from Penn State in 1974, and his MA in Human Resource Management from George Washington University in 1989. Steve can be reached by email at

David Jimenez, M.A.

David Jimenez has more than 21 years of experience with federal law enforcement intelligence, and is currently serving as a Strategic Intelligence Analyst with the West Texas HIDTA in El Paso, Texas. He has instructed GEOG 885: Advanced Analytic Methods for Geospatial Intelligence.  He is a Criminal Intelligence Certified Analyst with the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, and conferred the Intelligence Fundamentals Professional Certification with DoD. He also served as an intelligence professional with the United States Air Force, and retired after 24 years of service in 1994. He received his BS in Management and Human Resources from Park University, and his MA in Human Resource Development from Webster University. David can be reached by e-mail at

Patrick Kennelly, Ph.D.

Pat Kennelly is author and instructor of GEOG 584 - Geospatial Technology Project Management. He is a graduate faculty member in Penn State's Department of Geography and a student adviser in the MGIS program. He has project management experience with both an environmental/engineering consulting firm and a state geological survey. He is a visiting assistant professor at Penn State and an assistant professor at Long Island University in New York. Pat can be reached by e-mail at

Fritz Kessler, Ph.D.

Fritz Kessler is an instructor for GEOG 861 - Map Projections for Professionals, GEOG 583 - Geospatial System Analysis and Design, GEOG 486 - Cartography and Visualization, and GEOG 586 - Geographic Information Analysis. He is a Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography and was previously Professor and Chair of the Department of Geography at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, MD. He is the Admissions Chair for the MGIS and Spatial Data Science Programs. He received his PhD from the University of Kansas in 1999, his MS from Penn State in 1991, and his BS from Ohio University in 1988. He recently collaborated with other Kansas PhD alumnus on Thematic Cartography and Geographic Visualization. He also co-authored Working with Map Projections: A Guide to Their Selection. Fritz can be reached by email at

Beth Fletcher King, M.Ed.

Beth King is co-author and instructor of GEOG 483 - Problem Solving with GIS and instructor of GEOG 482: Making Maps That Matter With GIS. Beth is the Assistant Program Manager for Online Geospatial Education. She follows the progress of students in the Master of Geographic Information Systems (MGIS) degree program. In her role as an Assistant Program Manager, Beth has regular communication with students to identify questions and concerns and to ensure that students' questions are addressed by the appropriate faculty member, staff member, or administrator. She previously worked as a GIS Analyst for a private water/wastewater engineering firm, where she managed a wide range of GIS projects, from turnkey sanitary sewer conversion to 911 rural addressing. Beth can be reached by e-mail at

Jonathan Nelson, Ph.D.

Jonathan Nelson is an assistant research professor of geography and director of the Center for Environmental Informatics at Penn State. Jonathan is an educator and researcher in geographic information science, specializing in cartography, geovisual analytics, and user-centered design with applications in environmental science, fitness and health, politics, socioeconomics, transportation, and urban planning. His work emphasizes the significant role of visual communication in making spatial data more accessible, legible, and valuable. Jonathan is the author and instructor of GEOG 580 — Geovisual Analytics and instructor of GEOG 486 — Cartography & Visualization.

Jonathan holds a Ph.D. in geography from Penn State. During his doctoral studies, he was awarded an NSF traineeship in Big Data Social Science where he both gained experience with, and brought a geographic perspective to, data privacy, human-computer interaction, machine learning, and social networks. Just prior to re-joining Penn State as a faculty member, Jonathan served as a geographic information scientist at the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Asset Management Bureau, where he led the data & information management unit in developing novel approaches to making transportation asset data more accessible and actionable to internal stakeholders and the public. Jonathan has also been employed as a cartographer for National Geographic Society and UX designer for Strava Metro, where he gained practical experience in effective map design, as well as in the implementation and evaluation of interactive visually-based analysis tools that support practitioners and scientists in making sense of large amounts of movement data. Jonathan can be reached via email at

James O'Brien, PhD

James O’Brien is an instructor for GEOG 485: GIS Programming and Automation (and also its previous guise GIS Programming and Customization). James is also a Spatial Risk Scientist at the Risk Frontiers Natural Hazards Research Centre located at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Prior to joining Risk Frontiers James was a Principal Lecturer in GIS at Kingston University London teaching programming, spatial databases, online/web GIS, cartography and natural hazards.

James’ research interests are concerned with the integration of physical and social science factors in modelling risk and vulnerability, modelling evacuation times and routes in vulnerable areas, hydrological modelling, building indices of vulnerability based on the intersection of physical and social vulnerability and developing web mapping platforms. James completed a BSc in Geographic Information Science at Curtin University and has a PhD (Geography) from Penn State and has nearly 20 years programming and database experience and almost 10 years of teaching experience. James can be reached by e-mail at

Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne, M.S.

Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne is a lecturer for the Online Geospatial Education Program at Penn State. He is also a faculty member at the University of Vermont where he is the Director of the Spatial Analysis Laboratory (SAL) and holds a joint position with the US Forest Service. He serves on the Board of Directors for AmericaView, a nationwide remote sensing consortium, and on the Board of Directors for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI).

Jarlath has over 15 years' experience with geospatial technology and is recognized as a leading expert on the design and application of automated systems for extracting features from complex geospatial datasets. Jarlath has been received numerous awards for his work including the Vermont Spatial Data Partnership's Outstanding Achievement Award, the New York State GIS Partnership Award, the eCognition Black Belt (awarded by Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerd Binnig), and the US Forest Service Northern Research Station's 2010 award for Excellence in Science and Technology. For over a decade Jarlath served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps (active and reserve), with tours in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, and East Africa. Jarlath can be reached by e-mail at

Karen Schuckman, C.P., P.L.S., MGIS

Karen Schuckman is a senior lecturer in Geography and a PhD student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Penn State, teaching remote sensing and geospatial technology in the online GIS programs offered by the Dutton e-Education Institute. She also serves as a consultant to the URS Corporation in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where she provides expertise in remote sensing and photogrammetry to engineering practice groups, including floodplain mapping, disaster response and preparedness, critical infrastructure, and transportation.

As the geospatial technology leader at URS in 2005–06, Ms. Schuckman supported response, recovery, and mitigation projects with FEMA following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. From 1995 through 2005 she was with the EarthData group, where her positions included geospatial applications director for EarthData Solutions, senior vice president of EarthData Technologies, and president and general manager of EarthData International of North Carolina. Notable projects she led for EarthData include lidar acquisition for the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program, numerous transportation mapping projects for state DOTs, and technology demonstration projects for NOAA, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Prior to joining the private sector, Ms. Schuckman worked for the USGS National Mapping Division, in Menlo Park, California. She is the immediate past president of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, vice chair of the NOAA Advisory Committee for Commercial Remote Sensing, and a member of the National Research Council Committees on Floodplain Mapping Technologies and FEMA Flood Map Accuracy. Karen can be reached by e-mail at

Marcela Suarez, Ph.D.

Marcela Suárez is an instructor for GEOG 586 - Geographic Information Analysis, GEOG 486 - Cartography and Visualization, and GEOG 583 - Geospatial System Analysis and Design. She is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography and the Dutton e-Education Institute within the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences. Marcela's research interests lie at the intersection of Geographic Information Science, Cartography, and Emergency Management. In her research, Marcela uses spatial analysis, geovisualization, machine learning, and data mining techniques to understand how user-generated content and volunteered geographic information can be used along with other official data sources in order to inform how social and environmental phenomena are experienced at a local scale. Marcela received her PhD in Geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Marcela can be reached by email at

Greg Thomas, Ph.D.

Greg has over twenty years of hands-on law enforcement and educational experience in intelligence. He has both developed operational intelligence concerning criminal activities and selected, trained, and supervised analysts in a criminal intelligence center. Greg has wide-ranging practical experience reviewing analytical products and providing team guidance on planning and developing intelligence and analytical products. He has extensive experience teaching intelligence and analytical techniques to college students as well as intelligence analysts and law enforcement personnel. Greg’s current doctoral research focuses on the role of law enforcement in homeland security. He is a certified criminal analyst and has published articles relating to criminal intelligence analysis, organized crime,and terrorism. Greg can be reached by e-mail at

Jan Van Sickle, Ph.D.

Jan Van Sickle has more than forty years of experience in GIS, GPS, surveying, and mapping. He created and led the GIS department at Qwest Communications for the company's 25,000-mile worldwide fiber optic network. He began working with GPS in the early 1980s when he supervised control work using the Macrometer, the first commercial GPS receiver. He supervised the first GPS control survey of the Grand Canyon. He led the team that collected, processed, and reported GPS ground control positions for more than 120 cities around the world for the ortho-rectification of satellite imagery now utilized in a global web utility. He has led nationwide seminars based on his books, GPS for Land Surveyors and 1,001 Solved Surveying Fundamentals Problems. The latter book is serialized in the magazine POB. His latest book is Basic GIS Coordinates for Taylor and Francis Publishers, London. He has been a featured speaker at many conferences, including GITA conference and the Institute of Navigation (ION) Annual Meeting. He was formerly on the board of RM-ASPRS and was the vice chairman of GIS in the Rockies. Jan earned his master's degree in engineering from the University of Colorado and his doctoral degree in GIS Engineering from the University of Colorado Denver. He is a licensed professional land surveyor in Colorado, California, Oregon, and North Dakota. Jan can be reached by e-mail at

Jan Oliver Wallgrün, Ph.D.

Jan Oliver Wallgrün teaches GEOG 485 - GIS Programming and Automation. He is a faculty member at the Department of Geography, GeoVISTA Center, at Penn State where he teaches introductory courses to GIS and GIScience, (GIS) programming courses in Python and Java, and courses on spatial databases and geographic data management. His background is in Informatics with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence. His research focuses on spatial and spatio-temporal modeling and reasoning methods and their application in GIS, in particular the application of AI methods for automatic data integration and cleaning as well as for the interpretation of human spatial language. Jan can be reached by e-mail at

Michelle Zeiders, M.S.

Michelle Zeiders teaches both GEOG 483 - Problem Solving with GIS and GEOG 484 - GIS Database Development. She has been teaching introductory and software-intensive GIS courses since 1998. Prior to joining the certificate program, Michelle worked as a GIS Programmer/Instructor for the Penn State Population Research Institute, a GIS Project Manager/Instructor for the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, a GIS Project Manager at a private civil engineering firm and a GIS Analyst at Mapquest. She received a bachelors degree in public administration and a master's degree in geoenvironmental studies from Shippensburg University. Michelle can be reached by e-mail at