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Alumni feature: Steve Fleming

Kendra Bryant

After completing both his Master’s Degree (’95) and PhD (’04) in geography(focusing on geospatial techniques) in the department of geography, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences alumnus and retired U.S Army colonel, Steve Fleming did not have initial intentions to pursue a career in higher education. However, his experiences in the military, combined with the knowledge acquired from his degrees, led him to a career path focused on educating and training future spatial scientists. Today, Fleming is a Professor of Geospatial Science and Intelligence at the University of North Georgia, helping build national security curricula and graduate programs in the spatial sciences. He also holds adjunct appointments with the University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute and Institute for Creative Technologies as well as serving as an affiliated professor with the UGA Center for Geospatial Research (CGR). 

After completing his master’s degree while he was an active-duty Army officer, Fleming received his first teaching assignment in 1995, returning to his undergraduate alma mater at West Point to join the faculty at the United States Military Academy as a spatial scientist in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. Three years later, that assignment ended and he continued serving in the U.S. Army, becoming an expert in positioning, navigation, targeting, and digital mapping for the Department of Defense.

After assisting in building the Army’s First Digital Division, Fleming was asked in early 2001 to further his education through a PhD in spatial sciences with the objective of furthering DoD research and development for evolving spatial technologies and building education and training programs about digital warfare for service members. 

“UGA again became the academic institution to best achieve this,” Fleming said. Completing his PhD three years later in 2004, Fleming studied and conducted research with Professor Roy Welch, who at the time was a teaching and research professor in the department of geography as well as the Director of the Center for Remote Sensing and Mapping Science (CRMS - now the CGR). He credits Welch, the CRMS/CGR, the department of geography, and UGA in playing instrumental roles that prepared him to address the challenges and dangers of national security threats. 

Along with his national service and working in higher education, Fleming's other accomplishments include holding multiple advisory positions in the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF); authoring multiple book chapters, journal articles, guides, tutorials, and learning tools; and giving speeches and presentations across the world and nation as an expert within the intelligence community.

Fleming's UGA experience has been consistently marked by an understanding and appreciation of the importance of positivity. 

“There always seems to be a general sense of positive energy everywhere on campus and around Athens. People are genuinely happy,” he said. "That positivity fosters healthy learning, sparks open-minded and innovative research, and on those days when hope appears forlorn, positivity serves as a mooring to remain connected to the positive things in life.” 

This characteristic of UGA and Athens is what brought Fleming back to live in the community. 

"The University of Georgia stands out as a beacon of light and hope that can be seen from afar. This positive approach to living certainly helped shaped me; it gives one genuine purpose each day in trying to make the world a better place for all.”

Looking forward, Fleming shared his excitement about the future. 

“We must never find comfort in resting on the successes of the present," he said. “We all have a part to play to make this planet better, even if it is simply through encouragement and clearing a path for others to work and succeed.” 

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