Brett Culhane, M.S. GEOINT ’23

photo of Brett Culhane, M.S. GEOINT ’23

Brett Culhane, a December 2023 graduate of the Department of Geographical Sciences’ (GEOG) Master of Science in Geospatial Intelligence program, has an innate curiosity about the world around him. As a child, his favorite toy was actually a globe.

The La Plata, Md. native’s appreciation of geography and geographical diversity only grew as he did, and especially the more he traveled around the country, notably to a number of United States national parks. By the time he was considering what to do after high school, the answer was obvious: Attend a school that would allow him to study the world, and pursue a career that would allow him to continue exploring it. 

“My high school never offered any geography courses,” said Culhane. “College was the first time when I could really dive into the science that interested me so much as a kid.”

Wanting to become an intelligence officer and finally be able to study the field that interested him the most, Culhane decided to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he majored in geospatial science and took on a minor in Arabic. He graduated with his bachelor of science degree in 2022, with academic and military distinction.

Wanting to take his geospatial science education to the next level—and follow in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather, who both attended the University of Maryland—Culhane decided to pursue GEOG’s online master’s degree program while serving as an active duty second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He graduated from the program in December 2023.

“My assignment in the Air Force at the time was solely to be a student at UMD and complete my master’s so I was lucky that it was a very minimal Air Force duty commitment besides being a student,” Culhane said. “This helped me to focus on the master’s program and my coursework full-time.” 

Culhane said his time in GEOG’s geospatial intelligence program taught him an important perspective about the government side of geospatial analysis, and the geospatial intelligence missions of  “three-letter agencies” like the CIA, FBI, and DOD. He also said that insights from the program contrasted with his military experience and perspective, effectively introducing him to additional post-Air Force career options. 

“I see myself serving in the Air Force for at least eight years as an intelligence officer, and then either working for a three letter agency doing geospatial intelligence or other intelligence work, or teaching,” Culhane said.

Today, Culhane is continuing his training as a U.S. intelligence officer at the Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas. He is expected to graduate in June 2024. 

This article was written by Sofia Appolonio, JOUR '26