URISA Leadership Academy

Five Days of Targeted GIS Leadership Training...Taught by GIS Leaders

ULA 2016
August 1-5, 2016
Chicago, Illinois


Registration & Venue - The 2015 ULA in Denver sold out two months before the event! Participation is limited, so make plans early.

In today's work environment, it doesn't pay to sit still. Keeping your skills sharp can make the difference between moving ahead and becoming stale or even obsolete.  Learn from the best minds in the profession and take your skills to the next level by attending the URISA Leadership Academy.

The entire five day program, the only leadership training program of its type, is tailored to industry leaders and practitioners faced with unique challenges of GIS leadership and management and who want to make an impact leveraging the power of GIS.

Creating Great Leaders To Build Greater Organizations: Leaders are in short supply, and Leadership is a necessity for all organizations to thrive and prosper. The URISA Leadership Academy trains future leaders to create winning organizations. ULA Graduates have the knowledge and skills they need to navigate the challenges of changing economies and technologies. The ULA teaches the necessary skills to create effective teams, act with defined purpose, and align organizations on the path to success. Invest in your organization's future. Send your rising stars to the URISA Leadership Academy!

“I would highly recommend the ULA event; it helped to broaden my organizational awareness and perspective regarding leadership roles within a GIS context. I walked away from this experience feeling invigorated and, thanks to a daily learning journal, empowered to implement tailor-made action items within my daily work routine. After almost a year I still find myself referencing the material and my course notes. The ULA team-based exercises allowed participants to learn from each other, to analyze their own issues and challenges, and to thoroughly explore leadership strategies throughout the five day event.” - Laura Holmes B.Sc., GISP, GIS Lead - Associate, TERA Environmental Consultants, Calgary, Alberta (ULA 2012 Graduate - Savannah, Georgia)

"I can’t tell you how amazing that week was for me. This group of people are phenomenal; the intelligence and the love for GIS exuded from everyone.
I just wish we could make people understand the importance of what we do." - Suzanne Basham, GISP - GIS Manager, Town of Little Elm, Texas

GISP® Points for attending the full ULA = 1.25 EDU Points.

Developing Strong GIS Leadership Skills

Most of us spend a good bit of time and effort to hone and update our technical skills as we progress in our GIS careers. We take classes on how to build GIS databases or geocode addresses or maintain parcels or create python scripts and so on. We work in a technology driven field so it makes sense we place our focus on these types of skills.
That is until you find yourself managing a project or team or department. Then all that technical training only covers a portion of what we are required to deal with. Suddenly you are having to develop budgets, calculate ROI, handle HR issues and so on. All of these your technical training has not prepared you for. The ULA is a great program for overcoming that gap many of us have in our education and unlike other management training programs it was built by GIS Professionals who know our industry and the issues we face.
I hope everyone will take advantage of this great opportunity URISA is providing and attend the ULA. I really wish this had existed when I first moved up into management.
Tripp Corbin, MCP, CFM, GISP | Chief Executive Officer
eGIS Associates, Inc.

The success of any GIS program is largely tied to the capabilities of its leader.  Strong leadership is necessary to establish a solid GIS program, operate efficiently and effectively, coordinate participants, adapt to change, and move a program forward.  Leadership, however, is a skill that must be developed. The URISA Leadership Academy was established to meet this need.  Participants will learn:

  • GIS leadership and management techniques
  • Strategic planning
  • Successful team development
  • Organizational capacity building and sustainability strategies (ROI, innovative funding ideas)
  • Program investment and justification
  • Change management
  • Situation assessment and organizational performance evaluation
  • Ethics and professional challenges
  • Problem solving

ULA Agenda

The ULA is taught by proven leaders in the profession (all are GISPs and accomplished in the field). Each course will include numerous interactive exercises, team-building tools, and opportunities to delve into topics in a way you cannot do at a large conference. (Note that course attendance is limited in size to encourage such interaction...so register early to reserve your spot.)

Daily Schedule - Note that ULA in Chicago this year will end by 2:00 PM to accommodate Friday departures and eliminate the need for another night in the hotel

Why a Leadership Academy?

We started the ULA because we noticed that, as GIS professionals grow in our careers, there weren’t too many options for leadership and management training. GIS managers come from all backgrounds - staff moving up into management, a manager quits and you have to step up, or there’s a management void that needs to be filled. Many of us are technology whizzes, but when it comes to balancing budgets or hiring the right staff or convincing management that you need a new server, we didn’t have much of a clue. But when we looked at traditional IT leadership and management course offerings, we also realized that GIS is unique, and that traditional IT management training wouldn’t cut it.

We also felt like it was important to focus on the Leadership side, making it equally as important as the Management side. We believe that GIS is inherently a disruptive technology and that effective leadership skills are fundamental to continue to keep it as disruptive as possible. We are creative people and we like to think about using the tools that GIS offers to always find new ways of doing things. As such, we encourage networking among attendees and staying in touch after the week (we provide contact info) to share good ideas and/or look for solutions. There are also a number of interactive exercises throughout the week.
The ULA instructors are all leaders in our field. Several have been URISA Presidents - we also have emerging professionals on our teaching team and even some Canadians (for that international perspective)! They also represent both the public and the private sector.
Finally, as you’re comparing options, look at cost - we’ve intentionally kept the costs low for the ULA to make it not a barrier to attendance." - Hilary E. H. Perkins, AICP, GISP , City of Maryland Heights, MO, ULA Founder, Faculty Member and URISA Past President

ULA Registration & Venue

Registration Fee: Registration includes all five days of education and materials, daily lunch, one reception and refreshments.

  • Registration Fee: URISA Member or GISP $1,400 / Nonmember $1,600

Download Registration Form

Fillable Registration Form

Online Registration

Venue - Courtyard Marriott Magnificent Mile

The ULA will take place at the Courtyard Marriott Magnificent Mile (165 E. Ontario, Chicago, Illinois 60611). You could not dream of a better location to take in all that Chicago has to offer! One block east of Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile ... you're steps from amazing shopping, deep dish pizza, tremendous dining and entertainment options. Walk over to Navy Pier, jog along the lakefront path, head to Millenium Park. (Lollapalooza 2016 is the weekend preceding ULA 2016... come a few days early!).  Fly in to Midway or Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Public transit is a breeze from both airports. 

URISA Discounted Room Rate: $199 (less than the government per diem rate), including internet

Call Courtyard Reservations at 1-800-321-2211 or book online: Book your group rate for the URISA Leadership Academy

Note that the ULA will conclude no later than 2:00 PM on Friday, August 5 to accommodate departures on Friday afternoon/evening and keep your travel expenses down. The sleeping room rate increases substantially for Friday night stays.

ULA Sponsorship

Demonstrate your organization's commitment to professional development for GIS leaders by sponsoring the URISA Leadership Academy. Contact Wendy Nelson if your organization is interested in supporting this phenomenal program!

Meet some recent graduates:

ULA 2015 Graduates - Denver, Colorado

October 2014 Graduates - Louisville, Kentucky


May 2014 Graduates - Calgary, Alberta, Canada



May 2013 Graduates - San Antonio


What they had to say:

    "I learned so much in one week, it's a miracle. I have immediately started work on a GIS Strategic Plan."
    "This was the best week of training I have ever had, and you can quote me on that."
    “Leadership has no title."
    “Even though I am not the manager, I can be a leader for my organization in GIS and be an agent of change.”

Quick Links

ULA History:
December 2007 - New Orleans, Louisiana
June 2008 - Chicago, Illinois
December 2008 - Seattle, Washington
December 2009 - Seattle, Washington
June 2010 - Baltimore, Maryland
June 2011 - St Louis, Missouri
June 2012 - Savannah, Georgia
May 2013 - San Antonio, Texas
May 2014 - Calgary, Alberta Canada
October 2014 - Louisville, Kentucky
June 2015 - Denver, Colorado
August 2016 - Chicago, Illinois

Blue Marble
eGIS Associates, Inc.
GeoTech Vision
Hexagon Geospatial
North West Geomatics
Open Spatial
Planning Communities
Sani-International Technology Advisors
TGA inc.
Thomson Reuters