URISA GIS Leadership Academy

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

Plan to join us in Columbus or Salt Lake City in 2018:

  • Columbus, Ohio - April 9-13, 2018 
  • Salt Lake City, Utah - July 23-27, 2018

Registration and Venue Details - register early for discounts!

Due to increased demand for this specialized educational program, URISA offered two URISA GIS Leadership Academies in 2017 and both reached attendee capacity. Make your plans early for the 2018 offerings!

 URISA GIS Leadership Academy Graduates (July 24-28, 2017 - Providence, Rhode Island)

Favorite reaction from one of our URISA GIS Leadership Academy attendees in Providence: "I can't express how amazing the course material and instructors were. ULA rejuvenated my spirit and has already helped me grow personally."

And best takeaways:

  • "Managers fight fires, Leaders light fires."
  • "You can lead while not being the actual manager of your group/department. GIS is a huge agent of change in our organization. Our group doesn't market ourselves (GIS, our services and products) nearly enough."
  • "My number one is that I'm not alone in my challenges and struggles as a GIS manager. I don't have a GIS community for support...but now I do."

Check out one attendee's blog post about her experience. 

 URISA GIS Leadership Academy Graduates (April 3-7, 2017 - San Diego, CA)
Photo by ULA graduate Matt Valenzuela, Illume Multimedia

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 GIS 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

Attendance at the ULA counts toward GISP® Education Points.

Organizational Professional Development

Some organizations have made attendance at the Leadership Academy a critical part of their GIS staff training and development. Matt Gerike, Geospatial Services Manager for the City of Columbia, MO has budgeted for and encouraged the attendance of 3 GIS staff in recent years and is sending another to the Providence event in July.

He has seen how “returning staff look beyond success as a map or a database and more towards organizational success with processes for managing projects and strategies for communicating achievements.”


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 GIS 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


The Academy 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.) The program starts at 8:00 AM each morning (Monday-Friday).  Note that ULA ends by 2:00 PM on the final day to accommodate Friday departures and eliminate the need for another night in the hotel

URISA GIS Leadership Academy Registration & Venues 

Registration: The URISA GIS Leadership Academy includes interactive exercises, small-group discussions, team-building activities, and opportunities to delve into topics in a way you cannot do at a large conference. Participation is intentionally limited in order to encourage such interaction. Register early to reserve your spot and take advantage of discounts. (The registration fee includes all five days of education and materials, daily lunch, one evening reception and refreshments.) 

Team Registration Discounts: Save money by registering your entire team at a substantial discount. If registering 2-5 individuals from the same organization, each additional registration after the first will be $1,000 (URISA International Member or GISP) / $1,200 (Nonmember); If registering 6 or more individuals from the same organization, each additional registration after the first will be $1,000 regardless of membership and date of registration. Please contact URISA for further group discount details. All team registrations must be for the full Academy and must be submitted together along with payment to receive the discount.

Registration for Columbus:

Early Rate (by January 15): URISA Member or GISP $1,200 / Nonmember $1,400
Regular Rate (begins January 16): URISA Member or GISP $1,400 / Nonmember $1,600

Venue: The URISA GIS Leadership Academy will take place April 9-13, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus (350 N High Street, Columbus , OH 43215 USA). The discounted room rate is $145 single/double - with complimentary in-room internet access. The deadline for reservations is March 18, 2018, or until the reserved block is sold out.

Note that the ULA will conclude no later than 2:00 PM on Friday, April 13, 2018  to accommodate departures on Friday afternoon/evening and keep your travel costs down.


Registration for Salt Lake City:

Early Rate (by March 15): URISA Member or GISP $1,200 / Nonmember $1,400
Regular Rate (begins March 16): URISA Member or GISP $1,400 / Nonmember $1,600

Venue: The URISA GIS Leadership Academy will take place July 23-27, 2018 at the Hotel Monaco Salt Lake City (15 West 200 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103 USA). The discounted room rate is $175 King Deluxe rooms - with complimentary in-room internet access, evening wine reception and morning coffee/tea. The deadline for reservations is June 19, 2018, or until the reserved block is sold out.

  • To reserve your room click on the Online Booking Link or call 1 (800) KIMPTON and request a reservation as part of the “Urban and Regional Information Systems Assoc (URISA)” block.

Note that the ULA will conclude no later than 2:00 PM on Friday, July 27, 2018  to accommodate departures on Friday afternoon/evening and keep your travel costs down. 

Cancellation & Refund Policy: All cancellations must be received in writing (via fax, e-mail or regular mail) at URISA Headquarters on or before March 1 for Columbus and June 1 for Salt Lake City, in order to receive a refund, less a $100.00 processing fee. After that date, cancelled registrations will not be refunded nor applied to future conferences. There will be a $50.00 administrative fee for the swapping of Registrants. Note: Discounted Member Rates apply to URISA International members (Chapter membership does not apply).

Why a GIS 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.  he 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 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!

Thanks to  for sponsoring the 2017 ULAs!

Meet some recent graduates:


ULA 2016 Graduates - Chicago

ULA 2015 Graduates - Denver, Colorado

October 2014 Graduates - Louisville, Kentucky

May 2014 Graduates - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

May 2013 Graduates - San Antonio, Texas

June 2012 - Savannah, Georgia

June 2011 - St Louis, Missouri

June 2010 - Baltimore, Maryland

December 2009 - Seattle, Washington

December 2008 - Seattle, Washington

June 2008 - Chicago, Illinois

December 2007 - New Orleans, Louisiana

(No formal class photo)


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
April 2017 - San Diego, California
July 2017 - Providence, Rhode Island
April 2018 - Columbus, Ohio

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