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U of R and Esri host inaugural Spatial Business Academy

Esri Founder and CEO Jack Dangermond (center back) visits a breakout group at the Spatial Business Academy, including (from left) Joe Holubar of Travelers Insurance; Theresa Gebhart of U of R; Michael Yocius of Kohler Company; Thomas Horan of U of R; Cindy Elliott of Esri; Enrique Perez of OXXO Stores; and Paris Williams-Allen of Transwestern Insurance.

The University of Redlands and Esri jointly hosted the inaugural Spatial Business Academy last week, providing executives with training that blended business knowledge with location analytics.

“Because we are thought leaders in spatial business education, we wanted to extend this educational experience beyond enrolled University of Redlands students and offer it to professionals who are actively engaged in the field,” says Thomas Horan, Senecal Endowed Dean of the U of R School of Business and Academy co-chair. “We were impressed and grateful for the array of companies that signed up for this first of a kind event; it is a stellar list.”

Companies represented at the three-day event, part of the larger Spatial Business Initiative, included Advanced Innovative Technologies, Fifth Third Bank, Kohler Co., Orscheln Farm & Home, OXXO (a large Mexican retailer), Republic Services, SoCal Edison, The Shopping Center Group, CSX Railroad and Travelers Insurance. 

With sessions at Esri headquarters and on the U of R campus, presentations covered spatial foundational principles, applications, and strategy. Erik Henderson, technical director of enterprise GIS at CSX Railroad, found the information reshaped his thinking about his job: “The academy has helped me understand that strategy is far more important than I thought it was. … I need to communicate my team’s strategy to others in my company.” The importance of the Academy was underscored by Esri Founder and CEO Jack Dangermond’s visits to each of the breakout groups at Esri-located sessions, where he discussed the value of spatial business concepts and applications with participants.

Cindy Elliott, head of commercial industries at Esri and Academy co-chair, notes that opportunities to network complemented the more academic side of the event. “So often in our everyday lives, we don’t give ourselves time to interact with other people who might be in a similar situation,” she says. “After every session, [participants] were sharing, laughing, and it was this natural connection that everybody had that reinforced that we are facing common spatial business opportunities and challenges.”

Participants such as Nikki Paripovich Stifle, cross-sector GIS strategist at Kohler Co., agrees that exchanging insights with fellow attendees was one of the event’s highlights: “It was valuable to have this network where people can come together and talk honestly and frankly about their needs and challenges and how to support the growth of their organizations.”

As the event wrapped up on March 28, many participants were eager to bring back what they learned to their day-to-day work lives. Enrique Ernesto Espinoza Pérez, expansion manager at OXXO, for one, also looks forward to future academy offerings: “The Spatial Business Academy has to be regularly attended so we can bring all of our company leaders to get them on board with spatial thinking and analysis.”

Reflecting on the event, Horan notes: “I think we (U of R and Esri) are tapping into an important need to provide GIS managers and leaders with a hybrid business-GIS skill set, and I expect we will be doing even more in this training arena given the very positive reception we have received to the Academy."