Earth and Mineral Sciences

Geointelligence work influenced Murphy Award winner’s focus on counterterrorism

Daniel Selik gives his acceptance speech for the Michael P. Murphy Award in Geospatial Intelligence at the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) Geoint 2021Symposium held in St. Louis in October. Credit: Courtesy of USGIFAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Daniel Selik, a student in the intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security (iMPS-HLS) degree program at Penn State and a retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer, received the 2021 Michael P. Murphy Award in Geospatial Intelligence.

He was presented with the award at the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) Geoint 2021 Symposium held in October in St. Louis.

“Shocked!” was his initial reaction upon learning he won the award, Selik said. “I thought perhaps the email notification was sent to the wrong student. Once it settled in, there was a humbling calm, a feeling that I was not at all worthy to be the recipient of an award the namesake of which is a true American hero — especially as a fellow sailor.”

Named in honor of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a Medal of Honor recipient and distinguished Penn State alumnus, the award recognizes achievement by a graduate student in Penn State’s geospatial intelligence (GEOINT) program who has served in the U.S. military or with the geospatial intelligence community and demonstrated exceptional contributions to the discipline.

Gregory Thomas, associate teaching professor and assistant director of the geospatial intelligence programs, is Selik’s academic adviser.

“Danny initially earned a postbaccalaureate certificate in GIS from Penn State in 2014, then he began the intelligence and geospatial option in the iMPS-HLS in 2018,” Thomas said. “Danny was subsequently accepted into the counterterrorism option as well. Completing both options required taking five additional classes. Danny has excelled in the coursework and is described by his instructors as an outstanding, solid student and excellent researcher.”

Selik, who is enrolled in the iMPS-HLS’ intelligence and geospatial analysis and counterintelligence options, said he decided to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree after a year of service as a geointelligence analyst with the federal government.

“Completion would likely open doors, and since I had the time, there was no better time than the present,” Selik said.

Then he was relocated to Iraq for work and later deployed to Afghanistan as a chief petty officer. At that time the other university at which he was enrolled was unable to support distant learning, Selik said.

“So my education was put on hold. After a few years and a few more deployments, I started over with my master’s degree, but this time through Penn State’s World Campus, which offered far more online flexibility,” Selik said.

Instead of jumping into a full graduate program, Selik said chose the certificate route.

“Seven years passed between the start of my master’s journey at a different university and completion of Penn State’s postbaccalaureate GIS certificate, which also saw several changes to my employment trajectory,” Selik said. “Upon starting the iMPS-HLS GEOINT program three years after completing the GIS certificate, and completing additional GEOINT deployments around the world, I saw there would be advantages to having graduate instruction in counterterrorism as well.”

For both capstone projects, Selik said he focused on Africa.

“For the GEOINT option of the iMPS-HLS, I focused on analyzing where the next major conflict may take place within Africa’s Great Lakes Region,” Selik said. “I found the African continent so interesting from an HLS perspective, I stayed in the region for my HLS Counterterrorism capstone. This time I researched if African countries with longstanding leaders were/are more susceptible to terrorism.”

Selik said he is looking forward to graduating in December 2021, plans to continue his federal service through retirement and then transition to teaching geography and geointelligence at a community college in Phoenix.

Candidates for the award are nominated by faculty who teach in the geospatial intelligence program. The committee is made up of faculty in the Geography Department who also teach geospatial intelligence courses, Thomas said.

The endowment for this award was originally made possible by the generous gifts of Maxar Technologies, the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, Dr. and Mrs. Todd S. Bacastow, Dr. Alan W. Scaroni and Dr. Richard DiEugenio. Those interested in contributing to the award can contact the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Office of Development and Alumni Relations at or call 814-863-2289.

The Penn State Veterans Plaza, a gift of the Class of 2011, located near the intersection of Pollock Road and the Henderson Mall, off the northeast corner of Old Main on the University Park campus, was created to honor all Penn State veterans. The plaza's curved wall is named to honor Lt. Michael P. Murphy, a member of the class of 1998 and the first University alumnus to be awarded the Medal of Honor. A Navy Seal, Murphy received this singular distinction posthumously for his courageous actions in 2005 during the war in Afghanistan.

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about the geospatial intelligence option of the master’s degree in homeland security.



Last Updated November 02, 2021