Geography (GEG)

Academic Catalog: 2012–2013

  • Mark Bjelland, Chairperson
  • Lencho Bati (Visiting, 2012–2013)
  • Ryan Bergstrom (Visiting, 2012–2013)
  • Anna Versluis
  • Part-time:
  • Robert Moline

Geographers study places, regions, and human-environment interactions in order to develop a broad, integrated understanding of the earth—the home of humanity. The study of geography helps students understand and appreciate the world’s diverse landscapes, and environments. Geographers bridge the social and natural sciences to examine critical issues such as environmental degradation, economic development, globalization, migration, urbanization, population growth, natural hazards, climate change, and land-use change. Geography is a practical discipline providing a solid foundation for the effective management of earth resources and the creation of sustainable communities.

To help explore and map a changing world, geographers use sophisticated tools such as geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. Because getting out of the classroom is vital to learning geography, many geography classes offer field trips or experiences with diverse cultures. The Geography Department promotes fieldwork, internships, travel courses, and study abroad. With planning, many courses taken abroad can count toward the Geography major. Geography students also have opportunities to collaborate with faculty on research projects that benefit communities. Geography graduates find vocational opportunities in fields such as GIS, cartography, community development, teaching, location analysis for business, environmental management, and urban and regional planning.

Geography Major: Nine courses distributed as follows:

  1. Three-course Geography core: GEG-101, GEG-102, and GEG-105.*
  2. One regional method course: GEG-232, GEG-233, or GEG-235.
  3. Two courses in geographic research methods: GEG-240 and GEG-342.
  4. Three additional Geography courses, one of which must be at the 300-level (except internships or independent studies).

*GEG-105 may be substituted by taking BIO-101, GEO-111 and GEO-246.

Geography Major with Honors: The Geography with Honors option is for those students who wish to undertake a significant independent thesis project as a culmination of their study in geography. This opportunity is geared to those students considering entering graduate school. Participation is by application to the department chair during the junior year. To be eligible, students must maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.5. In addition to the course requirements listed above, Honors majors conduct research and write a thesis under the direction of a member of the department and defend their thesis before the department. Honors majors are strongly encouraged to present their thesis at a professional meeting in their senior year. Honors majors enroll in GEG-397 to work on their thesis.

Ten courses distributed as follows:

  1. Three-course Geography core: GEG-101, GEG-102, and GEG-105.*
  2. One regional method course: GEG-232, GEG-233, or GEG-235.
  3. Two courses in geographic research methods: GEG-240 and GEG-342.
  4. Three additional Geography courses, one of which must be at the 300-level (except internships or independent studies).
  5. Honors thesis: GEG-397.

Geography Minor: The minor consists of five Geography courses.

  1. One earth system course: GEG-105 or GEG-108.
  2. One human systems course: GEG-101 or GEG-102.
  3. Three Geography electives, no more than one from the 100-level (except Internships and Independent studies).

101 Introduction to Human Geography (1 course) Like a work of art, the earth’s surface is a beautiful, intricate, and often bewildering mosaic of places and landscapes. These places and landscapes are arranged and organized according to specific cultural, economic, social, and political processes. Human geography studies those processes in order to understand the resultant patterns they create and ways of life they support. This course is a topical survey of human geography introducing cultural, economic, population, political, and urban geography. SOSCI, Fall and Spring semesters.

102 World Regional Geography (1 course) A comparative study of the physical and cultural characteristics of selected world regions including Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. NWEST, Fall and Spring semesters.

105 Introduction to Physical Geography: Earth System Science (1 course) This course focuses on understanding “the way things work” in the biophysical world, and is centered on interactions between the water cycle, atmosphere, biosphere, and the earth’s surface. Students will come to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of the earth system as well as the many ways humans interact with it. We investigate earth’s energy budget; the cycles of air, carbon, water, and nutrients; feedbacks among oceans, atmosphere, ice, and land; climate change; and the role living creatures play in maintaining planet earth. Students will also learn how physical forces such as wind, glaciers, rivers, and volcanic activity have sculpted the landscapes we inhabit and continue to modify our environment today. NASP, Fall and Spring semesters.

108 Weather and Climate (1 course) An introduction to the science of the atmosphere, exploring the processes that produce weather events and climate patterns. Students begin by studying earth-sun geometry, the earth’s energy balance, and global circulation patterns for wind and water. We then study weather events, such as, precipitation, mid-latitude cyclones, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Students are introduced to the basic principles of weather forecasting and climate modeling. The course concludes by examining human interactions with the atmosphere, including vulnerability to natural hazards, air pollution, and climate change. NASP, Fall semester.

233 Central America/Caribbean (1 course) This course focuses on the historical and contemporary geographic landscapes of the Central America/Caribbean region. Past and present physical and cultural environments will be examined, including pre-Columbian cultures, the Spanish conquest, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and the impact of commercial farming, logging, and eco-tourism. NWEST, Spring semester, odd years.

234 Landscapes of the American West (.5 course) Aridity may be the fundamental characteristic of most of the West, setting it apart from the rest of the country. The principal task in this course will be to discuss the ways different cultures have shaped this dry country according to their perceptions of both its physical geography and its cultural milieu. We are interested in the process of cultural landscape change and the unfolding of this story, with the help of maps, DVDs, the images of essayists, poets, painters, musicians, photographers, Hollywood “Westerns,” and many virtual field trips via slides. Spring semester, first-half.

235 Sub-Saharan Africa (1 course) This is a regional course providing an introduction to the physical and human geography of the region south of the Sahara. The influence of the African traditional society, the Islamic diffusion, and the European colonial period, commonly called the “triple heritage,” will be examined. NWEST, Fall semester.

236 Urban Geography (1 course) This course explores the setting in which most of the U.S. population and about half of the world’s people live—the urban setting. Throughout history, urban areas have been the centers of economic, political, and cultural life. Further, many of the critical issues in our society—social polarization, economic restructuring, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, and poverty—are concentrated in America’s urban areas. This course examines the forces that give rise to cities, paying particular attention to the geographic location and changing internal spatial arrangement of cities. Prerequisite: GEG-101 recommended. SOSCI, Spring semester.

240 Geographic Information Systems (1 course) In this course we learn how to collect and manipulate geographic data, create maps, and analyze spatial patterns and relationships. Students learn the underlying theories and concepts of geographic Information science. Lectures and labs introduce both vector and raster geographic data models and a variety of tools for spatial analysis and data visualization. Students will incorporate satellite imagery, aerial photography, terrain, land-use, and census data into a geographic information system (GIS) to solve problems encountered in environmental management, city planning, and business. Fall and Spring semesters.

243 Water Resources Management (1 course) This course examines physical as well as cultural elements of water resource management. After an introduction to the principles of surface and groundwater hydrology, the emphasis turns to the socio-economic aspects of water resource development, including the role of federal, state, and local governments, water rights, and water law. Local, national and international water resource problems are examined from ecological, economic, and social perspectives. Prerequisite: GEG-105 or GEO-111 recommended. Spring semester.

244, 344 Special Topics in Geography (1 course, 1 course) Lecture and discussion on advanced topics in geography, including regional, planning, or environmental themes. The course may involve field work. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

GEO-246 Geomorphology (1 course) The study of the earth’s surface and the processes that shape it. Processes discussed include those associated with weathering, streams, glaciers, ground ice, ground water, wind, oceans, tectonism, and volcanism. The laboratory is research oriented and consists of learning basic tools (maps and photos) and applying these to several field research problems. Prerequisite: GEG-105 or GEO-111 or permission of instructor. Fall semester.

250 Nature and Society (1 course) Society is constantly interacting with the environment, transforming landscapes, harvesting materials, disposing of wastes, and setting aside areas for preservation. In this course we step back from particular environmental issues to study conceptual approaches that frame questions of society’s relationship with the environment. Why do environmental problems exist? Does climate change, for example, result from misguided ethics, too many people, unquestioned social norms, market failures, unjust development, lack of cooperation or something else? Students investigate diverse theoretical perspectives that attempt to explain our relationship with the natural world, and critically examine underlying assumptions, strengths, and limitations of each perspective. Fall semester.

336 Urban and Regional Analysis (1 course) This course offers an in-depth exploration of the dynamics of urban and regional change through a combination of readings and geographical analysis. The goal is to better understand the forces shaping the growth and change of towns, cities, and regions, so that students become better informed citizens and are prepared for careers or professional training in urban and regional planning or public policy. The course is organized around three key components of healthy communities and regions: economic, social, and ecological sustainability. Prerequisites: GEG-236 and GEG-240, or permission of instructor. Fall semester, even years.

342 Research Methods in Geography (1 course) An introduction to research techniques employed in geographic investigations. Emphasis is placed on developing and writing an effective research proposal. Students will learn to situate their research within the existing literature, evaluate different research methods and paradigms, collect and analyze data, and consider ethical issues in research. Prerequisite: GEG-240. WRITD, Spring semester.

345 Remote Sensing of the Environment (1 course) This course is an introduction to how we map, monitor and understand the physical world as observed from afar through remote sensing techniques. Remote sensing has become the leading method for studying land-cover and land-use change, climate and weather, ocean systems and many environmental issues at local scales. In this course, we focus on understanding the fundamentals of acquiring and interpreting data from satellite-based remote sensing systems. We study the interactions of electromagnetic radiation with the atmosphere and Earth’s surface, learn about the various sensors that are currently available, and discover how to extract useful information from remotely sensed imagery to help understand environmental issues. Through readings, discussions and computer lab work, students will gain an understanding of the possibilities-and limitations-of remote sensing for observing earth system phenomena. Prerequisite: GEG-240, Spring semester, even years.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience in geography position related to the student’s interest. Prerequisite: one other geography course. Fall, Spring semesters and January Interim.

291, 391 Independent Study (.5 to 1 course) Intensive study in any of several topical or regional areas selected by the student after consultation with the advisor. May involve field study away from the campus. Prerequisites: Two other geography courses and submission of study proposal to advisor. Fall and Spring semesters and January Interim.

397 Geography Honors Thesis (1 course) Students perform original research and write a scholarly thesis paper or conduct an advanced mapping/spatial analysis project. Senior geography honors majors are eligible to enroll in this course.