Geography (GEG)Academic Catalog: 2019–2020

  • Anna Versluis, Chairperson
  • Tiffany Grobelski (Visiting, 2019-2020)
  • Jeff LaFrenierre
  • Jesse McClelland (Visiting, 2019-2020)
  • Joaquín Villanueva (On leave, 2019-2020)

Geography is the study of humans and their environments. Geographers study the diversity of the world’s people and places and the processes—both natural and cultural—that build and shape landscapes. Geography draws on the natural and social sciences to understand the interrelationship of humans and the world around them. Geographers are interested in space and scale and how local processes influence regional and global processes, and vice versa. Because of the attention paid to scale and the uneven distribution of the Earth’s resources, many geographers share a concern for social justice, environmental justice, sustainability, and global equity. Many geographers want not just to study the world, but to change it for the better. Geography is a “muddy boots” discipline: while geographers use books, libraries, classrooms, computers, and labs, a lot of our learning occurs in the field. Whether the field is a prairie, farm, forest, desert, suburb, or city, geographers like to study the real world in real time.

The Geography Department cultivates a holistic understanding of human-environment relationships; a critical awareness of environmental and global change; and knowledge of the world’s diverse regions. We seek to play a major role in the College’s mission of providing an education that “is both interdisciplinary and international in perspective” while simultaneously modeling effective, just engagement with local communities. Geography courses are intellectually stimulating: students are challenged to new understandings of the world around them while developing deeper values of community, service, and justice. We encourage curiosity, problem solving, collaboration, reflection, and strong oral and written communication. We promote fieldwork, community service, and internships. Study Away semesters, cross-cultural learning experiences, and travel courses are strongly encouraged.

Geography graduates continue to careers in natural resource conservation, geospatial analysis, international and community development, urban planning, environmental law and policy, and teaching and research.

Geography Major:

Ten courses distributed as follows:

  1. Three-course Geography core: GEG-101, GEG-102, and GEG-105.
  2. Two courses in geographic research methods: GEG-240 and GEG-242.
  3. Geographic research capstone: GEG-325, GEG-336, or GEG-350 (GEG-242 is a prerequisite for all capstone courses).
  4. Four additional Geography courses, one of which must be at the 300-level (except internships or independent studies).

Geography Major with GIS Concentration:

Eleven courses distributed as follows:

  1. Three course Geography core: GEG-101, GEG-102, and GEG-105.
  2. Four courses in geographic research methods: GEG-240, GEG-242, GEG-343, and GEG-345.
  3. One statistics or computer programming course: MCS-140, MCS-142, MCS-177, or E/M-125.
  4. Geographic research capstone: GEG-325, GEG-336, or GEG-350.
  5. Two additional Geography courses.

Geography Major with Honors:

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 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-242 no later than their junior year to develop a thesis research proposal. During the 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. Two courses in geographic research methods: GEG-240 and GEG-242.
  3. Geographic research capstone: GEG-325, GEG-336, or GEG-350.
  4. Three additional Geography courses, one of which must be at the Level III (except internships or independent studies).
  5. Honors thesis: GEG-397.

Geography Minor:

The minor consists of five Geography courses.

  1. One earth systems course: GEG-105.
  2. One human systems course: GEG-101 or GEG-102.
  3. Three Geography electives, all at Level II or III.

Geographic Information Systems Minor:

The minor in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is limited to students who are not majoring in Geography. The minor consists of five courses selected in consultation with a departmental advisor.

  1. One course in geographic concepts: GEG-101, GEG-102, or GEG-105.
  2. Two GIS courses: GEG-240 and GEG-343.
  3. One statistics or computer programming course: MCS-140, MCS-142, MCS-177, E/M-125, or PSY-224.
  4. One course from: GEG-345, GEG-368 (GIS related), or GEG-391 (GIS related).

Geography Courses

101 Human Geography (1 course) Geography is the study of the earth, the home of humanity. This course introduces key geographic theories, models, and concepts in order to explain spatial patterns of human activities, to understand the processes that make and remake places, and to interpret and appreciate the earth’s diverse cultural landscapes. Major topics include the growth and migration of the human population; geographic patterns of language, religion, and ethnicity; agriculture, resources, and rural land uses; the changing geography of the world economy; urban diversity and urban land uses; and the political organization of territory. SOSCI, Fall and Spring semesters.

102 World Geography (1 course) This course helps students make sense of the world and its diversity of peoples, environments, places, and regions. Central to the course is the exploration of the relationships between global processes and local outcomes in select regions including Africa, Latin America, South and East Asia, the Middle east, and Europe. This course counts toward the African Studies minor and the Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies major/minors. GLOBL, Fall and Spring semesters.

105 Environmental Geography (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, Spring semester.

125 Causes of Global Climate Change (1 course) In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”, that “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause”, and that, “this represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2”. Designed for students from any discipline, this course will provide an integrated introduction to the science of climate change. Through lecture, discussion and lab, you will be challenged to understand the systems controlling Earth’s climate, the processes by which humans can alter these systems, the ways in which climate change is currently manifesting in various Earth systems, and projections for how our climate may evolve in the decades ahead. NASP, Fall semester.

215 Political Geography: Power, Territories, and States (1 course) This course considers the uneven distribution of political power in the world. It analyses the development of the modern state system, the political boundaries that divide and organize the world, and the rise of nationalism and ethnic conflicts. We pay particular attention to the political organization of space through the study of states and their territories, geopolitics, and power struggles between and among state, sub-state, and supra-state actors. At the end of the course, students will be able to identify, understand, and critically analyze the spaces and places where political power operates both at home and abroad. Prerequisites: GEG-101 or GEG-102 recommended. SOSCI, Spring semester.

225 Race and Space in the U.S. (1 course) Geography plays a crucial role in reproducing unequal racial relations in the U.S. Geography, too, is fundamental in the fight toward racial justice in the U.S. This course explores the various ways in which struggles over space and place--such as access to affordable housing and public space, suburbanization, border control, and urban policing, among other topics--reveal the contested meanings and effects of race and racism in the United States. Drawing on historical and contemporary examples, the course also explores the geographies of anti-racist struggles to reflect on the possibilities of a racially just and equal U.S. society. Spring semester, odd years.

229 Energy Geography (1 course) Energy, although vital to life on earth, is unevenly distributed across the globe. Access to the raw materials of energy - fossil fuels, minerals, water, wind, and sunlight - is determined by physical geography as well as political-economic systems, cultural/religious differences, and historical processes. From global to local scales, differences in access to and management of energy resources has geopolitical, economic, and cultural implications that necessitate further examination. This course explores these complexities in order to reflect on the possibility of making a just energy transition in the era of climate change. Fall Semester.

230 Human Impact on the Environment (1 course) Human impact on the environment is now so pervasive that some scientists argue that we have entered a completely new geological epoch that they call the Anthropocene, “the age of humans”. In this course, we will survey the various ways in which humans have substantially transformed Earth’s biogeophysical systems, including discussions of why these transformations are taking place, and what they mean for both natural and human systems now and in the future. Topics will include the geomorphic and hydrologic impact of watershed management; the ecological impact of land cover change, wildfire management, and human-introduced invasive species; and the geochemical implications of air pollution and widespread fertilization. Prerequisites: GEG-105, GEO-111 or GEO-120 recommended. Spring semester, even years.

236 Urban Geography (1 course) This course explores the setting in which more than half of the world’s people live—the city. Throughout history, urban areas have been the centers of economic, political, and cultural life. Further, many of the world’s critical issues—social polarization, economic restructuring, environmental degradation, traffic congestion, and poverty—are concentrated in urban areas. In short, cities are complex and vibrant phenomena shaped by conflicting economic and cultural processes. This course examines the forces that give rise to cities and shape their internal spatial patterns. Prerequisite: GEG-101 recommended. SOSCI, Fall semester.

238 Global Migration (1 course) The course explores geographical issues related to migration and globalization. The course is based on recent theoretical contributions within the subfield of the geography of migration. Globalization processes and changes in national states have significance for migrants in our time. The course discusses issues related to multiculturalism, transnationalism, religion, neoliberal political trends, and populism. The course also covers various aspects of international migration like migration flows (including labor migration), irregularity, citizenship, and ethnic identity. Prerequisite: GEG-101 or GEG-102 recommended. GLOBL, Spring semester.

240 Fundamentals of 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.

242 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-101 or 102. WRITD, Fall semester.

243 Hydrology and Water Resources (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. Fall semester, even years.

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 Surface Processes (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 Environment 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. Spring semester.

309 Geographies of Peace and Violence (1 course) This course explores the social, political, economic, and geographical dimensions of peace and violence across a variety of contexts. Students will examine the spatial dimensions of the drug trade, riots and revolts, urban crime, war, and other conflicts. Likewise, peace efforts prevention, mediation, diplomacy, adaptation) can be successful if specific geographic conditions are met, such as inclusion and access to public spaces, lack of spatial segregation, access to resources, and reduced world inequality. At the end, students will have a deep appreciation for the centrality of space in explaining violence and for advancing social justice struggles. Prerequisites: GEG-215 and/or PCS-211 is recommended prior to enrollment in this course. Spring semester, odd years.

325 Glaciers in a Warming World (1 course) Glaciers play a critical role in the Earth’s climate system, and serve as essential water sources for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. In our rapidly warming world, these spectacular rivers of ice are shrinking nearly everywhere they exist on the planet, and the environmental and social consequences of these changes are a significant concern for the decades ahead. In this course, glacier change and its consequences create the framework for an intensive research capstone experience in which students incorporate geographic research methods and theory to identify and address a real-world problem or question. Prerequisite: GEG-242, or similar course, is recommended and GEG-105, GEO-111, or GEG-125, also recommended, Spring semester, even years.

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, GEG-242, or similar course, is recommended, or permission of instructor. Spring semester, odd years.

343 Problem-Solving Using Geographic Information Systems (1 course) This course introduces students to advanced GIS concepts and the application of GIS theories to a variety of geographic and environmental topics and case studies. The course builds upon GIS fundamentals introduced in GEG-240 by focusing on problem-solving in topical areas such as hydrology, demographics, land use, and land cover change. Cutting-edge GIS concepts will be explored through laboratory exercises, while a semester project allows students to apply GIS concepts to a discipline or area of interest of their choosing. Pre-requisite: GEG-240, Spring semester.

345 Remote Sensing of the Environment (1 course) An introduction to how we map, monitor, and understand the bio-physical world as observed from afar through remote sensing techniques. Remote sensing is a 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 the fundamentals of acquiring, analyzing and interpreting data from satellite-based remote sensing systems. Through readings, discussions and computer lab work, students will gain an understanding of the possibilities—and limitations—of remote sensing for observing earth. Prerequisite: GEG-240, Fall semester, even years.

350 Political Ecology (1 course) Political ecology studies the role of power in environmental issues: how ecosystems, land use, and environmental change are products of political, social, and economic processes operating at various geographic scales. Who benefits and who loses from environmental change? Who has access to environmental resources? How do communities respond when constrained by broader contexts? We examine these issues in global and local contexts with a particular emphasis on agriculture. In this course, political ecology creates the framework for an intensive research capstone experience in which students incorporate geographic research methods and theory to identify and address a real-world problem or question. Prerequisite: GEG-242, or similar course, and GEG-250 are recommended, Fall semester, odd years.

268, 368 Career Exploration, Internship (Course value to be determined) Off-campus employment experience in a 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. Fall and Spring semesters.

399 Research in Geography (1 course) This course offers students an immersion into an emerging area of contemporary geography. Specific topics will vary each year, with focus shifting between subfields in human, human-environment, physical and geospatial geography depending upon the interests and expertise of the instructor. All courses will emphasize critical analysis, scholarly research, and professional communication. Students will produce an original research product and will be encouraged to present their work at a scholarly conference or other external forum. Prerequisite: GEG-101, GEG-102, or EG-105 and GEG-242 or a similar research methods course. Open to junior and senior majors, others with permission of instructor. Fall or Spring semester.