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Geography (GEOG)

Chair: P. Scull

The discipline of geography bridges perspectives in the social and natural sciences. In addition to deepening knowledge of biophysical and social change processes in their own right, diverse methodological approaches uncover the relationships between humans and natural and social environments. Students are exposed to the full spectrum of disciplinary subfields—physical, human, and nature-society geography as well as geographical techniques. They use integrative explanatory frameworks to grapple with critical areas of inquiry: the geopolitics of conflict, climate science, biogeographies of endangered species, public health, urban planning, disaster mitigation, international development, environmental and social justice, and natural resource management, among them. In exploring these themes, geography students move beyond passive knowledge consumption and toward the production of knowledge, applying their skills and perspectives through collaborative work with faculty, fellow students, and members of the wider community. Each of the introductory courses offered by the Department of Geography addresses aspects of these themes. Descriptions of introductory courses can be found in the University Catalogue, or for courses available to first-years in the fall, refer to the bottom of this page.

The major provides a good foundation for graduate work or future employment in both the private and public sectors. Recent graduates have pursued graduate study and/or careers in geography, environmental science, alternative energy resources, population studies, international development, public health, public policy, urban planning, architecture, forestry, meteorology, environmental law, land-use planning, and an array of business applications.


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FSEM 181, Earth, Society, Sustainability
Faculty Profile for Professor Klepeis

People have always modified nature, but the scale of environmental change over the last 300 years is unprecedented. Many scholars now refer to the industrial age as the anthropocene; akin to a geologic force, society now has the capacity to alter the very structure and function of the biosphere. Drawing on environmental history, multidisciplinary nature-society research, and case studies from around the world, students investigate a broad range of environmental issues – including tropical deforestation, natural resource consumption, and the global food system. Students are pressed to question their assumptions about resource use and environmental change dynamics, and consider how society should shape future environments. Is sustainable development possible? Along with films, discussion, role-playing, lectures, and a diverse mix of scholarly and popular press readings, students will engage the subject via Jim Sterba’s Nature Wars and Mark Whitehead’s Environmental Transformations. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive course credit for GEOG 121 and satisfy one half of Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Peter Klepeis is a professor of geography. He conducts research about people and the environment in many far-flung places, including the Adirondack State Park, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mexico, Chile, and Australia.

FSEM 184, Geographies of Nature,Econ,Soc
Faculty Profile for Professor Meyer

Many Americans are unfamiliar with geography as an advanced academic discipline. This course acquaints students with the approaches and subject matter of its social-science branches, human and nature-society geography. Geography’s longstanding central concerns distinguish it from other fields; these concerns include spatial location and patterns (“the why of where”), the nature and significance of places, and the interactions of human society and the natural world. To answer questions that arise in these areas, geographers employ such ways of knowing as spatial representation and analysis, integrative cross-disciplinary synthesis, and attention to the ways in which space and environment are not merely physical realities but socially constituted as well. This course will show how geographers use these perspectives and tools to study crucial issues that include patterns of human well-being and inequality across the world, economic and sociocultural globalization, population growth and movement, human impacts on the environment, and the challenges of sustainable development in the Anthropocene. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit from GEOG 211 and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

William Meyer, Associate Professor of Geography, teaches and researches such topics as the role of cities in environmental change, urban residential patterns, the environmental history of the United States, and the history of geographic and environmental thought.

FSEM 187, Geographies of Human Rights
Faculty Profile for Professor Hays-Mitchell

Interest in the protection of human rights has expanded steadily since the end of World War II. Yet despite the laws, institutions, and movements organized around the protection of human rights, widespread and systematic violations continue. In this seminar, we will explore specific cases in order to understand the local, national and global contexts of human rights. Case studies will further allow us to examine social and legal responses to human rights abuses, particularly the activities of truth commissions and international courts, as well as address contemporary debates regarding such pressing issues as violence and power, memory and history, trauma and testimony, recovery and reconciliation. We will also identify new challenges to traditional conceptualizations of human rights posed by issues such as climate change, conservation, disasters, displacement, and poverty. Because this is a vast subject, we will ground our seminar in the landscapes of terror and hope of Latin America and move to other world regions to examine unique cases of human rights violations, prosecution and/or reconciliation. Research projects (organized in a series of stages) may address the subject of human rights in any region of the world. This seminar is reading, discussion and research oriented. Students who successfully complete this seminar will receive credit for a 100-level GEOG course and satisfy one half of the Social Relations, Institutions, and Agents area of inquiry requirement.

Maureen Hays-Mitchell is a human geographer who studies the social geography of political violence in the Global South, with particular focus on Latin America. Currently, she is exploring the gendered dimensions of memory and memorialization in the reconciliation process of post-conflict Peru as well as initiatives to address the legacy of gender-based violence.

GEOG 105, Climate and Society
Human-induced climate change--global warming--is the defining environmental and social issue of our times. That people are dramatically altering the climate is now the resounding consensus in the scientific community. Potential short- and long-term impacts include biodiversity loss, sea-level rise and coastal flooding, more intense storms, threats to human health, and disruptions of freshwater supplies and food security. But while the global community increasingly understands the basic processes driving climate change, and is starting to appreciate the consequences of a warmer world, the coupled social and biophysical dynamics of global warming are complex and the issue remains controversial. This course explores climate-society relationships in industrial and pre-industrial periods, and considers the multifaceted natural and human dimensions of global warming. It also highlights the integrative natural and social science modes of analysis commonly used in the discipline of geography.

GEOG 107, Is the Planet Doomed?
"End of the world" scenarios have been linked to global pandemics, super-volcanoes, artificial intelligence, and melting permafrost. "Is the Planet Doomed" uses these and other examples to study contemporary catastrophism. The course explores arguments that suggest the world may have reached "peak humanity." Potential mass extinction events arise from the convergence of biological, climatic, economic, technological factors on one hand, and war on the other. The course analyzes these factors using the integrative modes of analysis commonly used in the discipline of geography. And it exposes how geography affects the catastrophic imaginary.

GEOG 231, Geog of Physical Enviroment
Provides students with a general understanding of the processes and spatial distribution of the Earth's primary physical systems and the ways in which humans interact with these systems. Course emphasis is divided into three areas: atmospheric processes, the spatial dynamics of vegetation and soils, and landform development. Students are introduced to the basic physical processes and interactions that operate within each of these categories, with special focus on the ways in which these factors relate to contemporary environmental problems.