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Geography

Department Overview

408A Smith

Geography is about the relationship between people and the environment. It provides important insights into the spatial transformations associated with globalization, environmental change, migration, health, development, and many other contemporary processes. The Department of Geography has a strong commitment to social justice and public scholarship, and provides a rich undergraduate experience for those who are passionate about exploring our world and understanding the social and spatial processes that shape it.

Geography seeks to understand the complex processes that result in the patterns, trends, and impacts of urbanization, migration, trade, and development. Geographers use interviews, statistical analysis, databases, scholarly research, and observation to construct models, maps, and other tools for understanding.

Undergraduate Program

Advisers
415 A & B Smith, Box 353550
(206) 543-3246

The Department of Geography offers the following programs of study:

  • Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in geography
  • A minor in geography

Students may choose from among four multifaceted tracks (Cities, Citizenship, and Migration; Environment, Economy, and Sustainability; Globalization, Health, and Development; and GIS, Mapping, and Society), or customize their own hybrid focus along more thematic or issue-driven lines, such as inequality, race/class/gender studies, etc. Lists of courses in each track may be found at depts.washington.edu/geog/program-details/.

For an overview of main faculty research themes and how they relate to these tracks, visit depts.washington.edu/geog/research-themes.html.

Bachelor of Arts

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: Any 100- or 200-level GEOG course. Courses that develop strong writing, analytical, and qualitative- and quantitative-reasoning skills. Geography is inherently interdisciplinary, so exposure to many social science fields of study in the first two years is ideal.

Department Admission Requirements

Students in good academic standing may declare this major at any time.

Major Requirements

60 credits as follows:

  1. Foundations (30 credits): See departmental adviser for approved track courses.
    1. GEOG 315
    2. One methods course from the following: GEOG 317, GEOG 326, GEOG 425, GEOG 426, or faculty approved methods course
    3. One Cities, Citizenship, and Migration Track course (5 credits)
    4. One Environment, Economy, and Sustainability Track course (5 credits)
    5. One Globalization, Health, and Development Track course (5 credits)
    6. One GIS, Mapping, and Society Track course (5 credits)
  2. Track (20 credits): See departmental adviser for approved track courses. Students may choose from among four tracks (Cities, Citizenship, and Migration; Environment, Economy, and Sustainability; Globalization, Health, and Development; and GIS, Mapping, and Society), or customize their own hybrid focus along more thematic or issue-driven lines, such as inequality, race/class/gender studies, etc. See adviser for details. Four upper-division (300- and 400-level) geography courses are required for this concentration, at least two of which must be at the 400 level.
  3. Electives (10 credits): GEOG electives at the 200 level or above; 300- and 400-level courses preferred.
  4. Additional Degree Conditions and Program Features
    1. Transfer students must complete a minimum of 25 upper-division credits (300 and 400 level) in geography in residence at the University of Washington.
    2. Individual geography course grades must be 2.0 or above to count toward major requirements; overall 2.50 GPA in geography courses counted toward the major required.
    3. Students are encouraged to take appropriate elective courses outside the Geography Department in fields that support their track. Courses appropriate to various tracks are available on lists supplied by geography advisers, or may be recommended by the faculty adviser. Students should be aware that 300- and 400-level courses in other departments likely have prerequisites.
    4. 5 credits of internship (GEOG 496) or independent study (GEOG 499) may apply toward the required 60 credits.
    5. No single course may be counted toward more than one degree requirement.
    6. Upon completion of the degree, the department confers a departmental certificate indicating proficiency in the track area.

Minor

Minor Requirements: 30 credits in geography, including 15 upper-division geography credits with at least 5 credits at the 400 level. No more than 5 credits applied to the minor may be from 100-level classes. Independent learning and internship credits (GEOG 494, GEOG 496, GEOG 497, GEOG 499) may not be counted as part of the 30 credits. A minimum grade of 2.0 for each course counted toward the minor. At least 15 credits of upper-division geography courses must be taken at the UW.

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: The study of geography emphasizes both technical and critical thinking skills. Geographers' skill sets include the ability to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to produce maps; advanced technical skills in statistical analysis; the ability to use census and other demographic data; sophistication in locating data and interpreting it to help make an argument; sophistication in visual techniques for displaying data, including maps, charts, and graphs; advanced use of such software as spreadsheets, relational data bases, and Web page design; and the ability to present multiple models of land-use patterns for analysis in environmental and economic decision making. Graduates have pursued careers as urban planners, environmental planners and land-use analysts, GIS analysts, economic analysts (marketing, location, geo-demographics), public health researchers, NGO specialists in developing nations, airline route analysts, import-export/international-trade specialists, real estate valuation specialists, economic development specialists, social studies teachers, and college professors.
  • Instructional and Research Facilities: A map center in Suzzallo Library houses atlases, sheet maps, and aerial photographs. Departmental facilities include the Edward L. Ullman Geography Collaboratory and the John C. Sherman Laboratory, which houses a variety of computer workstations connected to the campus computer network. The Ullman Collaboratory in 415 Smith provides a unique collaborative classroom with networked computer work stations. The Geography Commons also provides computer work stations for students. The Department of Geography is a member of the Center for Social Science Computation and Research, which maintains an extensive data archive and offers many statistical and software consulting services.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: More than 125 geography students participate each year in internships. For lists of these opportunities, see the department's career site.
  • Department Scholarships: None offered.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: The Undergraduate Geography Association (UGA) organizes field trips, alumni career panels, public-service projects, and social gatherings.

Of Special Note: Students planning to study economic, transportation, or urban geography are advised to take ECON 200, ECON 201 as early as possible. For those interested in international or area studies, foreign-language competence (i.e., at a level sufficient to be useful for elective, course-related reading and research) is highly desirable (Russian, Chinese, or Spanish). A working knowledge of a region's or nation's history, landscapes (including physical, urban, and cultural), and current role in world economics and politics is also of great benefit. Students interested in GIS are encouraged to learn a high-level programming language such as C, C++, Java, or Visual Basic.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
415B Smith, Box 353550
206-543-3246

The Department of Geography has flexible programs of graduate study leading to the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The aspirant to the master's degree is expected to complete all work for the degree in four to six quarters. The aspirant to the doctoral degree is expected to undertake two years of post-master's study and must take a departmental diagnostic examination upon entry, pass the general examination, attain an appropriate level of competence in a foreign language or cognate field, and successfully complete a dissertation. Normally, doctoral program students complete all degree requirements in three to four years.

Master of Arts

Admission Requirements

Admission to the graduate program normally requires a minimum GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale), or "B." Students holding a master's degree must meet this minimum scholastic requirement, but also should have achieved a GPA higher than 3.00 for graduate studies completed. All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination. Specific information regarding application procedures may be obtained by writing to the Graduate Program Adviser.

Degree Requirements

45 credits, to include:

  1. GEOG 512 (5)
  2. One of the following 400-level courses in analytical methods: GEOG 425 (5), GEOG 426 (5), GEOG 440 (5), GEOG 460 (5), GEOG 461 (5), or GEOG 471 (5).
  3. At least three quarters of GEOG 598 (1, max. 3), the departmental colloquium, usually taken during the first year in the program
  4. GEOG 597 (2). At the conclusion of GEOG 597, the student must write a revised statement of academic objectives.
  5. The completion of at least two departmental research seminars numbered 500 and above, but not including GEOG 502, GEOG 512, GEOG 513, GEOG 515 or other non-specialized seminars.
  6. Remaining credits to be determined in consultation with adviser.

Master in Geographic Information Systems

The Professional Master's Program in Geographic Information Systems (PMP-GIS) helps working professionals enter or advance their careers in the field of geographic information science and sustainability management. PMP-GIS prepares students to understand and apply geographic information systems (GIS) to solve complex problems in a wide range of disciplines. Students learn to combine geovisualization, data management and geospatial analysis to develop, examine and portray data in two- and three- dimensional maps. Specialized program courses explore sustainability and investigate the interconnection of social, environmental and economic issues on a regional to global scale.

Admissions Requirements

  1. A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in the United States, or its equivalent from a foreign institution, in a spatially-oriented discipline such as, but not limited to, geography, urban planning, geology, environmental science, civil engineering, environmental science/studies, and/or forest resources.
  2. Minimum 3.00 GPA in the last 60 graded semester hours or last 90 graded quarter hours of undergraduate and graduate study.
  3. At least one year of professional work experience in a field that emphasizes spatial relationships, wherein analyzing and synthesizing phenomena related across space are important parts of the work.
  4. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.
  5. A personal statement describing educational goals and objectives.
  6. Three letters of recommendation.
  7. Previous coursework or work experience in GIS is advantageous and is considered as a way to offset any relative weaknesses in some of the previous criteria.
  8. International Applicants: The UW Graduate School requires every applicant whose native language is not English to demonstrate English language proficiency. See Graduate School Memorandum #8 and English proficiency tests comparison tables for the university's policy.

Degree Requirements

The PMP-GIS is a nine-course program primarily designed for part-time students. Each course is 5 credits and students must earn 45 credits to graduate. It is a non-thesis program, but the capstone course involves a final project.

Because this unique program combines GIS with sustainability management, the curriculum is developed to teach students how to address complex geographic information problems with GIS technologies, and create solutions that balance economic, social and environmental issues at local and global scales. Graduates will appreciate tradeoffs among human, financial and physical resource constraints when creating solutions.

Core courses expose students to the fundamentals of GIS software technologies and advanced spatial thinking skills. Concentration courses in sustainability management consider how resources are being treated currently and how they will be treated for future generations.

Most courses are taught online; however, students are required to attend three, three-day summer sessions in Seattle.

Courses: GEOG 514, GEOG 517, GEOG 560, GEOG 562, GEOG 564, GEOG 565, GEOG 568, GEOG 569, GEOG 582

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

Admission to the graduate program normally requires a minimum GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale), or "B." Students holding a master's degree must meet this minimum scholastic requirement, but also should have achieved a GPA higher than 3.00 for graduate studies completed. All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination. Specific information regarding application procedures may be obtained by writing to the graduate program adviser.

Degree Requirements

90 credits, to include:

  1. Core requirements:
    1. GEOG 515 (5). Post-master's students who have not previously completed a course on the history of geographic thought (GEOG 512) must complete such a course before taking GEOG 515.
    2. At least three quarters of GEOG 598 (1, max. 3), the departmental colloquium, usually taken during the first year in the program
    3. GEOG 597. At the conclusion of GEOG 597, the student must write a revised statement of academic objectives.
    4. Two of the following 400-level courses in analytical methods: GEOG 425 (5), GEOG 426 (5), GEOG 440 (5), GEOG 460 (5), GEOG 461 (5), or GEOG 471 (5).
    5. Entering post-master's students who have already completed one of these courses or their equivalents need complete only one additional analytical methods course, subject to the approval of the Graduate Program Coordinator.
    6. The completion of at least two departmental research seminars numbered 500 and above, but not including GEOG 502, GEOG 512, GEOG 513, GEOG 515 or other non-specialized seminars. This requirement may be satisfied if the two seminars were taken while earning an M.A. degree in this program.
    7. Submission of a scholarly article to a professionally-reviewed academic journal; or successful application for research support from external agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Ford Foundation, or the Fulbright Commission. Additional writing credits may be earned by registering for GEOG 599. The publication may be jointly authored with a faculty member or other graduate student.
  2. A minimum grade of 3.0 must be earned in all geography courses, and a grade of 2.7 or higher must be obtained in all courses in related fields used to satisfy the doctoral degree credit requirement.
  3. Evidence of reading competence in one foreign language, or a sound level of competence in one cognate field of concentration as determined by the student's Supervisory Committee.
  4. A departmental written and oral preliminary examination, normally by the end of the third quarter in residence. Post-master's students seeking entry into the Ph.D. program must take the departmental preliminary examination during their first year of enrollment. The preliminary examination, or designated parts, may be retaken once.
  5. Successful completion of a Graduate School general examination, normally held at the end of two years (six quarters) of study. The Supervisory Committee examines the student's qualifications and competency to undertake dissertation research, and evaluates the student's general training in geography and in the field of specialization. Normally, the oral examination is preceded by a written examination.
  6. Preparation and acceptance by the Dean of the Graduate School of a dissertation. The candidate is expected to register for a minimum of 27 credits of dissertation (GEOG 800) over a period of at least three quarters.

Financial Aid

The department usually awards approximately 15 to 20 teaching assistantships for the academic year. Most of the assistantships are for teaching quiz sections for a larger lecture class. A few of the more advanced doctoral candidates may teach a class. Normally several research assistantships are also available. In recent years, approximately 85 percent of the department's graduate students have been funded by internal or external sources.