Geography literally means to write (graphia) about the earth (geo). The discipline of geography therefore studies the earth and how it is impacted by humans. As scholars working in an integrative and holistic discipline, geographers examine earth systems, the interactions between human societies and their physical environments, the spatial dimensions of social processes, and methods for researching analyzing, and visualizing these varied fields. Within the field of geography, scholars therefore examine questions such as why hurricanes are becoming stronger, how coastal cities might adapt to the effects of climate change, the social and environmental impacts of rapid urbanization, how rural farmers in developing countries are integrated in the global economy and how we can use geographical information systems to analyze, map and communicate our understandings of spatial processes. As our world becomes more inter-twined and turbulent, the need to examine and understand emerging relations between humans and the earth is the concern of geography. Whether it be the relationships between climate and environment, geopolitics and economic production, or satellite imaging and ice melt, geography is one of the few disciplines that seeks to understand the complexities of life on earth.
Clark’s School of Geography is the oldest sustained program of geography in the United States. The program is renowned for fostering a culture of innovation that has made it a key site for the development of new topical fields and geographic technologies. Our faculty and students were pioneers in fields as diverse as human-environment, risk-hazards, critical geography, animal geographies and feminist geography. This history of innovation is further reflected in our standing as the only program of geography to have five of its members elected to the National Academy of Sciences and five to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The School has awarded more Ph.D.s in geography than any other program in the United States. The National Research Council ranked Clark Geography’s doctoral program among the top five US geography programs in 2011. It was the only geography department in the ranking’s top 10 that is located in a liberal arts, student contact intensive research university.
Special facilities available to students include the Jeanne X. Kasperson Research Library at the George Perkins Marsh Institute, the Guy H. Burnham Map and Aerial Photograph Library, the Clark Labs for Cartographic Technologies and Geographic Analysis, and Earth System Science teaching and research laboratories in Polar Science, Forest Ecology, and Terrestrial Ecosystem Physiology.
The geography major aims to (a) give students a foundational training in the core areas of geography and (b) equip students with a specialized set of skills tailored to their specific interests. The core areas of geography are covered by the School of Geography’s four concentrations: “Earth Systems Science”, “Nature-Society”, “Globalization, Cities and Development” and “Geographic Information Science”. Students take foundational courses in each of these clusters before designing their specialization in consultation with their faculty advisor. All Geography majors must take a minimum of 11 courses within the School of Geography. Students may select their four specialization courses within the School’s concentrations or between them. This might see students building an expertise in cities, economies, forests or geographical information systems, to name just a few potential areas. But students will specialize as geographers: as people who see the connections, have the intellectual capacities to build complex understandings and have developed critical thinking capacities. The major prepares students for a varied set of careers, depending on their specialization and/or interests. These might include: environmental scientist, urban policy maker, GIS analyst, NGO consultant, forest manager and financial analyst.
The geography minor aims to (a) give students a foundational training in a selection of the core areas of geography and (b) equip students with a specialized set of skills tailored to their specific interests. The core areas of geography are covered by the School of Geography’s four concentrations: “Earth Systems Science”, “Nature-Society”, “Globalization, Cities and Development” and “Geographic Information Science”. Students who are to attain a minor in geography are required to take two core courses. The decision about which core areas to select should be taken in consultation with your faculty advisor. After completing the core courses, students are required to take three specialization courses, one skills course and one elective. Students may select their three specialization courses within the School’s concentrations or between them. This might see students building an expertise in cities, economies, forests or geographical information systems, to name just a few potential areas. But students will specialize as a geographer: as people who see the connections, have the intellectual capacities to build complex understandings and have developed critical thinking capacities. The minor in geography can help prepare you for a varied set of careers, depending on their major and specialization and/or interests.
For more information, please visit the Geography Department’s website.
The Clark Advantage
Clark’s School of Geography has a global reputation for research excellence and scholarly innovation. Our undergraduate program is designed to incorporate students into this culture, providing them with training that will equip them to succeed in the most demanding vocational and academic settings.
Geography majors, Global Environmental Studies (GES) majors, and Environmental Science (ES) majors concentrating in Earth System Science (ESS) have the opportunity to work on research projects with faculty members and graduate students in one of the most prestigious graduate programs of geography worldwide. Students have the opportunity to become involved in cutting-edge research with internationally recognized faculty on topics that include ecosystem-climate interactions, arctic science, forest ecology, urban change, land use change, global development and food systems. Summer Fellowships are available for qualified students to participate in the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, an intensive summer academic-year research effort focused on environmental change in New England. Eligible majors also have the opportunity to enter the accelerated M.S. in GIScience program. Other accelerated M.A. programs followed by our majors include International Development and Social Change, Environmental Science and Policy, and Community Development and Planning.
Geography, GES, and ESS undergraduates are served by the Clark University Geography Association (CUGA) and Gamma Theta Upsilon, an international geographic honors society. CUGA is the voice of Geography, GES, and ESS majors, with student representation on the undergraduate studies committee and the opportunity to attend departmental meetings. CUGA representatives are able to vote at department meetings and give their ideas and opinions on various topics that concern undergraduate majors. They also attend field trips and host events, such as The CUGA Annual Peter Condakes Address on Practicing Geography. Gamma Theta Upsilon is an international honor society. In order to become members, initiates must have completed a minimum of three geography courses and have a GPA within the top 35% of all eligible students. For more information on Gamma Theta Upsilon please see their official website.
Students majoring in Geography must take 11 Geography courses in accordance with the following guidelines, as stated in the Guide to the Major.
Four Core Courses
Core courses emphasize core geographic concepts and ways of creating knowledge; courses in the core are designed to help build frameworks for understanding the world. Students select one core course from each of the following four broad disciplinary core areas:
1. Nature and Society:
Analyzes the ways that human societies have used, shaped, and constructed nature; impacts of societies, economies, and cultures on ecological systems; and societal and environmental consequences of the interaction.
Core courses in Nature-Society:
2. Globalization, Cities and Development:
Examines the ways that space and location shape economic, sociopolitical, and cultural life; ways that economic, sociopolitical, and cultural factors shape space and location; relationships between these processes and the dynamics of urban life.
Core courses in Globalization, Cities and Development:
3. Earth System Science:
Earth System Science uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the complex, interacting physical and biological components of the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere and oceans. It places an emphasis on observing, understanding and predicting global environmental changes.
Core courses in Earth System Science:
4. Geographic Information Science.
Geographic Information Science is concerned with the acquisition, analysis, and communication of geographic information and with principles and techniques important in cartography, remote sensing, geographic information systems, and spatial analysis.
Core courses in Geographic Information Science:
One Skills Course
Skills courses give you the opportunity to acquire and apply research, literacy, numeracy, and mapping skills for generating and interpreting knowledge. Our goal is for students to become critical thinkers and to have an understanding of how knowledge is created. This course must be approved by the Advisor via a signature on the Worksheet and Learning Plan for majors. Skills courses must be either offered by the Geography Department or offered by other departments with a Geography attribute.
Geography Skills Courses:
Four Specialization Courses
Specialization courses are a collection of courses that form a coherent combination as judged by the Advisor as indicated by the Advisor’s signature on the Worksheet and Learning Plan. Specialization courses give you an opportunity to explore a specific subject area in depth. Majors are required to take four specialization courses, at least three of which must be at a 200-level. Specialization courses must be either offered by the Geography Department or offered by other departments with a Geography attribute. (An attribute is a characteristic that the registrar uses to make a course appear on the course listings of the attributed department.) We advise but do not require you to take the four Core Courses and the Research Methods course before taking specialization courses, because the specialization courses apply skills in research and problem solving. The Geography Department allows students to perform an internship for credit that can count as 200-level specialization course, upon approval of the advisor.
Geography 141 Research Design and Methods is required for the major. We advise you to complete this course before taking 200-level courses in geography. Research Methods is offered at least once per year.
Comparable courses in other departments can be substituted for the Geography Research Methods course with the approval of the Advisor. However, this does not reduce the total number of Geography courses required for the major. Thus majors for whom a substitution has been granted will need to take an additional Geography course to ensure that a total of 11 Geography courses are taken.
One Capstone credit is required for the major. To meet the Capstone requirement, the student must earn a 200-level credit that relates to the student’s specialization that includes at least one of the following:
1. A graduate level course as indicated by a combined 200/300 level status
2. Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) or Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL) or Polaris
3. Directed Study with a faculty advisor
5. Honors thesis
6. Public Presentation, including academic spree day
7. Research Experience
The student’s Advisor is the judge to determine whether any particular credit satisfies the capstone criterion. The Advisor will make the judgment based on the purpose of the capstone, which is for the student to integrate content and skills in Geography, as applied to a particular topic. The student must obtain the Advisors’ permission on the Capstone Form at the back of this guide, and then deliver the form to the Undergraduate Program Assistant before beginning the qualifying activity and before registration for the 200-level credit. Upon completion of the Capstone credit, the student must obtain on the Capstone Form the permission of the professor who awards the Capstone credit, and then submit the form to the Undergraduate Program Assistant.
Worksheet, Learning Plan, and Learning Synopsis
Each student is required to prepare a formal Worksheet and Learning Plan upon declaring a major or minor in Geography, and each major is required to complete a Learning Synopsis by the second week of their final semester. Students may use the forms in the back of the Guide to the Major.
All majors must complete 11 Geography courses in accordance with the plan described in the Guide to the Major, even when they have a second major. Two credits at most can count simultaneously for a first and second major. University rules that dictate Double majors are in the University’s Blue Book.
A training Clark’s School of Geography aims to (a) give students a foundational training in the core areas of geography and (b) equip students with a specialized set of skills tailored to their specific interests. The core areas of geography are covered by the School of Geography’s four concentrations: “Earth Systems Science”, “Nature-Society”, “Globalization, Cities and Development” and “Geographic Information Science”. Students take foundational courses in each of these clusters before designing their specialization in consultation with their faculty advisor. Students may specialize within the School’s concentrations or between them. This might see students building an expertise in cities, economies, forests or geographical information systems, to name just a few potential areas. But students will specialize as a geographer: as people who see the connections, have the intellectual capacities to build complex understandings and have developed critical thinking capacities. Training in Clark’s School of Geography can prepare you for a varied set of careers, depending on your specialization and/or interests. These might include: environmental scientist, urban policy maker, GIS analyst, NGO consultant, forest manager and financial analyst.
The honors program in geography provides qualified students majoring in Geography and in Global Environmental Studies an opportunity to conduct a major independent research project on a topic of interest.
- Complete a two-semester independent honors project (thesis) or counterpart in accepted “selective” program, as determined by the Advisor, the final product of which is evaluated by a Honors Committee.
- Present a poster or paper related to the honors project at Academic Spree Day or at a relevant professional meeting.
- Project must be supervised by a Geography faculty member and one additional faculty member; the two members constitute the student’s Honors Committee.
Program Candidate Qualifications
- Open to juniors with a minimum GPA of 3.25 overall and 3.5 GPA in the geography major by the end of first semester of the junior year, and who demonstrate the appropriate research background to undertake independent geographic research.
- Honors participants should have taken GEOG141 Research Methods, or its equivalent, before entering the program.
Applying for Honors
- Notification of eligibility and information about the program is forwarded to all junior students in November of the junior year.
- Students wishing to start their honors project in the spring semester of the junior year must notify the undergraduate program assistant by December 15. Those students wishing to start their honors project in the fall semester of their senior year must notify the undergraduate program assistant by March 15.
- Acceptance to the Honors Program is considered provisional until grades for the fall semester of the junior year are received. If these grades enable the student to continue meeting the GPA standards described above, she/he becomes formally accepted to the program.
- Honors students register for GEOG297 Directed Research (Honors), or IDND 299 Directed Research (HERO) for two semesters -spring/fall of the junior-senior year or fall/spring of the senior year.
Details of the honors program in geography are available in the undergraduate section of The Graduate School of Geography’s web page.
Geography Faculty and Staff
Yuko Aoyama, Ph.D.
Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
Dominik Kulakowski, Ph.D.
Deborah Martin, Ph.D.
James McCarthy, Ph.D.
James T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Richard Peet, Ph.D.
Colin Polsky, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Christopher A. Williams, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Geoghegan, Ph.D.
Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.
Robert Kates, Ph.D.
Susan Hanson, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor Emerita
Roger Kasperson, Ph.D.
B. L. Turner, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Professor
Martyn Bowden, Ph.D.
Douglas Johnson, Ph.D.
Gerald Karaska, Ph.D.
Duane S. Knos, Ph.D.
William A. Koelsch, Ph.D.
Laurence A. Lewis, Ph.D.
Robert Mitchell, Ph.D.
Henry J. Steward, Ph.D.
Florencia Sangermano, Ph.D.
Jean Heffernan, Assistant to the Director
Brenda Nikas-Hayes, Graduate Program Administrator
TBD, Undergraduate Program Coordinator
Rachel Levitt, Office Coordinator
Hilary Laraba, Managing Editor, Economic Geography
Beverly Presley, A.M.L.S., Map and Geography Librarian