2018-2019 Academic Catalog 
    May 24, 2024  
2018-2019 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geography Major

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Geography Overview

Geography is the science of place, space, and environment. Each place on earth is distinguished by a unique mix of natural resources, cultural practices, and economic and political systems. Geographers study what makes each place unique, and the connections and interactions between places.

With its highly ranked graduate and undergraduate programs, Clark University is one of the best places in the world to study Geography. As an undergraduate student, you will have the opportunity to work with nationally and internationally known faculty to examine why places are different, how those differences shape how we live, and how we in turn shape our environment. The Geography major and minor at Clark are set up in such a way to give the student a broad understanding of physical and human elements that comprise this field of study.

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.



Undergraduate Program

Geographers use the perspectives of place and space to address societal and environmental challenges.

Why are things located where they are? What makes societies and biophysical environments different from place to place? How does location affect access to the things all species need to survive and flourish?

As a geography major, students use the concepts of place and space to better understand the physical and social processes that shape our planet. Students explore why places are different; the economic, political and cultural systems that connect us locally, regionally and globally; and how we shape-and in turn are shaped by-our environment.

Areas of Expertise

Clark’s Geography program is generally and broadly broken down into the following four sub-fields:

  • Human Environmental Geography
  • Urban Economic Geography
  • Earth System Science
  • Geographic Information Science

Students will take courses and explore each of these areas throughout their time in the program.

For more information, please visit the Geography Department’s website.

The Clark Advantage

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. 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 masters programs 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 Undergratuate 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 annual Practicing Geography Week.

Gamma Theta Upsilon is an international honor society. In order to become a member, initiates must have completed a minimum of three geography courses, have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.3, and have completed at least three semesters of college course work. For more information on Gamma Theta Upsilon please see their official website.

Major Requirements

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 fundamental geographic concepts over four distinct areas of study.  Courses in the core are designed to build frameworks for understanding the earth, space, and place in a physical and human context.

We strongly encourage students to take the core courses early in your program, not only because it will provide a more thorough understanding of the different areas of study in Geography, but also because core courses are often prerequisites for 200-level courses.

Majors must select at least one course from each of the following four core areas. Minors must select at least two courses from any of the following four core areas.

  • Human Environmental Geography (also referred to as Nature Society)
  • Urban Economic Geography (also referred to as Globalization, Cities and Development)
  • Earth System Science (ESS)
  • Geographic Information Science (GIS)

1. Human Environmental Core

(Also referred to as Nature 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. Examples of research and practice: environmental policy and practice, food systems, agriculture, animal geographies, international development, natural resource extraction, water resource management, socio-environmental movements and conflicts, sustainability, land use, vulnerability, environmental change, resilience, hazards, and more.

2. Urban Economic Core

(Also referred to as 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; and relationships between these processes and the dynamics of urban life.  Examples of research and practice: socio-spatial dynamics of cities, economies, and industries, theories and discourses of economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship, social movements, legal geographies, place-making processes, critical social theory, urban politics, globalization, sustainability, political ecology, and more.

3. Earth System Science Core

Examines how the Earth system (ecosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere) naturally functions, how these systems interact with one another, and how they are affected by humans. Examples of research and practice: terrestrial ecosystems, global change, surface water, cold-region hydrology, terrestrial and marine biogeochemistry, polar climate change, forest ecology, glaciology, landscape and disturbance ecology, and more.

4. Geographic Information Science (GIS) Core

Examines the acquisition, analysis and communication of geographic information; principles and techniques important in cartography, remote sensing, geographic information systems and spatial analysis. Examples of research and practice: conservation GIS, land change modeling, image time series analysis, image classification, decision support, system development, remote sensing of the cryosphere, remote sensing of forest ecosystems, and more.

One Skills Course

Skills courses give students 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. Skills courses must be either offered by the Geography Department or offered by other departments with a Geography attribute.

Four Specialization Courses

Specialization courses are a collection of courses that form a coherent combination (a collaborative effort between you and your advisor). Specialization courses give you an opportunity to explore a specific subject area in depth. Majors are required to take four specialization courses, three of which must be at a 200-level and one of which may be either at a 100-or 200-level.

It is not a requirement that students determine a specialization within Geography, but it is typically a path followed by many students as they take their core courses and generally become particularly interested in one of the four areas. To specialize in one of the four areas in Geography, students must take their four specialization courses within that subject matter.

For example, if a student wants to specialize in GIS as a Geography major, they would take the following:

  • 4 Core Courses (as normal)
  • 1 Skills Course (GIS related)
  • Research Methods (GEOG 141, as normal)
  • 4 Specialization Courses within the GIS field
  • Capstone (GIS related)

Specializing in a subject area within Geography does not waive the requirement to take a core course in that subject area. All Geography students must take the 4 core courses (1 in each area) to begin, and then they may continue through the major and choose a specialization if they wish to do so.

Research Methods

GEOG 141   is required for all students majoring in Geography. It is advised that you to complete this course before taking 200-level courses in Geography, preferably during your sophomore year (particularly if you plan to study abroad). Research Methods is offered at least once per year, typically in the spring semester.

Comparable courses in other departments may be subject to substitution for the Geography Research Methods course with the approval of the advisor and the Chair of the Undergraduate Studies Committee. 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:

  • Graduate Level Course (as indicated by a combined 200/300 level status)
  • Human Environment Regional Observatory program (HERO/IDND 299)
  • Directed Study with a faculty advisor (GEOG 299)
  • Internship or Research Experience (GEOG 299)
  • Honors Thesis (GEOG 297)

The student’s faculty advisor is the judge to determine whether any particular credit satisfies the capstone criteria. 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 their advisor’s permission on the Capstone Form, and then deliver the form to the Progam Administrator before beginning the qualifying activity and before registration for the credit. This capstone credit should be coded as GEOG (e.g. GEOG 299) unless it is a graduate level course, or otherwise noted/requested by the faculty advisor.

PLEASE NOTE: It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate all processes necessary outside of the departmental requirements (i.e. internship-for-credit registration, and/or any additional forms required by the University).

Upon completion of the Capstone credit, the student must obtain on the Capstone Form the permission of the professor/supervisor who awards the Capstone credit and then submit the form to the Program Administrator.

Double Majoring

All majors must complete 11 Geography courses in accordance with the plan described in the Guide to the Major. Two credits at most can count simultaneously for a first and a second major, subject to the approval of the faculty advisor in each department.

University rules that dictate Double majors are in the University’s Blue Book.


The Honors Program in Geography gives eligible students the opportunity to conduct a major research project. To graduate with honors, a student must complete a two-semester honors project conducted under the supervision of two faculty members: the honors supervisor, and the honors reader. At least one of these faculty members must be a member of the Geography department. Students are encouraged to perform the honors project during the spring semester of the junior year and fall semester of the senior year.

Geography Honors is open to juniors who, by the end of the first semester of the junior year, have a minimum grade point average of 3.25 overall and 3.50 in the Geography major, and can obtain the approval of an honors supervisor and an honors reader.

For full information on the Honors Program, please view the School of Geography’s Guide to Undergraduate Honors. Applications can also be found at the same link.

Additionally, eligible students may choose to join Clark’s chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU), the International Geographical Honors Society. Visit the GTU website to learn more about the benefits of becoming a member.

Geography Faculty and Staff

Program Faculty

Yuko Aoyama, Ph.D.
Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Asha Best, Ph.D.
Youjin Brigitte Chung, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Lyndon Estes, 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.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Ph.D.
Florencia Sangermano, Ph.D.
Christopher A. Williams, Ph.D.

Adjunct Faculty

Edward Carr, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Geoghegan, Ph.D.
Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.

Affiliate Faculty

B. L. Turner, Ph.D., Distinguished Research Professor

Emeriti Faculty

Martyn Bowden, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Susan Hanson, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor Emerita
Douglas Johnson, Ph.D.
Roger Kasperson, Ph.D.
William A. Koelsch, Ph.D.
Laurence A. Lewis, Ph.D.
Robert Mitchell, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.
Henry J. Steward, Ph.D.


Christine Creelman, Department Administrator
Rachel Levitt, Program Administrator
Kayla Peterson, Office Coordinator
Hilary Laraba, Managing Editor, Economic Geography

Geography Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years

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