2020-2021 Academic Catalog 
    Mar 02, 2024  
2020-2021 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Geography Major

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 Undergraduate 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 geographical honors 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 (found on the Geography major/minor website)

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 Environment 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 (GIScience) 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 Elective Courses

It is not a requirement that students focus within an area of 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 four areas. To focus in one of the four areas in Geography, students must take their four elective courses within that subject matter.  Three of these courses must be at a 200-level and one may be either at a 100 or 200-level.

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

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

Focusing 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 focusing in an area 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.

Capstone Requirement in Geography

One Capstone credit is required for the Geography major (not required for the minor). At the university level, a capstone is defined as an experience - a course in the major or an independent project - through which students apply integrative learning. A capstone requires a complex individual or group project that is substantially defined and carried forward by the student and demonstrates accomplishment of Clark’s Liberal Education goals, especially a capacity to practice within an academic or professional field effectively.

To meet the Capstone requirement in the Geography major, the student must earn a 200 or 300 level credit that relates to the student’s specialization. Consistent with the diversity of topics and methods in the four areas of specialization, Geography students may choose from multiple paths to earning the capstone credit, subject to the approval of their capstone advisor. The student’s capstone advisor will help determine how any particular credit satisfies the capstone criteria. The advisor will make this determination 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.

Capstone Types

  1. A project completed in a specialization course (200/300 level)
  2. Research experience (GEOG 299)
    • Directed Study with a faculty advisor (GEOG 299)
    • Research conducted through the Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL) work, Biogeosciences Research Group, Extractive Industries Research Group, or the Polar Science Research Laboratory
  3. Internship (GEOG 298)
  4. Honors thesis (GEOG 297)

Additionally, Geography 141, required of all majors, trains students in the fundamentals of Research Design and Methods and proposal writing, which broadly prepares students to conceptualize, design and conduct original research relevant to a capstone experience across all four specialization areas.

1. A specialization course (200/300 level)

A number of courses at the 200/300 level fulfill our capstone requirement across our specializations in Human-Environment Geography, Urban-Economic Geography, Earth System Science, and Geographic Information Science. Several of these courses have pre-requisites within the respective specialization areas, in which students are expected to have developed relevant topical and methodological knowledge upon which they can build their capstone project.

2. Research experience (GEOG 299)

Students may enroll in directed study for a research experience during the course of the semester. They may do so via two main avenues:

  • An individual/independent research project conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. Students typically enroll in GEOG 299 during the completion of the work.
  • Work done in collaboration with a research group or team, for instance, in which students may contribute as a research assistant. Examples of such projects and research teams include (but are not limited to): Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program; Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL); Biogeosciences Research Group; Extractive Industries Research Group; and the Polar Science Research Laboratory. Most such research opportunities have a separate, competitive application process. Students accepted into these research teams/groups will be advised on how to register for academic (and capstone) credit.

3. Internship (GEOG 298)

Students completing an on/off campus internship or LEEP project related to their Geography major are encouraged to consider developing a capstone through that planned work. To do so, they must identify a faculty sponsor and apply to the Career Connections Center for academic credit the semester before the internship commences. The internship must directly contribute to the student’s experiential learning relevant to their chosen specialization field. Once the internship is completed, the student should submit a synopsis of their internship experience or other materials as agreed on with their faculty sponsor and the Career Connections Center.

4. Honors thesis (GEOG 297)

The honors program in Geography provides eligible students with the opportunity to conduct a major independent research project. Honors students must successfully complete a two-semester independent honors project, to be conducted under the supervision of a faculty advisor and one additional faculty member (a second reader), who together constitute the student’s honors committee. Honors projects should make an original contribution to geographical knowledge. In crafting the research project and honors thesis, the student will work closely with a faculty supervisor and will also be able to draw upon the advice of their second reader. For further information about the honors program and eligibility criteria, please refer to the Geography honors program guide.


Capstone Form and process: Each student proposing a capstone needs identify a faculty advisor for the capstone, Before registration for the 200-level credit and beginning the qualifying activity, the student must complete and submit the Capstone Form under their advisor’s guidance. The student and their faculty sponsor sign the form, obtain the Geography program advisor’s signature, and submit the completed form to the Program Administrator. Towards the end of the semester or upon completion of the capstone work, the form is then updated, signed by all parties and then resubmitted. It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate all processes necessary outside of the departmental requirements (i.e. internship registration, any other Clark forms needed, etc.).


All students completing capstones are strongly encouraged to present their work (e.g., as a poster or presentation) during Academic Spree Day or Fall Fest. They are also required to complete the capstone survey following the completion of their capstone, and before graduation.

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 can be found on the Academic Advising website.

Honors Program in Geography

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, if not both (it is preferred that both are members 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. The Honors Program is open to junior Geography majors who have a minimum grade point average of 3.25 overall and 3.50 in major (cumulative GPA from all Geography courses completed so far), and who have an intended honors supervisor who has agreed to supervise the project throughout the academic year.

For full information on the Honors Program, please view the Geography Guide to Undergraduate Honors, linked on our website.

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.
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.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, 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.
Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, Ph.D.

Affiliate Faculty

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

Research Faculty

J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Jacque (Jody) Emel, Ph.D.
Roger Kasperson, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.

Emeriti Faculty

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


TBA, Department Administrator and Assistant to the Director
TBA, Program Administrator
Beth Nugent, Office Coordinator
Hilary Laraba, Managing Editor, Economic Geography

Geography Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years