2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
    Jun 18, 2024  
2023-2024 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, economic activities, and political systems. Geographers study the uniqueness of each place and the interactions among places.

With its highly ranked graduate and undergraduate programs, Clark University is one of the best places in the world to study Geography. Students have the opportunity to work with nationally and internationally known faculty to examine how place and nature shape who we are, and in turn how we shape the spaces and environments in which we live. The Geography major and minor at Clark are set up to give students 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, which has made it a key site for the development of new topical fields and geographic technologies. Clark faculty and students are pioneers in fields as diverse as human-environment, risk-hazards, critical geography, animal geography and feminist geography. The school is 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 has ranked Clark Geography’s doctoral program among the top five US geography programs. Clark was the only geography department in the ranking’s top ten that is located in a liberal arts, research university.

Special facilities include the Jeanne X. Kasperson Research Library at the George Perkins Marsh Institute, the Guy H. Burnham Map and Aerial Photograph Library, Clark Labs, the Center for Geospatial Analytics, and the 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. Geographers address various questions. What makes societies and biophysical environments vary across space and time? How are these differences produced in relation to each other? How does location affect access to the things all species need to survive and flourish? And how can we achieve social justice and sustainability in a rapidly changing global environment?

Geography majors have the opportunity to work on research projects with faculty members and graduate students in one of the most prestigious programs of geography worldwide. Summer Fellowships are available for qualified students to participate in the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, which is an intensive summer and 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.

Geography majors are served by the Clark Undergraduate Geography Association (CUGA) and Gamma Theta Upsilon.

CUGA is the voice of Geography 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 geographic honors society. In order to become a member, initiates must have completed a minimum of three geography courses, have a minimum GPA of 3.3 in Geography courses and overall, and have completed at least three semesters of college course work.

Major Requirements

Students majoring in Geography must take 11 Geography courses. Each course must satisfy exactly one of the requirements below. It is not possible for a course to fulfill more than one requirement for the major simultaneously, e.g. a 200-level course cannot count both as an elective and capstone. If a course meets more than one of the criteria below, the student and advisor will determine how to consider the course.

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 the 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.

1. Human Environment Geography Core

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 Geography Core

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 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.

Core course in Geographic Information Science

One Skills Course

Students must take one skills course.

Four Elective Courses

The Geography major requires four elective Geography courses. The four electives must consist of one course at the 100 level or above and three courses at the 200 level or above.

Research Methods

GEOG 141   is required for all students majoring in Geography. It is advised that students complete this course before taking 200-level courses in Geography, preferably during the sophomore year. Research Methods is offered at least once per year, typically in the spring semester.

Comparable courses in other departments may be substituted for the Geography Research Methods course with the approval of the major 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 as an additional credit. Geography students may choose among various ways to earn the capstone credit. 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 200-level course from the list below.

2. A 200-level Geography course that qualifies according to the course’s professor.

For this 200-level course option, the student must obtain written permission from the professor of the 200-level course before the course begins to confirm that the course will satisfy the capstone requirement. The professor of the 200-level course might require activities from the student that go beyond the activities required by other students in the 200-level course. If the course’s professor informs the student’s departmental academic advisor that the student satisfied the Capstone requirement, then the student’s departmental academic advisor performs a course substitution to allow the course to count as the Capstone.

3. A 300-level Geography course

The 300-level course’s professor must give electronic permission for an undergraduate to register for a course at the 300-level.

4. Honors thesis (GEOG 297)

The second of the two-credit Honors thesis qualifies as a capstone course.

5. Internship (GEOG 298)

A GEOG internship credit counts as a capstone course. The student must obtain a faculty sponsor and apply to the Career Connections Center for academic credit the semester before the internship commences.

6. Research experience

A research experience counts as a Capstone via two possible avenues:

  • A research project conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. Students typically enroll in GEOG 299.
  • 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 groups will be advised on how to register for academic and capstone credit.


All students completing capstones are strongly encouraged to present their work during ClarkFest.

Additional Components


Credits with a grade of Pass count towards the major only in the case of Internships to fulfill the Capstone requirement.


A non-geography course can substitute for a core, the skills, or the research methods requirement. Substitution requires the written approval of the faculty advisor and Chair of Geography’s Undergraduate Studies Committee on the form entitled Petition to Replace a Geography Requirement. The substituted course does not count towards the necessary number of Geography courses required.


Learn about opportunities by visiting visiting Geography’s website and Clark’s Career Connections Center. If students satisfy the requirements for the internship to count as an academic credit at Clark, then the internship can count as an Elective Course or Capstone toward the Major, subject to the approval of the Advisor.

Transfer and Study Abroad Credits

Transfer and Study Abroad credits are evaluated on a case-by-case basis for major credit. Consult the Academic Advising Center to assist with the transfer from another university.

Honors Program in Geography

The Honors Program in Geography gives eligible students the opportunity to conduct a 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. The honors supervisor must be a Geography faculty member. Students are encouraged to perform the honors project during the spring semester of the junior year and fall semester of the senior year. To begin the Honors Program, Geography majors must have a minimum of 20 units and a minimum GPA of 3.25 overall and 3.5 in the Geography major. 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

Hamed Alemohammad, Ph.D.
Yuko Aoyama, Ph.D.
Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Asha Best, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
Lyndon Estes, Ph.D.
Abby Frazier, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
Dominik Kulakowski, Ph.D.
Deborah Martin, Ph.D.
James McCarthy, Ph.D.
Siobhan McGrath, Ph.D.
James T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Gustavo Oliveira, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Max Ritts, 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.

Emeriti Faculty

Martyn Bowden, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Susan Hanson, Ph.D.
Douglas Johnson, Ph.D.
Laurence A. Lewis, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.
Henry J. Steward, Ph.D.


Brenda Nikas-Hayes, Department Administrator and Assistant to the Director
Yaa Poku, Administrator of Degree Programs
Aidan Giasson, Office Coordinator and Asst. to the Dept. Admin.
Hilary Laraba, Managing Editor, Economic Geography

Geography Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years

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