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Geography class along Lake Michigan

Geography courses

110 World Regions (4). F and S.
Instructors: J. Bascom, J. VanHorn

An analysis of Earth’s principal culture regions from a geographic perspective: Africa, Europe, Russia, North Africa and Southwest Asia, East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Oceania, Caribbean, and Latin America. These areas will be examined in the light of several foundational geographic themes: the locational organization of physical and cultural features; society-land relationships; cultural landscapes; and patterns of spatial interaction among and within regions.

120 Earth Systems (4). F and S.
Instructor: D. van Dijk

This course includes an introductory study of physical systems and historical processes that shape the surface of Earth. Topics include: 1) The physical nature of Earth’s surface based on composition of Earth materials and the forces that create landforms, 2) weather and climatic systems and their effect on the global distribution of soils and ecological communities, and 3) the oceans. Understanding of Earth systems is applied to concepts of stewardship, resource use, and energy consumption. Laboratory. Not open to students who have completed Geology 112 or 151.

181 First Year Research in Earth Science (5) F.
Instructor: D. van Dijk

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190 Colloquium (0). F and S.
Instructors: Staff

This course gives students a broad overview of the fields of geography, geology, and environmental studies through presentations by guest lecturers, faculty members, and students as well as focused discussions about vocational choices, professional opportunities, films, and critical issues in the department’s three disciplines. Students are expected to pose questions to the specialist(s) who present. This course must be taken at least two times by department majors.

200 People, Place and Community (3). F.
Instructor: M. Bjelland

Explores the role of humans in the context of their inhabitation of the earth.  Humans create spatial landscapes and patterns in their interaction with the natural environment, through their economic activities and as expressions of their cultural values.  Individual responses to these spatial patterns are expressed in their sense of place and assessment of risk related to cultural and natural landscapes.  The tools of human geography involve the interpretation of these cultural landscapes, including settlement and land use patterns, religion, language, ethnicity, population flows and structures, interactions between culture and nature, and political boundaries, as well as the study of the understanding of behavioral responses to these landscapes.

230 The Global Economy (4). F, alternate years.
Instructor: J. Bascom

This course examines the changing geography of economic activity within the contemporary world economy.  Its main foci include perspectives on globalization, processes of economic change, patterns of world economic activity, and prospects for the future of economic geography.  All four sectors of the economy – agriculture, manufacturing, services, and information-based transactions – are covered.  Theoretical concepts are grounded by way of case illustrations that focus on representative places and people in the global economy.  Field-based labs develop skills for doing social research.  Laboratory. Prerequisite:  Geog 200 or IDS 110.

240 Latin America (3). F, alternate years.
Instructors: staff

A survey of the geography of Latin America with an emphasis on the region’s physical, cultural, and economic diversity and with a particular focus on issues of development and poverty. Emphasis is put on historic migrations, physical resources, and relative location in the understanding of the formation of regional patterns.

242 Africa (3). S, alternate years.
Instructor: J. Bascom

A survey of the geography of Africa with a focus on the region’s physical, cultural, and economic diversity. Featured emphases include the historical experience of colonialism, challenges of environmental degradation, spatial patterns of forced and voluntary migration, intensification of poverty under structural adjustment programs, and the quest for successful development practices.

250 Meteorology (4). S, alternate years.
Instructor: D. van Dijk

This course is a study of the atmosphere and the complex processes that control weather and climate. Special attention is given to: The different forms of energy that are operative in the atmosphere and how these control temperature; the various optical phenomena that are observed in the atmosphere; the hydrologic cycle and the mechanisms of cloud formation and precipitation; air pressure and the winds that result from its differences at the surface and aloft; and the formation of air masses and their movement as frontal systems. Human interactions with atmospheric processes will be examined, including the topics of air pollution, hurricanes, tornadoes, ozone depletion, global warming, acid rain, and photochemical smog. Laboratory. Prerequisite: high school chemistry or equivalent.

252 Geomorphology (4). F. (formerly GEOG 311)
Instructor: D. van Dijk

The investigation of landforms and the processes which cause them. This course studies the erosional and depositional features resulting from rivers, glaciers, and wind, as well as coastal, gravitational, and weathering processes. Landforms are described and classified from field observations, topographic maps, and aerial photographs. Explanations of the landforms are offered through quantitative modeling of the processes. Laboratory, field trips. Prerequisite: Geography 120 or Geology 151.

261 Geographic Information Systems and Cartography (4). F and S.
Instructor: J. VanHorn, M. Bjelland

Focus on geographic information systems (GIS) and the art and science of mapping for spatial analysis. Map design techniques and visual communication using GIS vector and raster data forms will be explored, as well as a variety of methods for analyzing spatial relationships. Topics include those of the physical world and landscape, social justice, poverty, and a significant project on atlas creation for developing countries. This course has a lecture and lab component and lab work will give practical experience to students using the ArcGIS suite. Students will complete a GIS project tailored to their disciplinary interest.

290 Seminar (0). F and S.
Instructors: staff

This course gives students a broad overview of the fields of geography, geology, and environmental studies through presentations by guest lecturers, faculty members, and students as well as focused discussions about vocational choices, professional opportunities, films, and critical issues in the department’s three disciplines. Students are expected to pose questions to the specialist(s) who present.  This course meets concurrently with Geography 190, but is more advanced than the student colloquium.  Each student is required to make a presentation on an approved research topic with guidance from a department faculty member.  This course must be taken at least one time.  Prerequisite: at least one semester of Geography 190.

295 Special Topics in Geography (2-3). F or S.
Instructors: staff

Course covers dynamic topics in geography and environmental studies. Topics vary with instructors. Prerequisite: sophomore standing.

310 Urban Geography (4). F, alternate years.
Instructor: M. Bjelland

A study of the spatial organization of cities and systems of cities. Both the internal structure and external relations of cities receive attention. The historic and present-day spatial organization of infrastructure, economic life, social activities, ethnicity, institutions, and politics are examined. Prerequisite: Geography 110 or one social science course.

322 Coastal Geomorphology (4) S, alternate years.
Instructor: D. van Dijk

This course examines the nature and development of coastal landforms and the processes responsible for change in the coastal zone. Topics include waves, currents, tides, wind, changing sea levels, and the coastal environment of beaches, dunes, estuaries, and rocky coasts. Coastal land use and hazards, shoreline protection, and coastal stewardship will be discussed. Great Lakes coasts are emphasized. Laboratory and field trips. Prerequisite: Geography 252.

351 City and Regional Planning (3). F, alternate years.
Instructor: S. Becker

A survey of the practice of urban and regional planning including its theory, history, techniques, issues, and careers. Land use planning and zoning, housing and community development, environmental planning, recreation planning, health care systems planning, transportation planning, historic preservation and urban design, and other subfields are examined within neighborhood, downtown, suburban, regional, and Third World contexts. Prerequisites: Two 200-300 level social science and/or geography courses or department approval.

361 Advanced GIS (4). S, alternate years.
Instructor: J. VanHorn

This course introduces advanced themes in Geographic Information Systems including spatial database design, spatial algorithms, implementation and design, and advanced GIS applications including designs for community development and service tailored to individual students’ major field of study. Prerequisites: GEOG 261 with the grade of C or better.

380 Seminar in Geographic Thought (3). S, alternate years.
Instructor: J. VanHorn

This course includes a study of significant episodes and crucial issues in the history and philosophy of geography with an emphasis on present- day human geography. The philosophical underpinnings of geography’s domains and paradigms are critically examined. This seminar requires geography majors to reflect on integrating their geographical knowledge and fitting this into a Reformed worldview. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing in the geography program, or permission of instructor.

385 Internship in Geography (3). F, S, or SS.
Instructors: staff

This course is an internship involving professional application of the concepts and principles learned as part of the geography program. A student is placed in a government agency, a private firm, or a not-forprofit organization, which builds on previous instruction in the program in an area of applied geography, such as urban and regional planning, mapping, and geographic information systems. Students are assigned a specific project and work under the direct supervision of an employee of the outside agency or firm as well as under the supervision of the instructor. Prerequisites: senior standing in the geography major or permission of the geography faculty.

390 Independent Study. F, I, and S.
Instructors: staff

Arranged with faculty member. Prerequisite: permission of the department.

395 Research in Geography (2). F, I, and S.
Instructors: staff

Field or library research on an approved geographical problem and presentation of the results of this research in a seminar. Open to qualified students by permission of the department.

Quick facts

The geography major is minimum 36 credits.

Geography majors can choose to focus on physical geography, human geography or Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Geography careers