Geography Major, B.A.

Department of Geography

Visit Program Website

205 Carolina Hall, CB# 3220

(919) 962-8901

Elizabeth A. Olson, Chair

eaolson@email.unc.edu

Nina Martin, Director of Undergraduate Studies

ninam@email.unc.edu

Nell Phillips, Undergraduate Program Administrator

nphillip@email.unc.edu

Geography is the science of space, place, and environment. The department offers classes spanning the social and natural sciences and offering students training in qualitative, quantitative, spatial analysis and modelling, and lab methodologies. Human geographers study the spatial aspects of human activity, and physical geographers study patterns of climate, land forms, soils, and water. Geographic tools and techniques—including Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and online and interactive mapping technologies—are among the most important for exploring and understanding our complex world. Geographic inquiry is global and local, inherently interdisciplinary, and offers skills that enable insights into pressing issues valued by employers and policy makers.

Career opportunities for geographers are wide ranging in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. Geographers work in the areas of social, health, and environmental policy; energy, transportation, economic development, and tourism planning; urban and regional planning; research and education; community development; resource management; and environmental regulation and modeling.

With geography you can explore the world and find yourself.

Department Programs

Major

Minor

Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the geography program, students should be able to:

  • Apply current research methods in geography
  • Construct a coherent, logical research approach to examine a question of geographic significance
  • Analyze a geographic landscape and discuss the human and physical influences that have helped create it
  • Report satisfaction with the geography major

Requirements

In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
GEOG 110The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Environmental Systems H3
or GEOG 111 Weather and Climate
One of the following:3
World Regional Geography
Geographies of Globalization
Geographical Issues in the Developing World H
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 392Research Methods in Geography3
GEOG 697Capstone Seminar in Geographic Research 13
Four GEOG elective courses, at least three of which must be at the 400-level or above.12
Total Hours30
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Students are invited (but not required) to navigate through the major using a pathway, which reflects various subfields of geography (for example, urban geography, health geography, climate, international development, social and cultural geography). Students should refer to the full list of pathways below.

All General Education requirements apply. Although the major requires a total of 10 geography courses (30 credit hours), a maximum of 15 geography courses (45 credit hours) can count toward the 120 hours required to graduate. Students wishing more information should consult the director of undergraduate studies.

Geography (GEOG) course descriptions.

Urban Development and Planning Pathway

For the first time in human history over half of the world’s population lives in cities. This presents a monumental challenge to politicians, urban planners, and citizens to build sustainable, just, and livable urban spaces. A background in urban geography prepares you for one of the many careers devoted to improving cities and settlements around the globe.
Core Classes
GEOG 228Urban Geography3
GEOG 423Social Geography3
GEOG 428Global Cities: Space, Power, and Identity in the Built Environment3
GEOG 429Urban Political Geography: Durham, NC3
GEOG 430Global Migrations, Local Impacts: Urbanization and Migration in the United States3
GEOG 458Urban Latin America: Politics, Economy, and Society3
GEOG 542Neighborhoods and Health3
Methods and Research
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography 13
GEOG 392Research Methods in Geography 13
GEOG 491Introduction to GIS 13
GEOG 591Applied Issues in Geographic Information Systems 13
GEOG 697Capstone Seminar in Geographic Research 23

Pursuing a minor in urban studies and planning may also be of interest.

There are career opportunities in city planning, architecture, real estate development, policy analysis, community development, or civil engineering.

Diversity and Justice Pathway

How do the places, spaces, and environments that we inhabit reinforce structures of oppression or create the potential for liberation? Social movements and activists have created spatial theories and strategies to change the world: by occupying public space or by fighting for the protection of sacred lands. In our classes, you will learn how power flows through space; that all politics unfolds in places; that everyday life is political; and that environmental issues are connected to social justice. You will also learn tools including mapping technologies, remote sensing, oral histories, and interviews.
Building Blocks
GEOG 56First-Year Seminar: Local Places in a Globalizing World3
GEOG 67First-Year Seminar: Politics of Everyday Life3
GEOG 225Space, Place, and Difference3
GEOG 228Urban Geography3
Advanced Courses
GEOG 212Environmental Conservation and Global Change3
GEOG 232Agriculture, Food, and Society3
GEOG 447Gender, Space, and Place in the Middle East3
GEOG 470Political Ecology: Geographical Perspectives3
GEOG 480Liberation Geographies: The Place, Politics, and Practice of Resistance3
GEOG 650Technology and Democracy Research3
Methods
GEOG 491Introduction to GIS3
GEOG 541GIS in Public Health3
GEOG 543Qualitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 591Applied Issues in Geographic Information Systems3

Climatology Pathway

The emphasis of this pathway is on developing an understanding of the Earth’s climate system, the impacts of climate on environmental and human sectors, and in gaining quantitative skills that can be used to analyze climate and weather.
Core Classes
GEOG 110The Blue Planet: An Introduction to Earth's Environmental Systems H3
GEOG 111Weather and Climate3
GEOG 412Synoptic Meteorology3
GEOG 414Climate Change3
GEOG 416Applied Climatology: The Impacts of Climate and Weather on Environmental and Social Systems3
Geography Methods and Skills
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 410Modeling of Environmental Systems3
GEOG 477Introduction to Remote Sensing of the Environment3
Complimentary Methods and Skills
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
PHYS 104
PHYS 105
General Physics I
and General Physics II
8
PHYS 116
PHYS 117
Mechanics
and Electromagnetism and Optics H
8
STOR 151Introduction to Data Analysis3
or STOR 155 Introduction to Data Models and Inference
COMP 110Introduction to Programming H3
or COMP 116 Introduction to Scientific Programming
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Climate science has growing career opportunities due to renewed interest in current and future climate change. This pathway will position students for non-profit, governmental, and private environmental jobs, as well as for advanced study in climatology.
 
International Development and Globalization Pathway
The international development and globalization pathway will prepare students with the practical tools and intellectual framework to become participants and leaders in the world of international development. Students might continue their studies in graduate school, work for an international non-governmental organization, pursue a career in diplomacy, or work with social movements.
Building Block Courses
GEOG 120World Regional Geography3
GEOG 121Geographies of Globalization3
GEOG 123Cultural Geography3
GEOG 130Geographical Issues in the Developing World H3
Region Specific
GEOG 259Geography of Latin America3
GEOG 265Eastern Asia3
GEOG 266People and Environment in Southeast Asia3
GEOG 267South Asia3
GEOG 268Geography of Africa3
GEOG 464Europe Today: Transnationalism, Globalisms, and the Geographies of Pan-Europe3
Advanced Concepts
GEOG 423Social Geography3
GEOG 428Global Cities: Space, Power, and Identity in the Built Environment3
GEOG 453Political Geography3
GEOG 460Geographies of Economic Change3
GEOG 470Political Ecology: Geographical Perspectives3
Contemporary Issues
GEOG/GLBL 210Global Issues and Globalization3
GEOG 435Environmental Politics3
GEOG 447Gender, Space, and Place in the Middle East3
GEOG 448Transnational Geographies of Muslim Societies3
GEOG 452Mobile Geographies: The Political Economy of Migration3
GEOG 480Liberation Geographies: The Place, Politics, and Practice of Resistance3
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

GIScience

Geographic information science (GIScience) emphasizes geographic information technologies, their real-world applications, and the science and technology underlying them. These technologies include geographic information systems (GIS), satellite remote sensing, global positioning systems, computer cartography, terrain analysis, and geospatial visualization. These skills are in high demand, giving students a competitive edge to pursue careers in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

GIScience Courses
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 410Modeling of Environmental Systems3
GEOG 477Introduction to Remote Sensing of the Environment3
GEOG 541GIS in Public Health3
GEOG 577Advanced Remote Sensing3
GEOG 591Applied Issues in Geographic Information Systems3
GEOG 592Geographic Information Science Programming3
GEOG 594Global Positioning Systems and Applications3
GEOG 597Ecological Modeling3
Courses Outside of Geography
COMP 116Introduction to Scientific Programming3
COMP 401Foundation of Programming H4
COMP 410Data Structures3
MATH 231Calculus of Functions of One Variable I H4
MATH 232Calculus of Functions of One Variable II H4
MATH 383First Course in Differential Equations H3
MATH 577Linear Algebra3
ENVR/ENEC 468Temporal GIS and Space/Time Geostatistics for the Environment and Public Health3
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Geography of Health and Disease

Health geography takes a socio-ecological approach, rather than a biomedical approach to understanding the occurrence of human disease and wellbeing. This is a highly integrated field, requiring knowledge of social systems, environmental systems, and the etiology and ecology of disease. In addition, geospatial technologies such as geographic information systems, satellite remote sensing, and geographic analysis are powerful tools in the study and management of human diseases. This pathway will prepare students for a career in the spatial, social, and ecological dimensions of public health, as well as for graduate school in the spatial health sciences.

Health Courses in Geography
GEOG 60First-Year Seminar: Health Care Inequalities3
GEOG 222Health and Medical Geography3
GEOG 446Geography of Health Care Delivery3
GEOG 451Population, Development, and the Environment3
GEOG 542Neighborhoods and Health3
Geography Methods & Skills
GEOG 232Agriculture, Food, and Society3
GEOG 269Human-Environment Interactions in the Galapagos Islands3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 410Modeling of Environmental Systems3
GEOG 451Population, Development, and the Environment3
Classes Outside Geography
ANTH 319Global Health3
BIOL 101Principles of Biology H3
SOCI 121Population Problems3
SOCI 172Introduction to Population Health in the United States3
STOR 151Introduction to Data Analysis3
STOR 155Introduction to Data Models and Inference3
STOR 358Sample Survey Methodology4
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Political Ecology

Political ecologists study the reciprocal and dynamic relations between society and nature. How do markets, social relations, and populations influence resource governance practices and vice versa? Whose voices and ideas count in the creation of protected areas, or in the decisions about where toxic waste and trash are deposited? When and how do decision makers or community members mobilize scientific knowledge to pursue nvironmental and ethical commitments? The political ecology pathway in geography offers a cross-disciplinary approach for answering such questions and, more broadly, for studying the relationship between the economy, politics, and ecology.

Core Courses
GEOG 141Geography for Future Leaders3
GEOG 212Environmental Conservation and Global Change3
GEOG 232Agriculture, Food, and Society3
GEOG 414Climate Change3
GEOG 435Environmental Politics3
GEOG 470Political Ecology: Geographical Perspectives3
Methods and Skills 1
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 392Research Methods in Geography3
GEOG 222Health and Medical Geography3
Classes Outside of Geography
ANTH 139Ecological Anthropology3
ANTH 151Anthropological Perspectives on Food and Culture3
ANTH/NUTR 175Introduction to Food Studies: From Science to Society3
ANTH 238Human Ecology of Africa3
ANTH 306Water and Inequality: Anthropological Perspectives3
ANTH 320Anthropology of Development3

Culture, Society, and Space

How are our identities, experiences, and daily practices shaped by the places that we live in? How do we transform our environments to reflect who we are? These questions underpin key debates about culture and society today. Cultural and social geographers study the relationships among culture, society, space, and place. Their research examines the dynamic geography of cultural and societal change due to, for example, migration, technological developments, or religious movements. The culture, society, and space pathway in geography prepares students for work in international NGOs and the public and private sectors, specializing in cultural and social issues, as well as training students for graduate school in the social sciences and humanities.

Core Courses
GEOG 120World Regional Geography3
GEOG 121Geographies of Globalization3
GEOG 123Cultural Geography3
GEOG 124Gender and Place: Feminist Geographies3
GEOG 125Cultural Landscapes3
GEOG 225Space, Place, and Difference3
GEOG 423Social Geography3
GEOG 424Geographies of Religion3
GEOG 428Global Cities: Space, Power, and Identity in the Built Environment3
GEOG 430Global Migrations, Local Impacts: Urbanization and Migration in the United States3
GEOG 447Gender, Space, and Place in the Middle East3
GEOG 481Ethnographies of Globalization: An Upper-Level Research Design Class3
Methods and Skills
GEOG 115Maps: Geographic Information from Babylon to Google3
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 392Research Methods in Geography3
Classes Outside Geography
ANTH 102Introduction to Cultural Anthropology3
ANTH 120Anthropology through Expressive Cultures3
ANTH 259Culture and Identity3
ANTH 428Religion and Anthropology H3
COMM 140Introduction to Media History, Theory, and Criticism H3
COMM 450Media and Popular Culture3
HIST 202Borders and Crossings3
H

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in Geography

Joint Degree Program with the National University of Singapore (NUS)

The Department of Geography is one of several departments offering a joint degree in conjunction with the National University of Singapore (NUS). Students in the program will spend one or two years studying geography at NUS, and their diploma will be jointly granted by both universities.

Honors in Geography

Qualifying students are encouraged to pursue an honors degree. To gain admission to the honors program students must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 or higher and a grade point average of 3.4 or higher in geography courses. Honors students take GEOG 691H and GEOG 692H (honors readings and research and theses hours) with their honors thesis chair in their senior year. Honors study involves the completion of a substantial piece of original research and the formal presentation of the results in an honors thesis and oral defense. Those who successfully complete the program are awarded their B.A. degree with either honors or highest honors in geography.

Departmental Involvement

All students are welcomed and encouraged to attend the department's seminar, held on most Friday afternoons at 3:35 p.m. in Carolina Hall 220. The department sponsors the Carolina Geography Club, which provides an avenue for student involvement with the department outside of course work (see the club’s Facebook page). Students can also interact with the department through service on the faculty undergraduate committee and through independent research with faculty.

Experiential Education

The department offers several experiential education courses:

GEOG 53First-Year Seminar: Battle Park: Carolina's Urban Forest3
GEOG 419Field Methods in Physical Geography3
GEOG 429Urban Political Geography: Durham, NC3
GEOG 452Mobile Geographies: The Political Economy of Migration3
GEOG 493Internship3
GEOG 650Technology and Democracy Research3
GEOG 691HHonors3
GEOG 692HHonors3

Internship

Students can gain course credit by interning with an organization, agency, or business that will augment their classroom learning. The department has an internship coordinator available to assist students find internships and to manage participation in the organization’s activities. Internship can be taken with a geography faculty member for academic credit through GEOG 493.

Independent Study

Independent study with a geography faculty member can be taken for academic credit through GEOG 296. Students are responsible for arranging their independent study with a faculty member who will sponsor them for this activity. Students must fill out a learning contract and syllabus in collaboration with the sponsoring faculty member and then be enrolled by Nell Phillips in the department office. For more information, contact the individual faculty member or the director of undergraduate studies.

Undergraduate Research

Research with a geography faculty member can be taken for academic credit through GEOG 295. Students are responsible for arranging their research activities and responsibilities with a faculty member who will sponsor them for this activity. Students must fill out a learning contract with the sponsoring faculty member and then be enrolled by Nell Phillips in the department office.

Study Abroad

Experiences with other cultures and environments are important to a sound background in geography, and thus the department encourages a study abroad experience. Many of our students study abroad in the Galapagos Islands at the Galapagos Science Center. The department also participates in a junior-year exchange program with King's College London. Many other study abroad programs combine well with a major in geography.

Undergraduate Awards

The Andrew McNally Award is given each spring to an outstanding graduating geography major, as chosen by a committee of the faculty. The department also administers the Melinda Meade Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Geographic Research, the John D. Eyre Service in Geography Award, as well as the John D. Eyre Travel Award, and the Burgess McSwain Travel America Fund, which are open to all undergraduates at UNC–Chapel Hill.