Field Experience, Research and Knowledge
In the wide-open landscape of rural Colorado, a group of students gather data about food deserts. The topic is part of their class focus on food and place. They are studying not only how humans impact the landscape, but also how the landscape shapes people’s lives. These students can tell you that geography is far more than examining maps and locations.
As a geography major at UNC, you’ll use scientific exploration to study issues like climate change, urbanization, industrial development, population growth and sustainability, migration, landscape transformation and political cooperation. You’ll have access to a state-of-the-art GIS lab and work side-by-side with expert Geography faculty who support and engage you through research and internship opportunities. And when you graduate, you’ll have skills based on field experience, research and knowledge gained from an immersion in the real-world nature of geography.
Phil Klein, Ph.D.
Professor Geography & GIS
A native of the Bay Area, Phil Klein, Ph.D., earned his B.A. in Environmental Planning at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Travel to rural Jamaica and Appalachia convinced him of the value of exploring environmental geography in graduate school. He earned an M.A. from UCLA, specializing in soils geography, where his experiences as a teaching assistant convinced him to pursue a doctorate. His Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder, focused on geography education. Since coming to UNC in 1997, Klein’s research has centered on designing instructional materials and engaging the international educational community in the development process. Students in his classes regularly are involved in his research and also benefit from its outcome. A recent project involved writing spatial-thinking activities for Pearson Education’s online interactive-map ancillary, which will be used in their introductory human geography texts. Since 2007, Klein has been co-director of the Association of American Geographers’ Center for Global Geography Education (CGGE).
B.A. in Geography
Choose from among these three areas of emphasis, and customize your coursework to pursue your specific career and research interests.
Geographic Information Science (GIS)
One of the world’s fastest growing fields, Geographic Information Science (GIS) combines cartography, spatial analysis and data management to create useful maps and gather complex information. Then, address some of the world’s most demanding challenges, from analyzing a region’s crime patterns to monitoring environmental contamination. Apply geospatial technology principles to create interactive web-based maps using software such as ArcGIS, ENVI, CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator and train on a large-format plotter and Trimble GPS units. Internships and independent research projects in your interest area will deepen your experience and skills.
Global and Area Studies
For a career in urban planning, environmental geography or biogeography, choose a geography degree with a Global and Area Studies emphasis. You’ll study in small, upper-division classes using the latest computer mapping and analysis equipment and will have opportunities for practical experience through internships and field study in both western Colorado and overseas locations.
UNC helped create Colorado’s new social studies educational standards. With a Secondary Teaching emphasis to a UNC Geography bachelor’s degree, you’ll graduate ready to receive a teaching license in social studies and prepared to teach in a Colorado high school or middle school setting. And you’ll graduate in good company—UNC has a reputation for educating innovative, engaging teachers. In fact, UNC graduate and high school social studies teacher Jose Martinez III was recently named one of three finalists for the 2016 Colorado Teacher of the Year.
Minor in Geography
A Geography minor adds an extra dimension to your college degree and can be an asset to a career in community development, resource management, travel and tourism planning or other similar positions. You’ll complete 18 credit hours to earn a Geography minor.
Minor in Geographic Information Science (GIS)
Many students majoring in other fields add a minor in GIS to enhance their professional qualifications. For example, if you’re interested in working in intelligence for the U.S. state department, adding a GIS minor to a Political Science or Criminology major could equip you with special skills that would be an asset in your future position.
Finding Answers to Complex Challenges
Using the latest GIS computer equipment and software, Geography students explore the impact of climate change in the Rocky Mountain region, track the advancement of invasive species and evaluate pollution in local rivers.
“The GIS professors provide you with one-on-one attention. Classes are challenging, yet the faculty are approachable and helpful. The skills I’m learning are applicable to multiple fields of employment.”
- Jenna Williams, GIS Alumna, Class of 2015
Whether you want to work in GIS, or your career goal is to teach social studies in a middle school or high school, geography is a growing field that offers a wide range of career and research opportunities.
Consider UNC's B.A. in Geography if you:
- Enjoy working with computers
- Have a strong interest in finding practical solutions to society’s most pressing challenges
- Possess a deep curiosity about the world’s rich geographic diversity
- Skills and knowledge with sophisticated and specialized software
- Experience using tools like the large format plotter and specialized software
- Field experience with geospatial technology
- Skills that are vital to your specific geographic career or research interest
- Web Mapping
- Urban and Regional Planning
- Environmental Geography: Earth and Risk
- Human Geography
- Landforms, Water and Hazards
Study abroad in Ghana, Finland, Fiji, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic. Complete internships in city planning agencies and police departments and join research projects that will add depth to your skills. Learn about study abroad.
Picture Yourself Here
Each summer, our Geography students and faculty partner with the Bureau of Land Management to conduct research along the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers, providing valuable information about invasive species.
To learn more about this summer field opportunity and hear about the river program, watch the video on the right.
You have diverse opportunities for a challenging and fulfilling career when you hold a bachelor’s degree in Geography from UNC. Here are a few of the many positions held by our graduates:
- GIS and cartographic specialist
- Urban and regional planner
- Area studies specialist
- Resource manager
- Market researcher
- Environmental consultant
- Community or international development specialist
- Secondary education teacher
- State department analyst
Our professors share two equal passions: excellence in research and teaching. One of the true strengths of the Geography program is our professors’ ability to integrate groundbreaking research into the student experience and deliver a level of learning that is rare in higher education. Two of our department’s current research undertakings include:
Developing an Online Center for Global Geography Education
Phil Klein, Ph.D., Geography and GIS, National Science Foundation
The Center for Global Geography Education (CGGE) is a set of issues-based, inquiry geography modules, in which students at universities around the world work together on a series of case studies and activities about contemporary geographic issues. The CGGE offers modules about National Identity, Global Economy, Population and Natural Resources, Migration, Water Resources and Global Climate Change. Together with project co-directors Michael Solem, Ph.D., of the AAG and Osvaldo Muñiz, Ph.D., of Texas State University-San Marcos, Klein feels strongly about the importance of involving students in his research and regularly uses international collaborations in his own teaching. Klein is also participating in a related project, called Geo-Capabilities, which aims to provide international professional development collaborations among K-12 teachers across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
An Evaluation of Air-Rail Passenger Intermodal Access at US Airports
Timothy Vowles, Ph.D., Geography and GIS, and Andrew Goetz, Ph.D., (University of Denver), National Center for Intermodal Transportation
Even though airports may claim air-rail connections, there’s a wide range in linkage and connection quality. This project’s goal is to assess the quality of intermodal linkages by developing and testing different types of air-rail intermodal access. Vowles and Goetz will assess quality by looking at a range of characteristics, including number of destinations served, the rail system’s scale and scope, and geographic extent of the system serving the airport. From this analysis they hope to explain which airports have the preeminent air-rail connections and provide insight into best practices for other airports to pursue when creating or improving their air-rail connections. They also expect to identify those airports that have truly embraced air-rail intermodal connectivity as part of their urban transit system.
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