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Geography and Planning

The geographer and the planner study how people create, interact with, change, and understand their physical and social environments. The Department of Geography and Planning meets the needs of students who wish:

  1. to receive a broad liberal arts education focusing on global literacy;
  2. to become professionals in the field of planning (environmental, rural, urban, and community), environmental conservation and restoration, and GIS; or
  3. to prepare for teaching, business, or government careers.

The major is available to students through two options:

  1. Human Geography and Planning: focuses on some of the major challenges and trends of society, including the growth, ageing and distribution of populations; urban expansion and decline; the distribution of resources; global cultural diversity and economic development; and ecological sustainability. Students gain knowledge and skills to understand and intervene in major urban, rural, and regional processes. Graduates will contribute to the creation of livable communities, regenerative economies and sustainable places.
  2. Physical Geography and Environment: focuses on both physical geographic processes that take place on Earth as well as human-environment relations. Drawing from the natural and social sciences, environmental and physical geographers study water politics, practices and planning; environmental degradation and restoration; applied ecological measurement, management and conservation; landscape terrain development; and global climate change processes, mitigation and adaptation. Graduates will contribute applied science solutions to support the socio-cultural and political-economic processes that govern the use and management of environmental resources.

In addition, the department offers two certificates:

The Certificate in Geographic Information Systems Technologies provides students with a foundation in geographical technology and information science with hands-on use of the latest software.

The Certificate in Rural and Town Planning is valuable to our majors and other students who wish to prepare for careers in urban or environmental planning and related fields such as resource management and rural economic development.

The department also offers three minors and an interdisciplinary double major:

The Environmental Studies Minor provides interdisciplinary investigation into critical environmental issues. The Minor is appropriate for all majors seeking to increase environmental literacy in their chosen fields. This minor goes beyond the GE Pathway minor in Sustainability, and therefore would be a natural continuation for a student finishing the GE Pathway.

The Geography Minor is of value to students majoring in the sciences, recreation, economics, business, geology, history, social sciences, and to those seeking K-12 teaching credentials.

The Minor in Planning and Development is attractive to students in public administration, political science, business, engineering, recreation, and economics who wish to pursue a career in planning.

The Geography and Economics interdisciplinary double major provides a balanced set of courses that accentuate geographical concepts and techniques with the exacting analysis of economic policy and development.

Faculty and Facilities

The faculty conduct courses in multimedia classrooms and supplement their classes with field trips, community research, internships, and public service. The faculty and staff are committed to involving students in technical innovations in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), cartography, and remote sensing. Excellence in writing and communication is emphasized as well. The diverse geography and resources of Northern California provide a valuable laboratory in which to learn geographic and planning concepts and processes, and to provide service learning opportunities for students.

Career Outlook

Given its emphasis on global literacy, sustainable development, environmental resources, and information technology, geography is a widely recognized growth field in the 21st century (US Bureau of Labor, 2012). Geography and planning students may choose from several subjects and skills to prepare for careers in public and private sectors. Geographers and planners bring valuable expertise to the fields of water resources, fire ecology, cartography, transportation, land management, recreation, environmental restoration, and sustainable community development. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have many applications in fire research, environmental management, planning, agriculture, the social sciences, and business. In addition, many graduates of our program have also pursued teaching careers in K-12 schools, and gone on to graduate school to then become lecturers in community colleges, and universities.

Catalog Cycle:15