Lake Champlain

As historians study time, geographers study space

The curiosity of a geographer is virtually unbounded; we are observers and analysts of space, place, and environment on scales from the local to the global. Geography is a multifaceted discipline that bridges the social sciences, the humanities, and the natural sciences.

As geographers, we seek to understand, “the why of where.” We are motivated to understand how and why people move across space, also how and why they are based in a certain region or a city block.  We also seek to understand the character and processes behind the spatial patterns of natural phenomena like drought or floods, made visible on Earth’s surface.  Geographers continuously question and probe the reasons for these spatial patterns.

  • What is Geography?

    Specifically, geography is the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth.  Geographers often focus on one of two main sub-disciplines – human or physical geography. Human geography focuses on the relationships between people, place, and environment, and how and why these relationships are formed.  Physical geography focuses on the character of and processes, both natural and those generated by human activity, that shape Earth and its envelope.  Many geographers successfully blend both human and physical geography to understand human interactions with and their footprint on our environment.  Others employ geospatial and information technologies like remote sensing and GIS to understand these complex human-environment interactions.  As a highly interdisciplinary field, geography explores a great variety of topics that helps us to understand better our world, the people and the landscapes they inhabit.

    What is offered?

    We offer a BA in geography.  The geography major consists of 30 credits and the minor is 18 credits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should pursue a degree in geography?

Do you ask for the window seat on an airplane so you can gaze at the changing human and natural landscape below?  Do you open an atlas and run your fingers over the pages wondering what a place must look like and who lives there?  Do you walk down a city street and ponder how and why people came to live on that city block?   If you answered yes to any of these questions and are interested in understanding people, their communities and the environment from diverse perspectives and approaches, welcome to geography!

What does the average course load look like for a geography major?

In the first few semesters, geography students take introductory level classes that introduce them to both human and physical geography. As students get further into the major, there are more opportunities to focus on specific areas of interest in higher level courses.  Geography students must also take a methods course that focuses on qualitative research methods or geospatial techniques like Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or remote sensing.  In their final year, a geography major will take two upper-level senior seminars in which they might do field work, original research, and/or use geospatial technology skills.  Many of our students take advantage of opportunities to do undergraduate research with faculty, internships in the community, honors theses and service-learning courses during their time in the department.  Most students find the geography major course load manageable, and it is not uncommon for students to be able to pursue a second major or two minors if they wish.

A Sampling of Geography Classes Offered

Weather, Climate, & Landscapes - An introduction to physical geography, the study of the earth’s atmosphere, weather and climate, water resources, landforms and ecosystems.

Global Environments & Cultures – An introduction to geography from global, place-based, cultural, and socio-environmental perspectives.

Geography of Race & Ethnicity in US – An examination of the ways in which spatial and locational processes shape and are shaped by ethnic and racial identities, struggles, and relationships.

Society, Place, and Power - An introduction to human geography: a spatial perspective on the study of population and migration, globalization, uneven economic development, geopolitics, cities and rural spaces, cultural meanings of place, and struggles for spatial justice, ethnic and racial identities, struggles, and relationships.

The US: Place, Power, Politics – The study of the United States through diverse perspectives in human geography. Examines how race, class, and gender relations shape social and political landscapes in historical and contemporary contexts. Emphasizes social/environmental justice and geographic approaches to thinking about political power.

Urban Geography - An analysis of the morphology, function and social structure of cities. Consideration of the nature, history and theories of urban growth and development.

Rural Geography - Focuses on the global, national and local scale study of rural landscapes, cultures, social issues, and environmental concerns.

Gender, Space & Environment – An examination of the ways in which human relationships to both the built and the natural environment are mediated by gender.

Political Ecology - Human-environment interactions under globalization. The politics of using particular ideas of 'nature' for the benefit of some and to the detriment of others in spaces from local backyards to global contexts. Environmental movements and livelihoods.

Historical Geography – An examination of the tools, techniques, and perspectives used in studying the historic development of places and landscapes in Vermont and other North American locales.

The Circumpolar Arctic - Explores the physical and human geography of the circumpolar Arctic.

Geography of Water – An examination of the spatial dimensions of water distribution from local to global scales, and the social, political, and economic dimensions of its use.

Global Environmental Change - Explores changes in natural processes and anthropogenic activities that influence the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere individually and through interactions and feedbacks from a distinctly spatial perspective employed by physical geographers.

Climatology: Concepts & Tools – Quantitative analysis of the atmospheric-land-water processes that determine climate variability and change at the local to global scales. Focuses on historical and near real-time data manipulation via statistics, weather map interpretation, climate indices, modeling and remote sensing.

Geographic Information: Concepts & Applications – A systematic approach to important geographical concepts (including distance, shape, scale dispersion) structured around the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) as an analytical tool.

Remote Sensing - Examination of the earth's surface from aerial photographs and satellite imagery.  Emphasis is on image interpretation, classification, change detection, and multivariate analysis.

UVM Geography Mission Statement

To cultivate and inform an enthusiastic and critical engagement with the community and the world through the study of physical geography, human geography, human/environment relationships, and geographical techniques.