Department of Geography and the Environment

GRG 301C • The Natural Environment

37165-37205 • Young, Kenneth
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM PAI 3.02
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Geomorphic processes that shape the earth's surface; origin and evolution of landforms. Groundwater and water resources. Pedogenesis and soil properties. 

Designed to accommodate 100 or more students.

A one-day field trip to be arranged.

GRG 301K • Weather And Climate

37210 • Kimmel, Troy
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM JES A121A
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Course Description

An introductory look at weather and climate, this course will include a thorough discussion of atmospheric processes, clouds, precipitation (types), air masses, frontal boundaries, introductory discussions of severe local storms (and their offspring) and tropical cyclones as well as the climatology of these weather systems. Also included will be a brief introduction to the Koppen Climatic Classification System along with discussions of climatological processes, regimes, and climate change.


GRG 301K • Weather And Climate

37214 • Kimmel, Troy
Meets MW 1:00PM-2:30PM
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Course Description

An introductory look at weather and climate, this course will include a thorough discussion of atmospheric processes, clouds, precipitation (types), air masses, frontal boundaries, introductory discussions of severe local storms (and their offspring) and tropical cyclones as well as the climatology of these weather systems. Also included will be a brief introduction to the Koppen Climatic Classification System along with discussions of climatological processes, regimes, and climate change.


GRG 304E • Envir Sci: A Changing World

37215-37245 • Meyer, Thoralf
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM CLA 0.130
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Surveys the major global environmental concerns affecting the Earth and its residents from the perspectives of the environmental sciences. 

May be counted toward the writing flag requirement. May be counted toward the quantitative reasoning flag requirement.

Restricted to students in the Liberal Arts Honors Program.

GRG 305 • This Human World: Intro To Grg

37250-37305 • Heyman, Richard
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM GAR 0.102
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Course Description

This course focuses on learning why things are where they are and the processes that underlie spatial patterns. These processes are fundamentally cultural: they involve a complex mix of folk culture, popular culture, communication, religion, demography, industry and urbanization, so the course touches on all of these topics. The course also looks at the indications of human-induced environmental changes, including pollution, resource depletion, and the transformation of ecosystems. It concludes with an introduction to the range of career opportunities for people with training in geography.

Grading Policy

Final grades will be based on a combination of three exams (worth approximately 45% of the total grade), three projects (worth approximately 25% of the total grade) and participation (worth approximately 30% of the total grade).

GRG 310C • Spatial Data And Analysis

Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM PAR 203
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This is an entry level course that will prepare the student for higher level courses in geographic methods and techniques. The course content consists of a series of modules designed to cover topics common to courses in Cartography, Geographic Information Science, Field Techniques, and Remote Sensing of the Environment.

We will examine quantitative and qualitative methods of sampling, representing, classifying, and analyzing geographic phenomena. We will examine conceptions of temporal and spatial scale, location, distance and direction, and examine a broad range of geographic research methods. Specific topics will include earth shape, gravitational and magnetic fields, map projections, coordinate systems, surveying and navigation, measurements and errors, spatial statistics, and spatial analysis.

Classes will consist of lectures and discussions of the readings. Students will complete ten exercises, a mid-term examination and a final examination.

GRG 319 • Geography Of Latin America

37315 • Knapp, Gregory
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CLA 0.128
(also listed as LAS 319)
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Adaptations to population growth and spatial integration in cultural landscapes of great natural and ethnic diversity; problems of frontiers and cities.

GRG 327 • Geog Of Former Sov Union

37325 • Jordan, Bella
Meets MW 10:00AM-11:30AM BUR 130
(also listed as REE 345)
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This course is designed to give a deeper understanding of the Post-Soviet space, focusing on the major geographic factors that define this enormous Eurasian realm, including modern and historical cultural landscapes, economy and politics of the region, demography and health, religious cultures, environmental crises, contested territories, and the most recent geopolitical developments in the region.


A Geography of Russia and Its Neighbors. By Mikhail S. Blinnikov. 2011, NY: The Gifford Press.

Grading requirements:

1)    Students must take 2 exams, each worth 25% of the totals grade.

2)    Students will prepare an oral presentation on a topic related to the term paper and approved by the instructor. The presentation’s length should not exceed 15 minutes.

3)    Students will write a term paper, worth 30% of the final grade. The paper must be

10-12 pages long, double-spaced, typed in 12-point font. The bibliography should contain scholarly publications, including books and articles from peer-reviewed journals.

GRG 333C • Severe And Unusual Weather

37335 • Kimmel, Troy
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CLA 0.104
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The course examines the principles and techniques of atmospheric science and the applications to the study of severe and unusual weather events and patterns. This course will include a thorough examination (often in real time through the use of the internet) of thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, hailstorms, winter storms, tropical cyclones as well as drought. In addition to study of the events themselves, a look at the climatology of severe and unusual weather across the United States, Texas as well as our own south central Texas region will be undertaken. How these atmospheric events affect human beings and how people respond to these events will also be examined.

Grading Policy

400 points possible during the semester:
Three Regular Exams (100 points each)
Attendance / Homework / Exercises (100 points total)
Attendance Taken On A Daily Basis and Used in Final Computation of Grade

GRG 333K • Climate Change

Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SZB 524
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Course Description:

This course will survey the causes of changes in climatic systems over both short and long time periods and their consequences for landscape dynamics, biogeography, land use, sustainability, and vulnerability. The first part of the course will introduce the study of climates from an earth systems approach. Implications of differences in climate for carbon, biodiversity, and humans will be discussed. The second part of the course will look at historical and current climate change trends and controls worldwide, including coverage of the different scientific methods used for studies of these processes. We will build towards developing the expertise to critically evaluate future climate scenarios using environmental and socio-ecological approaches.

Students are expected to read the assigned readings and participate actively in class. The exams will test knowledge, vocabulary, and ability to explain and apply information.  The class projects and writing assignment will work on the ability to synthesize and communicate on scientific issues associated with climate change.


Assumes background from GRG 301C, GRG 301K, or an equivalent course.

GRG 334C • Environ Hazards Lat Amer/Carib

37345 • Ramos, Carlos
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SRH 1.320
(also listed as LAS 330)
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The physical landscape of Latin America and the Caribbean has been shaped by natural processes that have acted over geologic time scales. While some processes, like earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, originate within the Earth’s interior, others such as floods, landslides and hurricanes are constricted to the Earth’s surface. It is when these processes interact with humans that they become known as natural hazards. Recent documented worldwide increases in the toll associated to natural disasters have been related not necessarily to a higher incidence of geologic or meteorological activity but to increased vulnerability associated to population growth, inadequate development policies, and socioeconomic inequality. This course uses one of the most disaster-prone areas on Earth, Latin America and the Caribbean, as a canvas to discuss natural hazards from an interdisciplinary perspective. Course materials and lectures will expose students to the science that supports hazard risk analyses and to the temporal and geographical distribution of hazards throughout the region. The course will present humans as susceptible to hazards but also as capable of affecting the incidence and degree of damage through direct intervention of the landscape and indirectly through deficient land use planning strategies and climate change. Students will also gain perspective on hazard mitigation strategies being employed throughout the region.

GRG 335N • Landscape Ecology

37350 • Polk, Mary
Meets MW 11:30AM-1:00PM SAC 5.102
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The study of spatial patterns in the earth's biosphere found within landscapes, typically areas measured in square kilometers. Examines the processes that create those patterns, drawing from ecology, biogeography, and many other disciplines. Also explores the practical applications of landscape ecology to the study of natural environments and those managed or altered by human activities. Geography 335N and 356T (Topic: Landscape Ecology) may not both be counted.

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing and three semester hours of coursework in physical geography or one of the geological or natural sciences.

GRG 336 • Contemp Cultural Geography

37355 • Heyman, Richard
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 0.104
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Recent theoretical developments in cultural geography, with a focus on landscapes and the everyday practices that imbue them with meaning; the ways those meanings are contested and are the foci of struggle; and how the relationship between culture and space plays a central role in the social construction of identity. Only one of the following may be counted: Geography 336, Urban Studies 354 (Topic: Contemporary Cultural Geography), 354 (Topic 8).

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

May be counted toward the writing flag requirement. May be counted toward the cultural diversity flag requirement. May be counted toward the independent inquiry flag requirement.


GRG 337 • The Modern American City

37365 • Heyman, Richard
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM CLA 1.104
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Issues facing residents of United States cities, such as transportation and housing, poverty and crime, metropolitan finance, environmental and architectural design; historical/comparative urban evolution. 

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

May be counted toward the cultural diversity flag requirement.

SAME AS ARC 350R (TOPIC 1) , URB 352 (TOPIC 1).

GRG 339 • Process Geomorphology

37370 • Ramos, Carlos
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CLA 1.402
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Analysis of geomorphic processes and their effects on landform development. 

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing, and credit or registration for Geography 301C or Geological Sciences 401.

GRG 339K • Envir, Devel, & Food Productn

37375 • Doolittle, William
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM CLA 0.128
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This course focuses on "indigenously developed" and what used to be call "traditional" farming methods and techniques. Such practices are those not dependent on either fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, or other external inputs, and hence have been called "Low extenal-input techonolgies" (LEIT). Based on "indigenous technical knowledge" (ITK), they are typically small in scale, involving for the most part the labor of individuals, families, and communities. Emphasis is placed on those systems most commonly used in various parts of the world today and in times past

Agriculture is treated here as the transformation of biophysical, sometimes referred to inappropriately as "natural," environments, into "cultural" environments. It is assessed in regard to both the plants cultivated (crops), and the soil, slope, moisture, and temperature conditions that exist and those that are either modified or created by farmers. The processes involved in the domestication of both crops and landscapes are discussed. Ecological and systematic approaches are taken in order to understand how different agricultural strategies insure continual long-term productivity and stability similar to that characteristic of environments that are not cultivated. Microeconomics is all-important.

The various "agro-ecosystems" are also discussed as economic activities that have highly visible spatial manifestations that result in distinctive "landscapes," and as activities that are dynamic, changing continuously. Development is treated conceptually as a specific type of change, not necessarily as a goal. It is envisaged as improvement in land productivity.  It is the opposite of land degradation. Agricultural features such as terraces and canals are considered "landesque capital." Social, political, and cultural aspects of agriculture and development are not topics dealt with here.

This is not a "how to" course for tree-hugging, granola-eating acolytes of John Muir who wish to remold the world into some unrealistic utopia. It is not intended for students who, like Kinky Friedman, went to Borneo to teach agriculture to people who'd been farming successfully for 2000 years. This course is not about developing "sustainable agriculture," per se.  It does, however, deal with issues of concern in the field of sustainability science, and is intended for students who wish to gain a better understanding of the complexity of human-environment interactions, particularly as they pertain to people feeding themselves. 

GRG 356 • Archaeol Of Climate Change

37390 • Rosen, Arlene
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM BUR 224
(also listed as ANT 324L)
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Course Description: Climate change has impacted human societies over the course of human existence on the planet. It has played a role in everything from hominin evolution to the rise and fall of civilizations through to the present day economic and ethical decision-making. In this course we will examine why climate changes, the methods for recording climate change, and discuss case studies of the varied responses of past human societies to climate change in different geographic regions and time periods with varying socio-political and economic systems. We will explore aspects of resilience and rigidity of societies and issues of environmental sustainability in the past as well as the present. Finally we will compare and contrast modern responses to climate change on a global scale with those of past societies.

Goals: To familiarize students with the evidence for climate change and methods of climate change research; to increase their understanding of the social, economic and technological issues human societies faced in the past when dealing with climate change. To understand what were adaptive and maladaptive human strategies. To help students evaluate the modern politics and social responses to climate change. On successful completion of this course a student should understand how climate change is recorded and the basic climatic record for the period of human occupation of the earth. To be familiar with current debates about how human societies adapt to climate change. To be able to think critically about issues and arguments proposed in the literature, and to write a coherent essay arguing a point of view. 

Climate change has impacted human societies over the course of human existence on the planet. It has played a role in everything from hominin evolution to the rise and fall of civilizations through to the present day economic and ethical decision-making. In this course we will examine why climate changes, the methods for recording climate change, and discuss case studies of the varied responses of past human societies to climate change in different geographic regions and time periods with varying socio-political and economic systems. We will explore aspects of resilience and rigidity of societies and issues of environmental sustainability in the past as well as the present. Finally we will compare and contrast modern responses to climate change on a global scale with those of past societies. 

GRG 356 • Gis Apps In Social/Env Sci

37395 • Miller, Jennifer
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CLA 1.402
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Please check back for updates.

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

GRG 356 • Global Sustainability/Soil

37400 • Beach, Timothy
Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM CLA 3.102
(also listed as LAH 350)
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Honors course; restricted to students participating in an honors program.

Soil is our least understood but greatest natural resource and our most biodiverse ecosystem. Despite its importance, soil is being degraded at high rates around the world, which leads to hundreds of billions of dollars of economic and ecosystem service losses.  This course considers soils in the critical zone, including how they form, provide fertility to ecosystems and crops, how their ecosystems function, their distinguishing characteristics in Nature, their taxonomy, and their spatial variability around the globe with one-third of the examples from Latin America. The course also considers how soils change both in negative and positive terms over time, such as carbon and other elemental fluxes, soil erosion, desertification, and soil pollution.  The course then considers how we manage soils for a sustainable planet by sequestering carbon to counter climate change, treat soil and water pollution, conserve soil ecosystems, build soil fertility, and grow more crops with minimal environmental impacts.  Specific topics will include biochar, terra preta, organic agriculture, indigenous soil knowledge and farming systems, the soil science in World Food Prizes (i.e., development), and agroecosystems. Three lecture hours a week for one semester.

GRG 356T • Human Health & Environment

37425 • Elkins, Jules
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM CLA 1.108
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GRG 356T • Intl Development In Africa

37405 • Faria, Caroline
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CLA 1.108
(also listed as AFR 372F)
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GRG 356T • Landuse/Landcover Change Pract

37410 • Crews, Kelley
Meets T 4:00PM-7:00PM CLA 1.404
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GRG 356T • Mapping In Storytelling

37413 • Goldsberry, Kirk
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BMC 3.208
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GRG 356T • Mapping Latin America

37412 • Del Castillo, Lina
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM SRH 1.115
(also listed as HIS 363K, LAS 330)
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The main objective of this course is to understand the role of maps in the creation of Latin America as a specific sort of place. As such, the course itself will allow students to become familiar with a broad overview of Latin American history from Pre-Columbian civilizations to the modern period.  By paying particular attention to the maps produced of and in the region within this broad time span, students are challenged to question existing assumptions of what “Latin America” means historically, culturally, and of course, spatially.
Students will have the chance to develop their map-reading skills by using a wide range of graphic representations of the Americas. Students will come away from the course with an understanding of the nature of maps (that is, not only the natural environment they represent, but also how maps work to conjure up particular kinds of natural environments). They will be able to identify the kinds of arguments maps make through the many ways they present and communicate information. Students will learn to identify how and why particular maps are made; the historical changes involved in processes of surveying, map drawing, and map printing; interpret how people have read different kinds of maps under different circumstances; and be sensitive to the implications of map silences onplace formation.

GRG 356T • Maya Art/Architecture-Gua

37414 • Runggaldier, Astrid
(also listed as ARH 347M, LAS 327)
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Introduction to the artistic traditions of the ancient Maya, tracing their development up to the time of European contact. Students will examine various important themes of Maya culture including history, ritual, and cosmology as revealed in sculpture, hieroglyphs, painting, and architectural design. 

GRG 356T • Northern Lands And Cultures

37420 • Jordan, Bella
Meets MW 11:30AM-1:00PM BUR 134
(also listed as EUS 346, REE 345)
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Designed to develop a geographical understanding of the Circumpolar region of the North, an ancient human habitat and a home to distinct, millenia old, civilizations. These indigenous Arctic cultures and livelihoods are being constantly challenged by modern industrial powers, and the clash between two contesting realities is profound. Emphasis is given to a historical geographical perspective on the major processes forming cultural and natural landscapes (including global warming), and influence society, economy, spiritual life and politics. Regions include: Alaska, the Canadian northern territories, Scandinavian North, including Sapmi (Lapland), Iceland, Greenland, the Russian North, and Siberia.

GRG 356T • Vienna: Memory/The City-Aut

37415 • Hoelscher, Steven
(also listed as EUS 346, GSD 360, HIS 362G)
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GRG 357 • Medical Geography

37430 • Elkins, Jules
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM CLA 0.104
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The geographic distribution, expansion, and contraction of the infectious diseases that have the greatest influence in shaping human societies today: malaria, AIDS, and others. 

Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

GRG 360G • Envir Geographic Info Systems

37435-37450 • Arima, Eugenio
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:00AM CLA 0.128
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This course introduces basic concepts underlying geographic information systems and science (GIS), including related or integrated technologies and applications such as global positioning systems (GPS), cartography, and spatial analysis. It combines an overview of the general principles of GIS with a theoretical treatment of the nature and issues associated with the use of spatial environmental information. Although the course has a laboratory component that introduces students to the most commonly used GIS software package, the focus is on the “science behind the software” (eg, types and implications of functions and analysis, rather than just how to do the analysis).

GRG 373F • Field Techniques

37465 • Doolittle, William
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM CLA 3.102
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Geographers sitting in their offices frequently find themselves lacking the right type of data to deal with a specific problem at hand. This is the case for practitioners holding a bachelor's degree and working in the private sector as well as for academicians holding doctoral degrees and teaching at comprehensive research universities. For example, a geographer employed by a firm designing a retirement community may be faced with a problem such as assessing a series of possible sites on which to build the swimming pool. Maps and aerial photographs may be available, but do they contain sufficiently detailed information about the soils, geology, slope, vegetation, hydrology, and cultural features such as historic structures, wells, fences or walls? And, how are these items or conditions spatially distributed in absolute terms and relative to each other? Or, consider a scholar investigating the expansion cacao cultivation in the rainforests of southern Brazil. How does she or he distinguish fields from forest? Cacao, after all, is a tree which grows in the shade of taller trees, and, accordingly, farmers do not clear-cut the forest before planting their crop. And, what about the composition(s) of the "natural" environment(s) and that (those) of the fields? What about the sizes and shapes of the fields, and socio-economic characteristics of the farmers? The only way to get these data are to go into "the field," and to use certain techniques.

This course introduces advanced geography students to a number of various techniques used in gathering field data. It does not deal with every technique nor does it go into great detail on any one.  It does, however, offer the basics of certain types of data collection, and, in so doing, it provides a foundation on which more advanced study--either formally through other classes, or informally through self-training--can be undertaken.

The course is divided into two parts, each dealing with different types of techniques, and each with different levels of supervision.  The first part of the course deals with mapping, the most fundamental of geographic activities. Students learn how to collect data with a clearly spatial dimensions. They begin by using some very simple instruments and progress to using the latest electronic surveying equipment. Emphasis is placed on mapping small areas largely because data at this scale are usually what geographers do not already possess, and, therefore, need. Also, working at this scale gives students a first-hand appreciation for, or at least a "taste" of, the processes involved in collecting data portrayed on existing maps of various scales. Instruction during this first half of the semester is very focused; students are closely supervised.

The second part of the course focuses on the collection of various types of environmental data that can be mapped. Emphasis here is placed on both "natural" data used most often, but not exclusively, by so-called "physical geographers," and "cultural" data commonly used by so-called "human geographers." Also, techniques for determining past as well as current conditions are covered in order for students to assess changing geographies. Instruction during the second half of the semester is less supervised than in the first half. Students are given a great deal of liberty to hone their skills at making professional judgements.

The focus of this course is on landscapes, especially those that are material and visible. Instruction includes some classroom lectures and several outdoor exercises. This course involves hands-on experience. Students can expect to be hot, cold, dirty, and wet, and exposed to some health risks. Research methods, project formulation, laboratory data analyses, and cartography are not be part of this course. This course deals exclusively with outdoor data collection techniques.

GRG 374 • Frontiers In Geography

Meets MW 2:30PM-4:00PM CLA 0.108
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Course Objective and Subjects

The primary objective of this course is to provide you a ‘working understanding’ of the contemporary nature of Geography, which means I am interested in considering Geography as it is practiced. My department expects this course, Frontiers in Geography, to be a ‘capstone’ experience, although none of us really knows what that means. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways and the faculty of our department have tried many of them while teaching this course, based to a great extent upon their own respective personal and academic histories, styles, personalities, and general sense of what is important and what is not. None of them are wrong.

The route I have chosen is a ‘working understanding’, which it is hoped, will complement and supplement what you have been studying for these last few years.

I begin with the simplest of questions—What is Geography?—and then provide a set of fundamentals that will help answer the question, thus providing a ‘working’ understanding:

 It is a set of concepts

 It is a frame for study

 It is a discipline

 It is a university subject

 It is a job

1)  Concepts. In this section we provide an overview of the nature of the discipline—“what are the fundamental precepts that define Geography?” To some extent this is a summary and gathering together of ideas that surround what you have been doing for the last few years as a Geography major. At the same time it is my opportunity to stress my favorite geo-concept: Place, perhaps along with space, its little stepsister.

2) Frame. We use these concepts to help frame our study of geographic processes, especially in terms of the patterns of human activity. Such a framing will help illuminate the essences of these processes.  For the purposes of this class we will focus primarily on ‘place’ in research focused on the example of tourism. The focus of your final capstone paper and most of your readings will be here, therefore, on the subject called “A Geography of Tourism”, framed within the concept of place.

3) Discipline. We will discuss Geography as a contemporary academic discipline in terms of its history, associations, journals, and departments.

4) University. The heart and history of a discipline begins with the university. Here we will talk about the contemporary nature of the American University, especially in this contentious political and economic era; issues of note at the national, state, and UT levels will be discussed.  We do so to understand the home of Geography, but we will spend time on issues that may not have immediate relevance to our discipline.

5) Job. Several of you will be disappointed that this course is not centered on getting you a job.  In fact, we won’t spend much time on the subject at all.  Why?  Because basically it is not within my purview; the truth be known, I don’t know much about that subject, which is true of most of my colleagues.  This goes back to our subject of the University (above); more on that later. But we will not ignore it.  We will work on your resumes, discuss ways you can aggressively engage the lousy market out there, consider issues of cover letters and interviewing, and we will bring people into the classroom who can help provide us some practicalities of the search.  We will also discuss graduate school.  Here I can help much more, although if the past is any predictor fewer than five or six of you will be immediately interested.  We’ll play that one by ear.

The discussion of these five issues will be linear in the most general sense, but because they are often so closely intertwined we will integrate them at times. Also, I cannot assign a specific amount of time for each subject—although the system often asks that I do—because we reserve the right to spend more or less time on individual subjects as we see fit, once we are there. No worries; it will work.