Geography studies the Earth and its diverse people and environments. It seeks to understand how humans perceive and transform places and landscapes around the world. Geographers also explore and analyze the spatial organization of natural and social phenomena by creating and using maps with computerized geographic information systems (GIS). Geography students learn to integrate knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities in order to understand humanity's relationship with the Earth. Geography uniquely combines a strong liberal arts education with marketable professional skills.
The major integrates dynamic classroom instruction with field and professional experience to prepare students for a wide variety of careers. Students completing the major may go on to careers in environmental management, urban planning, geospatial technology, cartography, location planning, real estate, tourism, marketing, demography, natural disaster preparation and recovery, international business, emergency management, social studies education, or earth science education to name just a few areas. Combining geography with a second major or pursuing graduate study in geography can enhance a student's opportunities. Geography majors also pursue graduate study in other areas including urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental science, resource management, climatology, oceanography, geology, archaeology, anthropology, law, or medicine.
The Geography major at Valparaiso University emphasizes practical experience through field trips, field courses, internships, and opportunities to work with faculty on original research. Students taking physical geography courses regularly visit the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park to learn about dune formation and biodiversity. Students studying urban geography and planning take a short train ride into Chicago to experience the dynamism of the downtown Loop and to observe everyday life in its diverse neighborhoods. In field courses, students use the environment as their classroom; learning about glacial processes while hiking on a glacier in Alaska or about natural hazards by visiting volcanoes in Hawaii. Most geography students complete a paid or unpaid internship with national parks, urban planning agencies, Indian reservations, environmental organization, non-profit organizations, and businesses. Many geography students also complete one of Valparaiso University's study abroad programs or the Chicago Urban Studies program. Motivated students may arrange to work with a faculty member on original research problems or work as a lab assistant for physical geography and GIS courses. Outside the classroom, students share their love for geography through the Geography Club, which organizes professional and social activities, weekend field excursions, and guest speakers. Students who distinguish themselves by high scholarship may be elected to membership in Gamma Theta Upsilon, the international geography honor society. The Alpha Xi Chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon was installed at Valparaiso University in 1950. The geography program at Valparaiso University has access to state-of-the-art facilities including the F.P. Kallay Geography Applications Laboratory, an extensive map library located in the Christopher Center, and media-equipped classrooms in Kallay- Christopher Hall.
Geography Major.The Department offers two majors in geography.
1) Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography.
A minimum of 30 credit hours in geography chosen by the student in consultation with his or her advisor constitutes a major. Two 100- level, two 200-level, and four 300-level or higher courses must be included. Within the geography major, students may focus their studies further by selecting one of the following concentrations:
Contact Prof. Mike Longan for details.
2) Bachelor of Science Degree in Geography.
A minimum of 36 credit hours is required for the major and must include the Environmental Core (21 credit hours), the Geographic Tools (6 credit hours), the Professional Experience (3 credit hours), and Electives (6 credit hours) listed below. Students must also complete MATH 131. Students opting for a science minor or second major to complete this B.S. degree must select a program from outside the Department of Geography and Meteorology. See the Geography B.S. Requirements page for complete list of degree requirements.
Students interested in pursing a career in geography and geoscience education may apply for the Mathematics and Science Education Enrollment and Development program (MSEED) in which they complete the bachelor of science degree in geography and also earn a teaching license in four years.
A minimum of 16 credit hours in geography, chosen by the student in consultation with the Chair of the Department, constitutes a minor. One 100-level, one 200-level, and two 300-level or higher courses must be included.
A minimum of 15 credit hours is required for the geographic information systems minor and must include GEO (101 or 104), 215, 230, and 415, and three additional credits from GEO 225, 285 430, or 486. If selecting GEO 486, the internship must involve GIS, remote sensing, or cartography. Contact Prof. Bharath Ganesh-Babu or see the GIS Minor page for more information.
American Indian Studies Minor.
The minor must include one 100-level course, at least six credit hours from the following courses: GEO 200, 274 and 490, and six additional credit hours selected from GEO 385, 474, and 486. The American Indian Studies Minor affords students with an interest in Indian issues and culture the opportunity to study the historical geography, anthropology, and contemporary problems of a wide range of tribal groups. Of special concern within the minor are the changing perceptions of Indians in our society and the current socio-economic challenges these groups face. Perhaps the most appealing aspects of the minor are the field components: field study opportunities to Mississippi Mound sites, Plains battlesites, and Southwest historic sites and internship placements on any of several Indian reservations in Wisconsin. For more information, contact Prof. Ronald Janke or check the American Indian Studies Minor section of this website.
Geography as a Second Major or Minor
Because geography offers undergraduate students excellent opportunities to develop their professional skills through course work, field study, and internships, the Department maintains information pages on geography as a second major or minor tailored specifically to the following disciplines:
Geography and Study Abroad
Many students major in geography because they are curious about other places and other cultures. We strongly encourage our students to consider participating in a study abroad program or a domestic off campus program. Many of our students who complete a study abroad experience have life changing experiences and come back more excited about geography than ever. VU has programs available in Cambridge, England; Hangzhou, China; Germany, Paris, Athens, Spain, Namibia, Mexico, and Japan among other places. Contact the Study Abroad Office for more information about these opportunities. The university also participates in the Chicago Urban Semester and the Urban Studies Minor. Contact Professor Longan, the Urban Studies coordinator for more information.