The Department of Geography and Meteorology, founded at Valparaiso University in 1931, offers Bachelor of Arts in Geography a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Bachelor of Arts in Geography Education. About 30 students major in geography each year, while another 15 minor in the discipline. This makes for ideal class sizes and allows for close interaction between students and faculty. In addition the department offers minors in GIS and in American Indian Studies.
Geography facilities include the F.P. Kallay Laboratory in Schnabel Hall, designed to facilitate research and teaching in the emerging areas of computerized geographic analysis, including GIS, remote sensing, and cartography. Outfitted with over two-dozen up to date computers, the lab utilizes ESRI's widely used software. Most geography classes meet in the new Kallay-Christopher Hall which has state of the art classrooms and facilities.
The Department also offers an especially rich variety of field courses, giving students first-hand experience in geography outside the classroom. Trips in the last few years have visited Yellowstone National Park via the Oregon Trail, major Indian mound sites of the American South, and the various National Park units of central and northern Arizona, including the Grand Canyon. These field courses normally run during Spring Break or summer.
A current geography student talks about her "Real Life Experiences in Valpo's Geography Program"
On the strength of their academic achievement, VU students have earned teaching assistantships and research grants in geography from such nationally recognized graduate schools as the University of British Columbia, University of Iowa, Pennsylvania State University, Michigan State University, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Texas just to name a few. The geography faculty maintain ties with a number of these programs and actively assist students in the graduate school application process.
Students who maintain a high level of academic accomplishment in geography are eligible to join Gamma Theta Upsilon, the International Geography Honor Society. Potential employers and graduate programs alike recognize this achievement, and over a dozen students currently belong to the VU chapter of GTU, which dates to 1950.
Outside the classroom, geography students interact socially through various departmental outings sponsored by the Geography Club. In the past, groups from the Department have visited Chicago's Chinatown district, the Field Museum's Maps exhibit, the nearby Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Indianapolis' MSE Corporation, one of the largest GIS firms in the Midwest.
The geography department also encourages student attendance at academic and professional conferences. Students attended the 2006 Meeting of the Association of American Geographers in Chicago. The group of VU students who attended the 1992 meeting of the East Lakes Division of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) at Central Michigan University was the largest from any school. VU students also attended past meetings at Indiana State University and the University of Nebraska. VU even hosted the 1996 joint meeting of the West Lakes and East Lakes Divisions of the AAG. This meeting brought nearly 200 geography faculty and students from across the Midwest to our campus, and VU geography majors played an integral role in smooth operation of the conference.
"When I tell people I am a Geography major, I am almost always asked two questions: Do you just look at maps? and Are you going to teach? People don’t realize that geography is so much more than what they did in high school. We don’t just sit around and memorize where places are on the globe. I have taken classes in the department on everything from environmental conservation to Native American anthropology to the geography of cyberspace.”
— Scott Osthus ’07
"The scope and content of VU's geography program, along with excellent instructors, provided me with a quality education that effectively prepared me for today's job market."
VU Class of 1997
National Geographic Society, Geography Awareness Week Manager