Overview

Extensive urban and suburban growth has characterized much of the latter half of the 20th century in the United States. Accordingly, urban geography and urban and regional planning have grown as key areas of geography, with geographers contributing significantly to the broader planning field. At the dawn of the 21st century, as American urban areas become increasingly congested and populated, the need for planners will only grow.

Urban geography focuses on the spatial organization of activities and land use within cities as well as the connections between cities in larger urban networks. Urban geographers also study the processes and forces that effect change in urban areas, including population growth and distribution, ethnic makeup, political movements, and industrial patterns. Urban geographers focus both on the unique or distinctive characteristics of individual cities and on the similarities that exist between many urban centers.

Geographic education and training promote the kind of understanding of society’s complex use of urban and rural land necessary for successful planning and for providing possible solutions to problems arising from conflicting land uses within regions. The powerful tools of geography — namely GIS, cartography, and remote sensing — further bolster the geographer’s ability to plan effectively for the future.

Ideally, planners are able to prepare master plans that will benefit the economy and social fabric of neighborhoods, communities, cities, and regions. They work to make cities efficient, but attractive places to live and work by considering zoning regulations, traffic flows, building density, hydrology, population distribution, and recreational needs. To gain these skills, planners study population geography, transportation, social service, utilities, and solid-waste disposal systems.

Some planners concentrate almost exclusively on transportation planning. Traffic congestion — and its associated noise and air pollution — has become a major problem in many American cities, especially since Americans have resisted most mass transit initiatives and insisted on private automobiles as their preferred means of transportation. This puts a tremendous strain on cities’ street networks; it also creates the need for skilled planners. With their well-developed spatial analysis skills, geographers can assist in this planning endeavor.

This concentration is intended for students interested in graduate work or employment in urban, regional, or community planning or development, in transportation or health services planning, in urban studies, in public affairs, or with the Department of Housing and Urban Development or the Census Bureau. While jobs in planning are available to students with a degree in geography, students who pursue graduate work in urban planning will have enhanced employment opportunities. Students who do not plan to do graduate study in urban planning should seek out internship opportunities in order to gain experience and contacts.

Geography Courses

Both of the following:
GEO 101: World Human Geography
GEO 102: Globalization and Development

Two of the following:
GEO 200: American Ethnic Geography
GEO 201: Economic Geography
GEO 210: Current Themes in Geography (when appropriate)
GEO 215: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
GEO 225: Digital Cartography and GPS
GEO 230: Remote Sensing
GEO 280: Geography of Cyberspace

All of the following:
GEO 320: Urban Geography
GEO 321: Urban and Regional Planning
GEO 420: Rural Geography

One of the following:
GEO 415: Advanced Geographic Information Systems
GEO 430: Advanced Remote Sensing
GEO 460: Data Analysis
GEO 470: Political Geography
GEO 475: Culture, Nature, Landscape
GEO 486: Internship in Geography
GEO 490: Selected Topics in Geography (when appropriate)
GEO 492: Research in Geography

Recommended:
GEO 104: Geomorphology
GEO 215: Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
GEO 260: Environmental Conservation
GEO 474: Historical Geography of the United States
GEO 495: Independent Study

Recommended Complementary Courses:

ECON 335: Urban Economic Problems
HIST 327: History of Chicago
POLS 220: State and Local Politics in the United States
POLS 320: Politics of Urban and Metropolitan Areas.
POLS 361: Public Policy
SOC 325: Urban Sociology
SOC 347: Race and Ethnic Relations

Minors/Second Majors

Many minors and/or second majors complement this concentration, including computer science, economics, ethnic studies, history, liberal arts business, political science, social work, and sociology. Students should also try to participate in the Chicago Urban Semester and earn an urban studies minor.

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Concentrations in Geology

B.A. students in geography may focus their studies in the discipline by electing to pursue one of four concentrations: