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Grand Valley State University    
2013-2014 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog 
  Sep 20, 2018
2013-2014 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Geography and Planning - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences  section in this catalog.

Chair: Wagendorp. Professor: Cole; Associate Professors: Gang, Lioubimtseva, Penn, Sun, Wagendorp; Assistant Professors: Houser, Ma.


This program includes the geography major, geographic techniques (GIS and remote sensing) minor, the city and regional planning minor, and the geography education at the secondary level minor (teachable minor).

Geography is one of the most ancient fields of study - and one of the most contemporary. Geography is the study of the spatial variation of physical and cultural phenomena on the Earth. Geography addresses the questions of where, when, as well as why phenomena occur in particular locations. Geography is the “spatial” science - concerned with place, space, and pattern - and change in pattern over space and time. At the same time, geographers study processes of change at different scales from global to local. Geography draws upon and contributes to numerous other disciplines taught at GVSU making it among the richest and most connective fields of study in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the university at large.

Our department specializes in a number of areas of study including globalization and development, geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, cartography, city and regional planning, the environment, land use and natural resource conservation, and regional and global studies.

Due to the revolution in geospatial information technologies and spatial data analysis, geographers are very much in demand in the job market and in graduate school. Please consult the department’s web site for student “success stories.”

Degrees Offered

B.S. and B.A. in geography. Minors: city and regional planning, geographical techniques, geography education at the secondary level (teachable minor). A teachable major with elementary and secondary education is also offered in social studies with a geography emphasis.

Students seeking teacher certification geography should note that besides geography, the new Michigan State Board of Education standards require basic knowledge of economics, history and political science. Students should take ECO 211, PLS 102, and HST 206 or the equivalent to obtain basic knowledge in economics, political science and history.

Career Opportunities

Career opportunities in geography and planning are many and extensive in the public, private, local, state, national, and international levels. Areas of employment include teaching, urban and regional planning, computer cartography, spatial analysis using geographic information systems and remote sensing, community analysis and development, and resource and environmental management and conservation. Both geography and planning majors have the conceptual principles, analytical skills, and technical skills to be competitive for a wide range of jobs, much too extensive to enumerate here. Students interested in exploring career options should consult with an advisor from the department. In addition, the prospective student should consult the departmental website ( under “careers” and the Association of American Geographers highly detailed listing of geography, planning and related careers at the following internet address: and search under “careers.”

Representative Occupational Titles of Geographers (Source Association of American Geographers)

Geographic Methods

  • Aerial Photo Interpreter
  • Cartographer
  • Cartographer-Geographer
  • Cartographer-Illustrator
  • Geographic Analyst
  • GIS Analyst
  • GIS Specialist
  • GIS Technician
  • Imagery Analyst
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Map Analyst
  • Remote Sensing and Image Analyst
  • Research Analyst
  • Research Coordinator
  • Research Geographer
  • Research Technician

Urban and Regional Planning

  • Community Development Specialist
  • Community Planner
  • Economic Development Analyst
  • Economic Development Planner
  • Environmental Planner
  • Industrial Developer
  • Planner
  • Land Economist
  • Land Use Planner
  • Regional Planner
  • Transportation Planner
  • Urban Geographer
  • Urban Planner

Environmental Geography

  • Agricultural Geographer
  • Climatologist
  • Ecologist
  • Environmental Analyst/Planner
  • Recreation Geographer
  • Recreation Resources Planner
  • Resource Analyst/Economist/Geographer
  • Site Analyst
  • Site Researcher
  • Soil Geographer
  • Soil Conservationist
  • Surveyor

Global/Regional Studies

  • Teacher
  • Travel Agent
  • Tour Director


  • Agricultural Geographer
  • Business Geographer
  • Demographer
  • Development Planner
  • Economic Geographer
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Geographic Engineer
  • Health Planner
  • Humanitarian Assistance Analyst
  • Marketing Analyst
  • Material Procurement Agent
  • Map Curator
  • Map Editor
  • Map Librarian
  • Medical Geographer
  • Political Analyst
  • Population Geographer
  • Recreation Geographer
  • Research Analyst
  • Research Officer
  • Research Coordinator
  • Research Geographer
  • Research Technician
  • State Department Analyst
  • Trade Analyst

Graduate School Opportunities

Consult with your advisor from the department.  See the website ( under “careers.”

Participating Programs

The Department of Geography and Planning participates in the social studies major.  The major in social studies is designed for students seeking teacher certification in secondary or middle school social studies or in elementary education.  The major includes a minimum of 42 credit hours in economics, geography, history, and political science.  Students seeking teacher certification also complete an appropriate minor and the professional program offered by the College of Education.  The social studies major meets State of Michigan content standards for teacher preparation in social studies, which require at least six credit hours and two courses in each of the four disciplines and at least 18 credits and six courses in one of the four areas.

Student Organizations (

Association of Student Geographers

The purpose of this organization shall be to:

  1. Further professional and personal interests in Geography by affording a common organization for those interested in the field.
  2. Strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences other than those of the classroom.
  3. Advance the status of Geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation.
  4. Provide fellowship and guidance for those with an interest in the field of Geography.

Bi-weekly meetings.  Questions, Professor Kin Ma, faculty Advisor at (616) 331-3351 or

Honors Organizations

Lambda Omega is GVSU’s Chapter of the Gamma Theta Upsilon, the International Geography Honor Society. Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU) is an international honor society in geography. Gamma Theta Upsilon was founded in 1928 and became a national organization in 1931. Members of GTU have met academic requirements and share a background and interest in geography. GTU chapter activities support geography knowledge and awareness.

GTU’s goals are:

  1. To further professional interest in Geography by affording a common organization for those interested in the field.
  2. To strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences in addition to those of the classroom and laboratory.
  3. To advance the status of Geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation.
  4. To encourage student research of high quality, and to promote an outlet for publication.
  5. To create and administer funds for furthering graduate study and/or research in the field of Geography.
  6. To encourage members to apply geographic knowledge and skills in service to humankind.


The following programs are available: 

Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Geography  

Geographic Techniques Minor  

City and Regional Planning Minor  

Geography-Teacher Certification Minor  

Geographic Information Systems Technology-Certificate  

Certificate in Sustainable City and Regional Planning