Geography

Faculty: see Earth Science and Geography.

Requirements for Concentration: 11 units, including an introductory course (Earth Science and Society 100 or Geography 102); a geographic methods course (Geography 220, 224, or 230); the Senior Seminar (Geography 304); and another 300-level geography seminar. With the approval of the major adviser, two of the required 11 units may be taken at the 200- and 300-levels in cognate fields—such as anthropology, earth science, environmental studies, international studies, or urban studies, if the courses relate to the student’s focus in geography. After declaration of the major, no required courses may be taken NRO.

Senior-Year Requirement: An optional senior thesis (Geography 300-301 or 302) or another 300-level course; and 304 (Senior Seminar). Majors must write a senior thesis to be considered for departmental honors.

Recommendations: Earth Science 151; Field Work (290); and a study-abroad experience.

Students interested in focusing their geography program in areas such as environmental justice, political ecology, land-use planning, sustainable development, or historic preservation should see faculty in the department to discuss recommended course sequences in geography and related disciplines.

Advisers: Ms. Cunningham, Mr. Godfrey, Mr. Nevins, Ms. Zhou.

Correlate Sequence in Geography

Geography offers correlate sequences which designate coherent groups of courses intended to complement the curricula of students majoring in other departmental, interdepartmental, and multidisciplinary programs. Students pursuing a correlate sequence in geography are required to complete a minimum of six courses in the department, including an introductory course and at least one 300-level seminar. The two suggested concentrations are outlined in detail below:

Environmental Land-Use Analysis: The correlate sequence in geography with a concentration in land-use analysis is intended for students interested in Environmental Studies. It offers a succinct program in physical geography for students interested in science education, urban planning, or environmental policy. With the consent of the adviser, one unit of earth science may be selected. The six courses taken for this concentration may be selected from the following recommended list:

Society and Space: The correlate sequence in geography with a concentration in regional analysis is intended for students interested in area studies. It offers a succinct program in world regional geography for students interested in social studies education, international studies, or foreign language or area study. The six courses taken from this concentration may be selected from the following recommended list:

I. Introductory

100b. Earth Resource Challenges(1)

(Same as Earth Science and Society 100 and Earth Science 100) Topic for 2009/10b: Carbon Conflicts. Mr. McAdoo and Mr. Nevins.

102a and b. Global Geography: People, Places, and Regions(1)

Places and regions are fundamental parts of the human experience. From our hometowns to the Vassar campus, the United States, and the world beyond, we all inherit but then actively reproduce our geographies through the ways in which we lead our lives—by our social practices and spatial movements, and by the meanings we ascribe to people, places, and regions. In this manner, people shape their cultural landscapes and create the spatial divisions that represent global power relations, ideologies, socioeconomic differences, and the uneven distribution of resources. In this course we study the making of the modern world at different scales, ranging from the local to the global—through case studies drawn from the Hudson Valley and around the world—with an emphasis on the ways people, places, and regions relate to socio-economic inequalities. In addition to learning about specific places and regions, we focus on major themes and debates in geography, including mapping and cartographic communication, culture and landscape modification, population and sustainable development, agriculture and urbanization, and political divisions of the globe. The department.

Two 75-minute periods.

[ 111a and b. Earth Science and Environmental Justice ](1)

(Same as Earth Science 111)

Not offered in 2009/10.

151b. Earth, Environment, and Humanity(1)

(Same as Earth Science 151b)

Seeing the Landscape

(Same as Environmental Studies 184b)

II. Intermediate

The prerequisite for 200-level courses is ordinarily 1 unit of introductory geography.

218a. Global Asia.(1)

(Same as Asian Studies 218a)

[ 220a. Cartography: Making Maps with GIS ](1)

(Same as Earth Science 220a) Cartography, the science and art of map-making, is integral to the geographer's craft. This course uses GIS to make thematic maps and to acquire and present data, including data fitting students' individual interests. In addition, we explore the culture, politics, and technology of historic cartography, and we examine techniques in using maps as rhetoric and as political tools. Throughout the course, we focus on issues of clear, efficient, and intentional communication through graphic presentation of data. Thus, the course integrates problems of graphic design and aesthetics with strategies of manipulating quantitative data. ArcGIS is used in labs for map production and data analysis. Ms. Cunningham.

Prerequisite: one 100-level geography or earth science course, or instructor's permission.

Satisfies college requirements for quantitative reasoning.

Two 75-minute periods; one 2-hour laboratory.

Not offered in 2009/10.

221a. Soils and Sustainable Agriculture(1)

(Same as Earth Science 221a)

224b. GIS: Spatial Analysis(1)

(Same as Earth Science 224b) Geographic information systems (GIS) are increasingly important and widespread packages for manipulating and presenting spatial data. While this course uses ArcGIS, the same software as Cartography, the primary focus here is the analytical tools provided in the software, rather than issues of design and presentation. Spatial analysis involves a variety of techniques, including overlay, map algebra, hydrologic modeling, surface interpolation, and site selection. Issues of data collection through remote sensing and sampling are addressed. It is advised that students consider taking Cartography (Geography 220) before taking GIS, unless students have some experience with computer software and data. Ms. Cunningham.

Two 75-minute periods; two-hour laboratory.

[ 226a. Remote Sensing ](1/2)

(Same as Earth Science 226a) Remote sensing is an increasingly important source of data for mapping and modeling earth systems. Surface features such as elevation, hydrography, soil moisture, greenness, snow cover, and urban growth are among the many factors that are monitored and measured by satellite-borne sensors. A basic understanding of remotely sensed data is, therefore, of great value to students of geography, earth science, environmental science, and other fields. This 6-week course introduces the student to data collection from satellite sensors, the nature and structure of remotely sensed data, and methods of using and analyzing these data. The course uses a combination of lecture and laboratory to introduce and practice the methods of using remotely sensed data. Ms. Cunningham.

One 3-hour period for six weeks of the semester.

Not offered in 2009/10.

230a. Geographic Research Methods(1)

How do we develop clear research questions, and how do we know when we have the answer? This course examines different methods for asking and answering questions about the world, which are essential skills in geography and other disciplines. Topics include formulation of a research question or hypothesis, research design, and data collection. We examine major research and methodological papers in the discipline, design an empirical research project, and carry out basic data analysis. We review qualitative approaches, interviewing methods, mapping, and quantitative methods (data gathering, descriptive statistics, measures of spatial distribution, elementary probability theory, simple statistical tests) that help us evaluate patterns in our observations. Students who are considering writing a thesis or conducting other independent research and writing are encouraged to take this course. Ms. Cunningham.

[ 231a. Geomorphology: Surface Processes and Evolution of Landforms ](1)

(Same as Earth Science 231a)

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 236a. The Making of Modern East Asia ](1)

(Same as Asian Studies 236a) East Asia, the hearth of the oldest continuous civilization of the world, is now among the most dynamic power centers in the global economy. This course examines the common and contrasting experiences of East Asian countries as each struggled to come to terms with the expansion of global capitalism and with a western dominated global political order since the nineteenth century. We focus especially on their post-World War II experiences. Major themes include impacts of western and Japanese imperialism, the postwar economic rise of Japan, authoritarianism and democratization in newly industrialized regions, and the political and economic transformation of China. Attention is also given to issues of the environment and urbanization as part of East Asian modernization processes. Ms. Zhou.

Prerequisite: at least one 100-level course in geography or Asian Studies.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 238b. China and the World ](1)

(Same as Asian Studies 238b) As China emerges into a global superpower, academic and public debates are intensifying on the past and future of China's relationship with the rest of the world. This course systematically examines a number of the most prominent issues concerning China's rise. We engage in the contemporary debate on the western conceptualization of China in the historical world system: was the traditional China an insular empire with a marginal influence on world history, or one of the key contributors to global trade and cultural exchange? Was China's sharp decline in the nineteenth and early twentieth century an inevitable outcome of modernization encountering prolonged cultural weaknesses, or a transitory setback due to western imperialism? Most attention, however, is paid to contemporary questions about China's industrialization, international relations, and environmental implications. For example, does the label "made-in-China," conspicuous to today's consumers, victimize the Chinese in the global division of labor, or indicate potential for industrial preeminence. Will China's inroads into Africa and Latin America become a new source of external exploitation and injustice for developing countries, or promise alternatives to western dominance? How will China's environmental trajectory affect the rest of the world? Ms. Zhou.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2009/10.

242b. Brazil: Society, Culture, and Environment in Portuguese America(1)

(Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 242b and Africana Studies 242b) Brazil, long Latin America's largest and most populous country, has become an industrial and agricultural powerhouse with increasing political-economic clout in global affairs. This course examines Brazil's contemporary evolution in light of the country's historical geography, the distinctive cultural and environmental features of Portuguese America, and the political-economic linkages with the outside world. Specific topics for study include: the legacies of colonial Brazil; race relations, Afro-Brazilian culture, and ethnic identities; issues of gender, youth, violence, and poverty; processes of urban-industrial growth; regionalism and national integration; environmental conservation and sustainability; continuing controversies surrounding the occupation of Amazonia; and long-run prospects for democracy and equitable development in Brazil. Mr. Godfrey.

Two 75-minute periods.

[ 248b. The US-Mexico Border: Region, Place, and Process ](1)

(Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 248b) The United States-Mexico border region is the site of the only land boundary uniting and dividing the so-called First and Third worlds from one another. Barely older than 150 years, the border has become a highly significant bi-national region in terms of economic development, demographic growth, and ethno-cultural exchange. It has also evolved from an area of relatively low importance in the national imagination of the United States (and, to a lesser extent, of Mexico) to one of great significance. Yet, the making and the regulating of the international boundary and the territorial conquest and dispossession it involved have long been central to nation-state-making in both countries, as well as to the production of various social categories—especially race, ethnicity, citizenship, and nationality, but also class, gender, and sexual orientation. This course investigates these developments, while illustrating that the boundary has profound effects on people's lives throughout North America as it embodies a set of processes and practices that help define, unite and divide people and places. Mr. Nevins.

Two 75-minute periods.

Not offered in 2009/10.

250b. Urban Geography: Built Environment, Social Space, and Sustainability(1)

(Same as Urban Studies 250b) Focusing on the uneven geographical development of global metropolitan regions, this course investigates the socio-spatial processes shaping urban built environments, social areas, and patterns of sustainability. Specific topics for study include the historical geography of urban location, city form, and land-use patterns; the contemporary restructuring of global cities; problems of suburban sprawl, edge cities, and growth management; urban renewal, redevelopment, and gentrification; spatiality's of gender, race, ethnicity, and culture; urban design, cognitive geography, and public space; and movements for the "New Urbanism" and livable cities. Case studies provide theoretical tools to "read" the urban landscape as an urban geographer. Mr. Godfrey.

Two 75-minute sessions.

[ 254a. Geographies of Food and Farming ](1)

Farming and food production connect us to the landscapes in which we live, and they shape the geographies of our communities. Increasingly, farming and food also connect us to processes of globalization. The world produces more food than ever before, yet factors such as centralization of production and competition from biofuels lead to food riots in developing regions and continuing losses of rainforests from Brazil to Indonesia. One key strategy for understanding these connections is to examine the biogeographic patterns that shape food production. In this course, we focus first on the physical environmental factors (including water resources, climate patterns, and biodiversity) that characterize agricultural regions of North America. As part of this discussion, we consider ethical, political, and cultural aspects of food production. We then use these frameworks to examine global production and exchanges of food. We use case studies, such as land conversion in Brazil and Indonesia, to understand prominent debates about food and farming today. Ms. Cunningham.

Not offered in 2009/10.

[ 258b. Sustainable Landscapes: Bridging Place and Environment ](1)

Geographers have long understood the relationship of aesthetic landscapes and place to include concepts of identity, control, and territory. Increasingly we consider landscape aesthetics to involve environmental quality as well. How do these contrasting sets of priorities meet in the process of landscape design and analysis? In this course we begin by examining regional and local histories of landscape design and their relationship to concepts of place, territory, and identity. We then consider landscape ecological approaches to marrying aesthetic and environmental priorities in landscapes. We investigate local issues such as watershed quality, native plantings, and runoff management in order to consider creative ways to bridge these once-contrary approaches to understanding the landscapes we occupy. We focus on projects on topics related to the ongoing Vassar campus landscape study. Ms. Cunningham.

Not offered in 2009/10.

260a. Conservation of Natural Resources(1)

(Same as Earth Science 260) Natural resources are perennially at the center of debates on sustainability, planning, land development, and environmental policy. The ways we conceptualize and understand resources are as important to understanding these issues as their actual distributions. This course provides a geographic perspective on global ecology and resource management, using local examples to provide deeper experience with resource debates. The focus of the course this year is forest resources: biodiversity, forest health, timber resources, and forest policy, and the ways people have struggled to make a living in forested ecosystems. We discuss these issues on a global scale (tropical timber piracy, boreal forests and biodiversity), and we explore them locally in the Adirondacks. This course requires that students spend October Break on a group trip to the Adirondacks. Students must be willing to spend long, cold days outside and to do some hiking (unless special permission is arranged with the instructor). Ms. Cunningham.

Two 75-minute periods.

Students wishing to register under Earth Science must have had at least one previous earth science course.

266a. Population, Environment, and Sustainable Development(1)

(Same as International Studies 266a) This course examines major issues, myths, theoretical debates, and real-life controversies regarding population change and the environment from a political-ecology perspective. Political ecology studies the changing physical environment through the lens of political-economic institutions and social discourse. The first part of this course visits the theoretical debates on population and environment through demographic analysis and critical evaluation of healthcare and family planning policies. The latter half offers lessons on issues related to food scarcity and security, environmental and social movements in many developing regions such as China, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America. Mr. Nevins.

Two 75-minute periods.

272b. Geographies of Mass Violence(1)

Violence has been an integral part of the making of landscapes, places, and the world political map. This course examines theories of violence, explanations of why it happens where it does, and how mass violence has come to shape local, national, and international geographies. In doing so, it analyzes how violence becomes embedded in geographical space and informs social relations. The course draws upon various case studies, including incidents of mass violence in Rwanda, Indonesia, East Timor, Guatemala, and the United States. Mr. Nevins.

Two 75-minute periods.

276a. Economic Geography: Spaces of Global Capitalism(1)

(Same as International Studies 276a) The spatial patterns and dynamics of the world economy are examined in diverse industrial and regional settings. The focus is on the spatial distribution of economic activities, the use of resources, and development of regional economies. Topics may include the global shift of manufacturing activities, the spatial organization of post-Fordist production, the spread and impact of agribusiness, globalization of services, foreign direct investment and multi-national corporations, and the interdependency between developed and developing economies. Ms. Zhou.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work(1/2 or 1)

The department.

298a or b. Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

Open to qualified students in other disciplines who wish to pursue related independent work in geography. The department.

III. Advanced

Prerequisite for advanced courses is ordinarily 2 units of 200-level work in geography, or by permission of the instructor. Specific prerequisites assume the general prerequisite.

300a-301b. Senior Thesis(1/2, 1/2)

A 1-unit thesis starting in the fall semester, with 1/2 unit graded provisionally in the fall and 1/2 unit graded in the spring. The final grade, awarded in the spring, shall replace the provisional grade in the fall. The department.

302a or b. Senior Thesis(1)

Students may elect a 1-semester, 1-unit thesis only in exceptional circumstances. Usually, students adopt 300-301. The department.

304a. Senior Seminar: Issues in Geographic Theory and Method(1)

A review of the theory, method, and practice of geographical inquiry. The seminar traces the history of geographic thought from early episodes of global exploration to modern scientific transformations. The works and biographies of major contemporary theorists are critically examined in terms of the changing philosophies of geographic research. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are discussed, along with scientific, humanist, radical, feminist, and other critiques in human geography. Overall, alternative conceptions of geography are related to the evolution of society and the dominant intellectual currents of the day. The student is left to choose which approaches best suits his or her own research. The seminar culminates in the presentation of student research proposals. Mr. Nevins.

One 2-hour period.

340a and b. Advanced Urban and Regional Studies(1)

This seminar examines selected urban and regional issues at various geographical scales, ranging from the local to the global. Topics may change from year to year, in which case the seminar can be repeated for credit. Previous seminar topics include culture clash in Latin America; Central Asia in transition; Art, Ethnicity, and Environment in the American Southwest; the Asian diaspora; and Mega-Cities of Latin America.

Topic for 2009/10a: Urban Political Ecology: Environmental History, Conservation, and Planning in Global Cities. (Same as Environmental Studies 340a and Urban Studies 340a) In our increasingly urban world, understanding and managing the diverse connections among cities and their extended geophysical and human environments have become urgent tasks. This seminar examines issues of environmental history, conservation, and planning in global mega-cities—sprawling metropolitan areas exceeding ten million inhabitants—through the theoretical lens of urban political ecology. We focus on how political institutions have mediated the interactions of humans and nature in urban settings around the world. Topics for study include the intellectual history of urban sustainability, methods of environmental history, issues of urban design and metabolism, contemporary efforts to conserve urban environments, participatory citizenship and environmental justice, and prospects for livable cities. Students carry out research on a global mega-city of their choice. Mr. Godfrey

Topic for 2009/10b: Arctic Environmental Change. (Same as Environmental Studies 340b and Earth Science 340b) Arctic environments define a geographic region that is important to understand both in terms of its distinctive biogeographic patterns and functions and because it is subject to some of the most dramatic environmental alterations associated with global climate change. This course takes a biogeographic and landscape ecological approach to examining how this region contributes to global biodiversity, and why it contributes disproportionately to the regulation and change of the earth's climate system. What characteristics define these environments and make them especially vulnerable to positive feedbacks in a changing climate? How might climate changes alter landscape structure and composition, and what are the implications of these changes for the distribution of plants and animals in the region? What are global implications of these changes? We examine current literature and data to explore these questions about ongoing and anticipated environmental change in arctic regions. Some background in understanding earth systems or climate change is helpful. Ms. Cunningham.

One three-hour period.

341a. Oil(1)

(Same as Earth Science 341a and Environmental Studies 341a) Mr. McAdoo.

[ 356b. Environment and Land Use Planning ](1)

(Same as Earth Science 356b and Environmental Studies 356b) This seminar focuses on land-use issues such as open-space planning, conservation, agriculture, and social effects of urban planning policies. The topic of the course this year is farmland preservation. We examine the economics, demographics, landscape values, and social, environmental, and planning concerns surrounding both the disappearance of farmland in the mid-Hudson Valley and ongoing efforts to slow the loss of working farms in the area. Ms. Cunningham.

Prerequisite: one 200-level course in Geography, Earth Science, or Environmental Studies. Students wishing to register under earth science must have had at least one previous earth science course.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2009/10.

372a. and b. Topics in Human Geography(1)

This seminar focuses on advanced debates in the socio- spatial organization of the modern world. The specific topic of inquiry varies from year to year. Students may repeat the course for credit if the topic changes. Previous seminar themes include the urban-industrial transition, the urban frontier, urban poverty, cities of the Americas, segregation in the city, global migration, and reading globalization.

Topic for 2009a: Lines, Fences, and Walls: The Partitioning of the Global Landscape. (Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 372a and Urban Studies 372a.) This course examines the making of the spatial boundaries that divide and connect people and places across the Earth's surface. In doing so, it considers the origins and evolution of various types of divides—from private property lines that have marked the demise of commons throughout the world, to the barbed wire fences used to contain people and animals, and the international boundary walls and barriers that increasingly scar the global landscape—and considers various effects of and responses to these phenomena. Mr. Nevins.

Topic for 2010b: Preserving Whose City? Memory, Heritage, And Planning In Global Cities. (Same as Latin American and Latino/a Studies 372b and Urban Studies 372b) Urban memory and heritage are increasingly important sources of cultural identity, tourist development, and political symbolism in our globalized world. How we define ourselves depends in large part on how we treat the legacies of the past, which serve to anchor our collective memories in particular cultural landscapes. This seminar focuses on the rise of historical preservation and the impacts of heritage programs on the built forms and public spaces of global cities. After examining the theory and practice of heritage conservation with reference to case studies of historic cities, students carry out research in sites of their own choosing. Mr. Godfrey

One three-hour period.

[ 384a. Community GIS ](1)

Geographers contribute to vitality and equity in their communities by examining the spatial dynamics of socioeconomic and environmental problems. Strategies used to interrogate these problems include mapping and geographic information systems (GIS), or computer-aided mapping and spatial analysis. For example, community access to transportation and housing, differential access to food or health care, or distributions of social services are often best understood in terms of mapped patterns. These patterns both reflect and influence the social dynamics of a community. In addition to affecting quality of life, these issues give insights into the ways we decide as a society to allocate resources. In this course we take on subjects of concern in the local area and use mapping and spatial data to examine them. Projects may involve work with groups in the Poughkeepsie area as well as library research, readings, some GIS work. Course activities and projects vary according to subjects studied. Because this course focuses on collaborative research projects, rather than on the technology, GIS and cartography are useful but not prerequisite courses. The department.

One 3-hour period.

Not offered in 2009/10.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work(1/2 or 1)

The department.