Geography is a discipline that brings together humans and their earthly environment. It focuses on those issues and challenges that deal with the interactions between the earth's natural processes and how we as humans perceive, utilize, sometimes abuse and often work to conserve the world around us. The geography program at RIC is a small but diverse one, with emphases on basic geography, urban, planning, natural disaster management, environment and historical landscapes of New England.
The major consists of several components: basic geography, geographic skills and methods (including GIS – Geographic Information Systems), an internship in geography and a variety of regional and topical courses. Our focus on applied geography is reflected in our successful internship program, which has helped many of our majors find permanent employment. The GIS course has proven valuable for our students as well as for non-geography majors.
Summer field trip classes have proven to be a popular way to become physically involved in geographic issues and concepts. Opportunities for study abroad as well as many out-of-class experiences assist majors in learning to apply to the "real" world concepts developed in class. Our graduates have found careers in urban and regional planning offices, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Park Service, cartographic agencies and in education.
Upon completion of this program, students will have:
- 1. Become adept at understanding and expressing the definitions of geography.
- 2. Obtained a basic knowledge of the history of geography as a discipline.
- 3. Become familiar with the literature and other written/mapped means by which professional geographers communicate the results of their work.
- 4. An understanding of the steps involved in conducting basic/applied research in geography.
- 5. An awareness of career opportunities available to geography majors.
Writing in the Discipline
1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?
Effective written communication is an important skill for the geography major to acquire. Upon graduation, some geography majors may choose graduate school where sound writing and the ability to prepare rigorous research papers is expected. Other geographers may apply for a variety of jobs in governmental, public sector, nonprofit or private consulting organizations, where lucid and precise writing is specified in job descriptions. Geographers must convey complex concepts and the results of statistical and cartographic analysis to diverse audiences – such as elected and appointed officials, public stakeholders, and the scientific community – in a manner that is concise, understandable and relevant to decision making and policy formation.
2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the Writing in the Discipline (WID) requirement by your department? Why these courses?
GEOG 100: Introduction to Environmental Geography and GEOG 460: Senior Seminar: Theory and Research are the required WID courses for the geography major.
The 100-level WID course prepares students to develop the ability to convey in writing the content and meaning of mapped environmental data, which is an essential skill of the geographer.
The 400-level WID course provides students the opportunity to hone their ability to write research papers, an important process for neophyte academics and other professionals.
3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?
The principal form of writing taught in GEOG 100 is the policy memorandum. The course is delivered in a lecture/seminar format with a number of required small-group collaborative projects through which students complete assignments – generally focused on map interpretation – leading to the writing and redrafting of the policy memorandum.
The principal approach to writing taught in GEOG 460 is designed for students to demonstrate that they can find and effectively use academic literature, professional journals, and government reports to answer assigned research questions. The GEOG 460 research paper also requires students to construct an annotated bibliography that illustrates that they can identify each type of available, relevant literature.
Students are required to use online and hard-copy journals using the resources of RIC’s own Adams Library. In class, the faculty member provides a list of professional organizations, particularly the Association of American Geographers (AAG), the U.S. Department of the Interior (which oversees the National Weather Service, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association and the U.S. Geological Survey), from which students may access academic journals and government reports across the range of geography’s subfields. Students are required to create a one-page (150-250 word) executive summary of their final research paper. The executive summary is a key document in the discipline of geography, because it is the one most likely to be read by policy makers.
4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?
GEOG 100 and GEOG 460 socialize students in the geography major to expect to write more than one draft of papers and to receive faculty and, where relevant, peer feedback following each draft. That feedback focuses on a student’s demonstrated ability to understand the topic within a broader academic or policy context; to organize a policy memorandum or paper with a logical progression of germane theories, methods and findings (and their implications); use available evidence with a clear awareness of its limitations; and write with respect for accepted professional conventions, including spelling, grammar, syntax and modes of citation. A number of assignments in both geography WID classes require collaborative, small-group writing exercises as students create policy memoranda and outlines for research papers.
5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?
The expected outcomes of the geography major’s WID requirement are (i) for students to demonstrate the ability to write a research-grounded policy memorandum, which is a genre of writing relevant to public sector work and (ii) for students to write research papers, which are the fundamental means of presenting information in graduate school. In both instances, students will understand when and how to employ the results of research, including annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, case studies and the findings from their own empirical inquiries.
Minor in Geography
Declaring a minor allows you to explore other areas of interest and make interdisciplinary connections. Minor areas at RIC complement and reinforce all major areas of study. By declaring a minor, you can set yourself apart as a candidate for job, internship and volunteer opportunities. Click below for information on the minor in geography.
The Department of Political Science oversees degree programs in political science, public administration, geography and a certificate program in international nongovernmental organizations.