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2016-2017 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Geography and Sustainable 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.


Contact: Phone: (616) 331-3065; Fax: (616) 331-8635; email:

Geography and Sustainable Planning faculty: Full Professors: Roy Cole, Elena Lioubimtseva; Associate Professors: Jim Penn, Wanxiao Sun, Jeroen Wagendorp, Gang Xu; Assistant Professor: Kin Ma; Adjunct instructors: Michael Gutowsky, Steven Stepek, Judith Transue, Jonathan Wessell.

The Department of Geography and Sustainable Planning offers the geography major (B.S. and B.A.), geographic techniques (GIS and remote sensing) minor, the sustainable urban and regional planning minor, the geography education at the secondary level minor (teachable minor), the Geographic Information Systems technology certificate, and sustainable urban and regional planning certificate.

The geography and sustainable planning curriculum at GVSU integrates the natural and social sciences and geospatial technologies and offers students strong analytical and problem solving skills. Geography and sustainable planning areas offer a wide range of opportunities to people with various interest and talents focusing on finding real solutions to complex environmental, economic and social problems and issues (such as food and water security, sustainable economic growth, environmental justice, climate change resiliency and adaptations, etc.). Geographers and planners use many tools and techniques in their work, and geographic technologies are increasingly important for understanding, our complex world. They include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and computer cartography.

Geography and sustainable planning faculty are experts in sustainable development and global change, geospatial technologies (Geographic Information Systems, satellite remote sensing, and digital image processing), sustainable urban and regional planning, environmental, cultural, and regional geography. Our flexible interdisciplinary programs provide courses of study focused on geospatial technologies (computer cartography, GIS, satellite remote sensing, and digital image processing), sustainable urban and regional planning, environment and global, and regional development. Due to the revolution in geospatial information technologies and spatial date analysis, geographers are very much in demand in the job market and in graduate school. Please consult the department's website information about employment opportunities, scholarships, and grants.

Degrees Offered

B.S. and B.A. in geography. (36 credit hours). Geography major offers flexible self-designed focus areas including coursework in geospatial technology, sustainable urban and regional planning, global development and environmental geography.

Minors: Sustainable urban and regional planning (24 credits), geographical techniques (25 credits), and 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, 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.

Certificates: Geographic information systems technology certificate (13 credit hours) and sustainable urban and regional planning (12 credit hours). Available to all majors, certificate credit hours can be duplicated with a major or minor.

For more information about geography and planning degrees, please, contact professor Elena Lioubimtseva at

Participating Programs

The Department of Geography and Sustainable 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.

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

Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning Minor

Geography-Teacher Certification Minor

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technology - Certificate

Certificate in Sustainable Urban and Regional Planning

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