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2023-2024 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Geography and Sustainable Planning

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


Contact Information: Phone: (616) 331-3065, fax: (616) 331-8635, and email: [email protected].


Elena Lioubimtseva. Jim Penn, Wanxiao Sun. Associate Professors: Jeroen Wagendorp, Gang Xu, Kin Ma. Assistant Professor: Chad Frederick. Adjunct Instructors: Jason Moore, Steven Stepek, Jonathan Wessell.

Geography and sustainable planning offers the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in geography, including the general geography major and four emphasis areas: geospatial technology, urban and regional planning, environment and global development, and climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency planning.
  • Geographic techniques (GIS and remote sensing) minor
  • Sustainable urban and regional planning minor
  • Geography education at the secondary level minor (teachable minor)
  • Geographic information systems technology undergraduate certificate
  • Sustainable urban and regional planning undergraduate 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 interests and talents focusing on finding real solutions to complex environmental, economic, and social problems and issues (such as food and water security, deforestation, urban congestion, economic growth, environmental justice, climate change, etc.). Students majoring in geography will develop strong analytical, research, civic engagement and communication skills and master sophisticated technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), climate and environmental modeling, digital image processing, and computer cartography. The department offers 40 different courses, including faculty-led international summer school in urban and regional planning in the Netherlands.

Faculty members are experts in sustainable development and global change, geospatial technologies (GIS, satellite remote sensing, and digital image processing), community conservation projects, sustainable urban and regional planning, environmental, cultural, and regional geography. Flexible interdisciplinary programs provide courses of study focused on geospatial technologies (computer cartography, GIS, satellite remote sensing, and digital image processing), urban and regional planning, natural resource use, and global and regional development. 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 website information about employment opportunities, scholarships, and grants.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A. and B.S. in geography
  • B.A. and B.S. in geography: geospatial technology emphasis
  • B.A. and B.S. in geography: urban and regional planning emphasis
  • B.A. and B.S. in geography: environment and global development

Three minors:

  • Geography education at the secondary level (teachable minor). A teachable major with elementary and secondary education is also offered as a social studies major with a geography emphasis.
  • Geospatial technology
  • Sustainable urban and regional planning

Three certificates:

  • Environmental remote sensing
  • Geographic information science (GIS) and technology
  • Sustainable urban and regional planning

Available to all majors at GVSU, certificate credit hours can be duplicated with a major or minor.

For more information about geography and planning degrees, please contact Professor Jim Penn at [email protected].

Participating Programs

Geography and sustainable planning participates in the social studies major, which 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 and Community Innovation. 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:

  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.


Program Requirements

The following programs are available:

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