|Geography majors and minors in front of Grand Coulee Dam on a Pacific Northwest fieldtrip in 2012.|
|Dr. Jennifer Burnham, associate professor of geography, talks about her summer research on birds in Greenland.|
Augustana’s geography department offers a major and minor.
Geography is a “bridge” discipline combining the natural and social sciences. Thus, some courses have a natural science orientation while others have a social science orientation. Augustana’s program introduces students to the natural systems in which we live; urban and rural environments within the U.S.; other cultures and international issues; and the economic systems of the U.S. and other countries — all linked through the global economy.
The college’s liberal arts curriculum encourages active, working relationships with fields related to different branches of geography — particularly biology, business administration, geology, history, political science, public administration, Asian studies and Latin American studies.
The geography and the geology departments both are housed in the Swenson Hall of Geosciences, a proximity that encourages cross-disciplinary work and interests in the earth sciences. Swenson Hall of Geosciences also houses the excellent Fryxell Geology Museum and the bulk of the David M. Loring Map Library which holds more than 100,000 climatic, geologic, hydrologic, topographic and transportation maps and 6,000 aerial photographs.
Four full-time faculty members, each with a Ph.D., teach a variety of physical geography, human geography and methodological courses, including Geographic Information Systems, complemented by field experience. Geography faculty also are leaders within the college’s multi-disciplinary environmental studies major and minor.
Students in disciplines across campus undertake a Senior Inquiry research or creative capstone project. Geography majors complete an independent research project on a topic of interest chosen in the spring of their junior year. In the senior year, students complete the research and present their findings in a written paper and orally to geography majors and faculty. Several students each year present their research at Augustana’s Celebration of Learning or the annual meeting of the Illinois Geographical Society.
Some students assist faculty on research projects for area agencies. Examples include flood plain and land use inventories for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; housing surveys for the Neighborhood Housing Survey, Davenport, Iowa; architectural surveys for Rock Island and Moline; and watershed land use studies for U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The geography department’s research boat (“The Scholarship”) takes faculty and student research groups onto the Mississippi and Rock Rivers for research on water resources, urban planning, transportation and biogeography.
Internships, field experience and trips
Geography students regularly embark on field trips with class groups or the entire department. Recent destinations include the Pacific Northwest, the Mid-Atlantic East Coast, Colorado and New Mexico, the Great Plains, the Upper Mississippi Valley, Wisconsin and the Lake Superior regions.
The geography department encourages all geography majors to have an internship or field experience either locally, near their home, nationally or internationally. Augustana’s location offers many opportunities for work experience and on-the-spot investigations into urban and rural problems. The Quad Cities is a large metropolitan area on the Mississippi River — composed of two states, three counties and 14 municipalities — and is the location for the offices of not only these local government units and private consulting firms, but also branch offices of several national environmental agencies.
Geography faculty have initiated and continue to lead programs and teach on the college’s international study terms, especially the fall terms in East Asia and Latin America.
Most geography work is centered in one of five basic career fields: urban planning, Geographic Information Systems, environmental management, teaching or foreign service. Career options within these areas are widely varied. Augustana graduates are involved in such vocations as urban planning, environmental protection, cartography, U.S. Foreign Service, hydrology, business location analysis, transportation planning, community planning and development, travel management, industrial real-estate development, soil conservation, landscape architecture, environmental land-use law, international trade, and high school and college teaching.
Augustana’s geography students gain admission to excellent graduate programs in geography, regional planning, landscape architecture and environmental studies. Currently, Augustana graduates attend such institutions as the University of California–Berkeley, University of Wisconsin–Madison, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Southern Illinois University.
Augustana has cooperative degree programs with Duke University in Durham, N.C., and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After three years at Augustana, students enrolled at Duke for two years can earn a master's in environmental management or forestry. At the University of Illinois students can earn a master's in landscape architecture in three years. Students in the cooperative degree programs also receive a bachelor of arts from Augustana.
What students and graduates say
Scott Fick ‘13, geography major, environmental studies and Spanish minors: “I came to Augustana thinking about environmental studies as a major, but I was encouraged to consider being grounded in one of the other science departments for depth and having an environmental studies minor, and I soon found the geography department, which I had not really considered because I did not really know what it was (like many people, I simply thought it involved maps and memorizing places). I quickly realized that geography was much more and it was what I wanted to study, as it approaches human-environment interactions, looks at both cultural and physical geography and is a broad discipline with a great deal of different opportunities for a career.”
Shawn James ’09, geography major, studying landscape architecture at University of Illinois–Urbana, Champaign, (through the coordinated bachelor of arts/master’s in landscape architecture degree program with Augustana): “My education as a geography major at Augustana has given me an understanding of the intrinsic properties in landscapes. Through spatial thinking and consideration of cultural, political and environmental aspects of the land, I can get a comprehensive idea of an area’s sense of place. This impression of sense of place is essential in landscape architecture and has enabled me to produce meaningful and spatially relevant designs. Most importantly, studying geography at Augustana has given me a heightened sensitivity of often-overlooked aspects of everyday life and our surroundings. Due to the nature of the field, it is helpful for landscape architects to know a little about everything, which is what has inspired me to be a lifelong learner.”