University of Michigan-Dearborn offers new minor in geography

More than 100 University of Michigan-Dearborn students were asked a simple question.

Would you be interested in pursuing a minor in geography?

Nearly half of the students surveyed last fall said they’d be interested in the minor. Next month, they can declare it with their academic adviser.

The university recently approved the geography minor, which lies within the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters’ (CASL) Department of Social Sciences.

“There’s something in it for everybody,” said Barry Wauldron, UM-Dearborn geography lecturer. “Geography is very interdisciplinary. Students can study almost anything they are interested in, as it exists on the earth’s surface.”

No additional courses will be needed next semester because CASL already offers several geography electives, but new courses are being developed. The minor consists of two prerequisite courses, a required course in geographic techniques and at least nine credit hours of geography electives.

“It is something we have been working toward for six years,” said Georgina Hickey, social sciences department chair. “It will be an excellent complement to our urban and regional studies major, and the GIS (geographic information systems) certificate. A student graduating with those three credentials will be well positioned in the job market.”

Claudia Walters already has heard plenty of excitement among students from a variety of disciplines. Students pursuing degrees in a range of disciplines, from business to education, can greatly benefit from the geography minor, said Walters, UM-Dearborn geography lecturer and assistant research scientist.

“I think the strength of geography lies in looking at how different phenomena vary across space,” she said. “Here in the U.S., there’s a lot of geographic illiteracy. People don’t have a good understanding of where things are and how they interrelate.”

Wauldron echoed Walters’ comments about an increased need for geographic literacy.

“How are we supposed to be the leaders of the global economy when we don’t know where anything is on the globe?” he said. “With international trade, you have to understand other cultures to effectively deal with people and form human relationships. Knowledge of our physical geography and natural resources helps us understand where things come from and how they get here. All of this comes together to make somebody a better decision maker, and ultimately, what we need are more informed decision makers.”

Learn more about the geography minor.

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