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Geography and Environmental Studies, Department of

Course Designators: GEO, ESC, ENV, SEP

For information, please contact the chairperson 989-774-3323, 296 B Dow Science Complex Science and Engineering;

Why Study Environmental Studies and Sustainability?

Environmental Studies prepares tomorrow’s environmental leaders with a systematic, interdisciplinary, applied approach to tackling local and global environmental issues necessary for sustainability and resilience. The environmental challenges of today and the future require decisionmakers to understand the biophysical world – land, water, air, soil, and the human element - people’s values and priorities, economic realities, communication styles, and policy. Environmental studies classes consider creative solutions to environmental challenges through discussions with professionals in the workforce, different genres of writing for environmental careers, hands-on technology, applied capstone projects, and the possibility of internships. 

Environmental Studies and Sustainability at CMU

The Environmental Studies major prepares tomorrow’s leaders to promote excellence in environmental policy and practice in commercial, governmental, and non-profit organizations, as well as the broader global community, by providing quality interdisciplinary environmental knowledge, skills, tools, and awareness from local to global scales. Environmental Studies majors can start their careers in entry-level jobs such as  development and redevelopment, environmental planning and zoning, parks and protected areas management, land management, sales representative, environmental partnership community specialist, conservation warden, green marketing, policy analysis, sustainability and resilience consultant, fundraiser, and environmental communication.
The Sustainability and Environmental Policy Minor prepares tomorrow’s leaders to promote environmentally sustainable approaches in commercial, governmental, and nonprofit organizations for the betterment of current and future generations. 

The programs also help prepare students for postgraduate admissions in programs nationwide such as environmental management, environmental policy, community resilience, sustainability, geography, forestry, natural resource management, environmental education, natural resource economics, business administration, public administration, advertising and public relations, architecture, landscape architecture, planning, environmental design programs, and environmental law. Departmental advisors provide advice to students regarding how to tailor curricular choices to future goals, and to help students to see how majors, minors, and certificates can complement one another.

Why Study Geography?

A geographic perspective empowers decisionmakers to problem-solve questions of “where?” and “why?” In order to help make the world a better place, geographers research changing social and environmental systems through concepts of place and space. To accomplish this, geographers use an array of spatial research methods, ranging from geospatial technologies to quantitative and qualitative methods. 

Geography’s analysis of “where?” and “why?” are relevant to a wide array of professional endeavors. Geography students possess highly marketable spatial skills and find many career opportunities—Geospatial intelligence analyst, GIS analyst, international development specialist, urban and community planner, cartographer, natural resource manager, environmental consultant, climatologist, policy analyst, community and economic development specialist, transportation manager, real estate analyst, program manager, market analyst, user experience and user interface analyst, community outreach specialist, and educator.

Geography at CMU

CMU offers a prominent Geography program and is recognized for strengths in geospatial technologies. The Geography and Environmental Studies Department offers a major in Geography, Geography major with a concentration in Geographic Information Sciences, a Geography major with a concentration in Urban and Community Planning, and a GIS minors in Geography and GIS. Two 15-hour undergraduate certificates are offered in Cartographic Design and Environmental Justice. The Department also offers an accelerated Master of Science in Geographic Information Sciences; students are encouraged to speak to a faculty member early in their undergraduate career regarding application information for the accelerated program. 
Majors are required to take courses that cover content, concepts, and techniques of the discipline, while giving students flexibility to tailor electives to their interests. Departmental advisors offer students advice on classes, career paths, internships, undergraduate research, and extracurricular activities.


  • Advising. Majors and minors should begin their program as early as possible because they may be advised to elect another major or minor in a related discipline. Majors should consult with their advisor regularly, including prior to registration.
  • Graduate Study. The Master of Science in Geographic Information Sciences is available. The Department also offers an accelerated Master of Science program. Refer to the College of Graduate Studies Bulletin or an advisor for additional information. 
  • Field trips. Expenses for field trips may be prorated among class members.
  • Student Teaching. Students seeking the Geography and Environmental Studies Department’s recommendation for student teaching must have: (1) a declared major in Geography, Social Studies – Geography concentration, or minor in Earth Science, (2) a minimum grade point average of 2.7 in the major/minor courses, (3) successful completion of GEO 400 or ESC 400 or SCI 400 or SCI 410, (4) completed a Geography and Environmental Studies Department application form, and (5) admission to the teacher preparation program.
  • Transfer Credit. Survey or introductory courses are accepted for not more than three (3) hours per course for majors and minors.

The Faculty

Brian Becker, Anthony Feig, Mark Francek, Benjamin Heumann, Austin Jena Krause, Bin Li, Matthew Liesch (Chair), David Meyer, David Patton, James Pytko, Tyler Sonnichsen, Yong Tian, Xiaoguang Wang, Liann Yates, Tao Zheng

The Programs

Geography Major

Geography Major: Geographic Information Science (GISci) Concentration

Geography Major: Urban and Community Planning Concentration 

Environmental Studies Major

Geography Minor

Geographic Information Sciences (GISci) Minor

Geospatial Analytics Minor

Sustainability and Environmental Policy Minor

Undergraduate Certificate in Cartographic Design

Undergraduate Certificate in Environmental Justice

Teaching (Interdisciplinary):

Earth Science Minor (Secondary)

Integrated Science Major (Secondary)