Geography, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Program Design & Assessment
The Department of Geography at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville offers an undergraduate major in Geography with areas of specialization in: Biogeography. Climatology/Meteorology, Cultural Geography, Development Studies, GIS / Cartography, Globalization Studies, Physical Geography, Regional Geography, Sustainability, or Urban Studies.
Strengths of this program
The Geography program at SIUE boasts a strong set of teaching faculty with ample opportunities for undergraduate majors to interact with faculty members throughout their time at SIUE and when completing their Senior Assignment capstone course and project. During the Senior Assignment, students choose a faculty member with which to conduct an undergraduate research project employing many of the skills learned in previous classes. In addition, Geography majors are successful at finding employment both in the St Louis area and elsewhere in a variety of different careers.
Types of students served
The SIUE undergraduate student body has 15% enrolled minorities, the majority of which are African American. In addition, 53% of the enrolled undergraduates are female. The undergraduate Geography program consists of 60% males and is moderately successful at attracting African American students with interests in meteorology and climatology. However, the overall number of minorities that major in our program is low; approximately 5 out of 115 total majors. This number has increased in the last year but is likely a reflection of an increase across campus. The university has increased its recruiting in the Chicago area which has increased our number of Hispanic students at the university. The Geography Department is interested in increasing the number of minorities that major in Geography and we are making efforts to improve our outreach. One possible way to increase the number of underrepresented students is to show that the major has a direct career path, something that is not evident among underrepresented students.
The goals of this program are as follows:
In Geography we have the following goals for students graduating from our program:
- Display knowledge about the discipline of Geography;
- Display an understanding of geographic concepts and processes;
- Effectively communicate orally and in writing;
- Demonstrate critical analysis of ideas, theories, and/or data;
- Demonstrate the ability to frame geographic problems;
- Demonstrate the ability to apply geographic knowledge, principles, and/or tools to solve problems;
- Synthesize and integrate geographic knowledge.
The learning goals were informed by the following resources:
In addition to other influences informing the goals of the geography program, the College of Arts and Sciences at SIUE has emphasized a need for experiential learning, innovative interdisciplinary curriculum, faculty-student engagement, hands-on learning, and intellectual enrichment.
How program goals are assessed
The learning goals in Geography are measured in two ways: (1) the Senior Assignment and (2) an exit survey that all graduating seniors complete attached. The two measurements are described in more detail below.
1. Senior Assignment: The Senior Assignment (SA) in Geography is a two-semester project in which students identify a geographic problem that they investigate under the mentorship of a department faculty member. The SA requires students to frame geographic problems in terms of current research, use appropriate methods to examine the problem, and discuss their results in written and/or oral form. Traditionally, the SA was a 15-20 page paper. In Fall 2008 we introduced a second option, an illustrated poster. The majority (roughly 90 percent) of students now complete the poster option. For both options (paper or poster), the SA is evaluated by two faculty members: the mentor and a second reader. A standard rubric was developed in Summer 2008, and revised in Summer 2009. The rubric is meant to reflect program goals and provides grading criteria for students to see prior to beginning their SA. In addition, faculty now use a standard grading criteria for the SA. The rubric establishes a standard set of expectations for our students and helps alleviate some of the variation in faculty grading. The grading rubric for the paper and the poster are available on the department website (www.siue.edu/GEOGRAPHY).
Senior Assignments are evaluated by two faculty members: the supervising faculty member and a second reader. Both faculty use the standard grading rubric, discuss any discrepancies they might have, and jointly determine a letter grade for GEOG 499. Students must earn a letter grade of 'C' to pass GEOG 499: Senior Assignment. Expectations are stipulated in the syllabus for GEOG 499 (available on the department website).
2. Exit Survey: The department uses an exit survey that all graduating seniors complete. In 2012 we revised the survey once more to ask students about course offerings, scheduling of classes, and advising. The exit survey is included below (attached). The data gathered from the exit surveys help us determine which program goals are being met and those that need more attention. To ensure completion of the surveys, they are administered at the end of the poster session (which is the option most of our students choose). For students completing the paper option, the supervising faculty member directs the student to the department website where they can download the exit survey and submit it to the department secretary.
Design features that allow goals to be met:
The university designed Senior Assignment aids in the assessment of the Geography. To complete their degree, all seniors must complete a Senior Assignment. This culminating experience allows students to integrate what they have learned throughout their time at SIUE within their major area of study and interact with a faculty member to develop a project, and in Geography, present that project in the form of a written paper or illustrated poster presentation. The Senior Assignment requires Geography students to take a three credit hour course and develop a research project over two semesters that includes data collection, processing, and analysis. The department as a whole gathers at the end of each semester so students can showcase their final product.
Approximately 115 majors participate in this degree with approximately 15-20 graduating each year. Enrollments in Geography have been growing steadily over the past few years. We believe this enrollment is due to a few factors. First, the Department emphasizes excellent teaching and mentoring; research by one our faculty indicates that one of the major factors influencing the decision to major in Geography is excellent teaching. Second, increased demand for college graduates with skills in geospatial technologies has attracted a number of students to our program. Third, whether our majors focus on geospatial technologies or another specialization within Geography, our graduates get jobs in their major field of study. Over the past three years, we have focused on communicating the value of a degree in Geography in our lower-level Geography courses as a way to attract more students to our major.
Careers pursued by our alumni
Graduates from the program have obtained employment with the Army Corps of Engineers, GeoEye, Missouri Botanical Gardens, the National Park Service, Census Bureau, Laclede Gas Company, Monsanto, Tetra Tech, City of Belleville, Metro Transit St. Louis and NGA. These careers align with the degree program's goals for undergraduates.
Courses and Sequencing
Diagram of course sequencing and requirements
Entry into the degree
Earth Science 111: Introduction to Physical Geology and Geography, Geography 111 Introduction to Geography, Geography 205 Human Geography, Geography 210 Physical Geography.
World Regions, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Cartography, Quantitative Techniques.
Elective courses and Requirements
18 Credit Hours, usually 6 courses required.
Human Geography (Two courses required): Population, Economic, Urban, Development, Cultural Landscape, Food, Political, Topics in Human Geography.
Physical Geography (Two courses required): Physical Geology, Petrology, Geomorphology, Biogeography, Snow & Ice Processes, Soils, Hydrology, Groundwater Hydrology, Environmental Geochemistry, Floods, Animal Geography, Conservation Biogeography, Storm Chasing, Special Topics.
Region Geography (One course required): Europe, CIS, Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America, Special Topics.
Techniques (One course required): Air Photo, GIS, Thematic Cartography, Interactive Cartography, Digital Elevation Modeling, Remote Sensing, Computer Mapping, Vector GIS, Raster GIS, Topics in Techniques.
Senior Assignment (3 credit hours) GEOG 499. Spans two semesters.
Supporting Science and Math Courses
One math course from: MATH 120 College Algebra, 125 Precalculus with Trigonometry, or 150 Calculus I (BPS). Plus QR 101 - Quantitative Reasoning, Two of either Life, Physical or Social Science, in addition to one Life Science.