Building Strong Departments > Workshops > Strengthening Your Geoscience Program > Participants and their Contributions > Shippensburg University

Department of Geography and Earth Science, Shippensburg University

by Tim Hawkins and Tom Feeney


  • Collegial and enthusiastic faculty
  • Broad-based undergraduate and MS programs allow for flexibility upon graduation
  • Strong field-based component to curriculum
  • Active faculty research agendas involving undergraduate and MS students
  • Strong program in GIS
  • Take seriously departmental and program reviews and use information for improvement
  • Teach a LOT of general education which allows recruitment of new majors
  • Newly renovated building with smart classrooms.


  • Need human and physical resources to continue success
  • Teach a LOT of general education which detracts from majors courses
  • Broad-based degrees may lack depth of knowledge upon graduation
  • Need to improve advertising to incoming undergraduates not familiar with discipline
  • Need to improve advertising to potential MS students

Department's planning process

  • Monthly faculty meetings and annual/biannual retreat
  • Minimal committees: curriculum, facilities, professional affairs
  • Committees produce proposals that are voted on by the full faculty
  • Occasionally, individuals assigned specific task or lead department in these tasks: five-year review, middle-states assessment, general education assessment
  • Meet with external departmental advisory board once a semester and use feedback to improve marketability of graduates

Summary of internal five-year review (Spring 2009)

  • Maintained a mean enrollment of 161 undergraduates and 41 graduate students, for a total of 202 majors. Our graduate program is tied with Organizational Development as the largest graduate program in the College of Arts and Sciences (Chapter I).
  • Received mean teaching scores above or well above college and university averages in every teaching category (Chapter IV).
  • Published 66 refereed articles and reports in regional, national, and international journals, an average of nearly one article per faculty member per year for the five year evaluation period (Chapter IV).
  • Presented 141 papers at regional, national, or international meetings, an average of 1.7 papers per year per faculty member over the last five years (Chapter IV).
  • Won $ 1.5 million dollars in grants from organizations such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, DCNR, the National Park Service, the Department of Education, Growing Greener, and the State System of Pennsylvania (Chapter IV).
  • Continued to strengthen and expand the Department's Center for Land Use in its mission to provide wise land use decision-making to the seven county South-Central Pennsylvania region (Chapter IV).
  • Continued to provide valuable support and service to professional organizations in the discipline of Geography, including the Presidency and Vice Presidency of the National Council for Geographic Education and several executive positions in the Pennsylvania Geographical Society (Chapter IV).
  • Continued to expand our field curriculum and use of the Marine Science Consortium facilities at Wallops Island Virginia. Took more than 2,500 students into the field in general education and majors courses during the last three years (Chapters II and VI).
  • Completely revised and expanded our program assessment to better match Middle States accreditation protocol (Chapter VI).
  • Continued to show progress in meeting diversity goals in terms of faculty, students, and curriculum (Chapter VII). Of four faculty hired in the department since 2004, two are diversity hires (Chapters IV and VII).
  • Continued to strengthen and expand our commitments to student placement through our annual Career Day, Advisory Board, and Center for Land Use activities and contacts (Chapter IV).
  • Continued to be a university leader in student advising, after winning the University's first annual Advising Award recognizing advising excellence (Chapter V).
  • Met or exceeded all the recommended actions spelled out in our last five year review (Chapter VII).