Geography department restructures its programs

Alex Eisner

The NMU Geography Department is restructuring its majors and course requirements. John Anderton, head of the department said it is trying to streamline their offerings and cut down to four majors. Along with changes to the curriculum, the department will change its name to the department of earth environmental and geographical sciences.

“Geography in America is kind of a confusing issue,” Anderton said. “Our new title would help explain what we do.”

Anderton said the four majors that will be offered in the new department will be environmental science, environmental studies and sustainability, earth science, and geomatics. This is a change from the six majors currently offered.

“We have identified where our strengths are and think we can offer these majors,” said Anderton.

The department has been downsizing for a while, which has led to the decision of this proposed renovation, Anderton said. The new structure will help students get through the courses in a reasonable amount of time and make it easier to graduate in four years.

The environmental studies and sustainability major will give more of a human context to the solutions to environmental problems, Anderton said. This is a good major for those who don’t really want to focus on science and are more interested in the human aspects, Anderton said.

“Conservation is our biggest major, and I envision this growing more in the future,” Anderton added.

The earth science major will have minor changes and is another major that is growing in popularity, he said. The geomatics major will take a look at real cutting-edge technologies and geographical information systems.

“It’s a challenging program, but if you get through it, you’re going to have a job for sure,” said Anderton.

The major that is changing the most is the environmental science major. Director of the major, Ron Sundell, said in the new curriculum students with this major can choose to focus in one of four areas: natural resources, pollution control and remediation, water resources or renewable energy technology.

“We’re really looking at some major reconstruction,” Sundell said.

According to Sundell the changes will strengthen the environmental science program.

“I think it’ll give students the option they need right now to get jobs and go on to grad school if they so desire,” said Sundell.

Sundell noted that some students in the environmental science program have a hard time identifying which department they are a part of.

Students who are currently in one of the majors in the geography department are considered grandfathered into their programs and can stick to the path they’re on unless they want to change to the new curriculum, Anderton said. If students elect to change to the new one, they can no longer go back to the old one.

If all goes well Anderton said he would really like to see the changes come into effect next fall.

The changes to the curriculum were proposed last year and made it to the end of the process but was held up by the Academic Senate, Sundell said.  He said it was tabled so the Academic Senate could take a little more time to look at it. The proposal is circulating to all the other departments as well.

“I think it’s a good thing in the long run, it’s just allowed for some things to be done in the proper manner,” Sundell said.