electronic mapping.

Geography and Geographic Information Science

Program Details

Knowledge of geography helps us understand the characteristics of space, location, and place in the broader context of how people interact with both physical and human environments. Geographers identify and analyze the global patterns that shape our lives. Thus, Geography is unique as it straddles the social sciences (human) and natural sciences (physical), making it a highly interdisciplinary discipline. A number of topics can be studied under geography, including population, health, economics, transportation, location analysis, climates, landforms, vegetation, soils, and water, to mention a few. Geographers employ a number of techniques, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, aerial photo interpretation, and spatial statistical analysis. The robust curriculum is applied based, with specializations in physical, human, urban and regional planning, and geospatial technologies.

Career opportunities are found in both the public and private sectors. Most notable are disaster response companies, transportation firms, land-use planning agencies, GIS-related professions, historic preservation firms, construction companies, real estate firms, international business, location analysis firms, architectural firms, and wind energy/sustainable energy companies.

A degree in Geography and Geographic Information Science prepares students to be professionals in their area of concentration or specialization, with strong foundations in Geography.

Geography and Geographic Information Science majors may pursue an option in:

  • Geospatial Technologies
  • Human or Physical Geography

Integrated Baccalaureate and Master's Degree Option

An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Science in Geography and Geographic Information Science: Master of Science in Geography. An integrated baccalaureate and master’s degree program is available for the Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology: Master of Arts in Museum Studies. An integrated degree program provides the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates to earn both degrees in five years. View detailed information about the Integrated Baccalaureate and Master of Arts Degree Program in Sociology (PDF).

The Department of Geography, established in 1917, has earned a national reputation for excellence. All Geography courses are taught by faculty members holding doctoral degrees from distinguished universities across the United States. The faculty members offer a broad range of competencies, thus providing excellent scope for students with different inclinations and talents.

Student Activities

Special Opportunities in Geography and Geographic Information Science

  • The department is home to the McDonough County Geographic Information Systems Center, a partnership between WIU, the City of Macomb and McDonough County. Responsible for compilation, execution, and management of GIS projects for the city of Macomb and McDonough County, students are provided regular opportunities to put their knowledge and skills into ongoing projects with real world results. Undergraduate and graduate students have internship opportunities in the Center. The Center’s job placement rate is 100 percent.
  • State-of-the-art Geospatial Technologies
  • Premium undergraduate education
  • Hands-on experience
  • Public speaking and presentation skills
  • Internship opportunities
  • Applied geography emphasis
  • Develop geospatial skills
  • Low student-teacher ratios
  • Courses taught by Ph.D.s
  • Senior capstone thesis project
  • Open-door policy
  • Strong dedication to success of students
  • Guaranteed valuable research experience
  • Conference attendance
  • Augmented reality
  • Internship in the GIS Center

After College

WIU students are uniquely prepared to apply their understanding of human relationships to a variety of fields, including medicine and health care, law and law enforcement, international relations, ecology, conservation, community planning, politics, marketing and business, social work and human relations. In a time when new employees are expected to have an extensive skill set in many careers, anthropology is an ideal primary or secondary major for WIU students.

    • Digital Mapping
    • Disaster Response
    • Environmentalist
    • Urban Planning
    • Transportation Planning
    • Land Use Planning
    • Tourism Planning
    • Environmental Planning
    • Economic Development Planning
    • Public Health Planning
    • Historic Preservation Planning
    • GIS related Professions
    • Homeland Security
    • Utilities/Construction Company
    • Real Estate Business
    • International Business
    • Location or Geographic Analyst
    • Marketing Researcher
    • Remote Sensor Specialist
    • Public Education

Please refer to the undergraduate catalog for detailed program information and course requirements.



108 Digital Earth. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) An introduction to various applications of mapping and navigational technology (Google Earth, photography, GIS, and GPS) used in daily life. This course involves student presentations and projects focused on basic principles and applications of this technology.

208 GIS Map Design. (3) An introduction to basic cartographic principles and design techniques necessary for Geographic Information System (GIS) map production. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

209 GIS Data Acquisition. (3) This course covers principles of geospatial data concepts. These concepts include field and office data collection using applications of GPS and common GIS software, digitizing, and coordinate geometry (COGO). This course also includes internet download techniques and basic map making. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

303 Introduction to Remote Sensing. (3) This course introduces the fundamental principles of remote sensing and basic applications of remotely-sensed data in the evaluation of geographical problems. Prerequisites: GEOG 121 and METR 120; or GEOL 110 and 112; or a lab sequence in Biology or Physics; or consent of instructor.

308 Introduction to GIS. (3) A foundation course dealing with fundamental raster and vector Geographic Information System (GIS) concepts and the creation, collection, and conversion of spatial data for GIS visualization and analysis. Prerequisite: GEOG 208. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

309 GIS Data Integration. (3) This course covers core principles of geographic information, GIS data manipulation skills, common GIS data sets together with lab/project experiences, and GIS data evaluation. It strengthens the GIS “data” foundation for future GIS specialists. Prerequisite: GEOG 209 or 308, or permission of instructor. 2 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

403 Advanced Remote Sensing. (3) Digital image processing techniques for thematic information extraction from remotely-sensed data for environmental applications. Laboratory. Prerequisites: GEOG 303 or consent of instructor.

406 Spatial Statistics in GIS. (3) Introduction to statistical approaches in GIS to measure geographic distributions, identify geographic patterns and spatial clusters, and analyze geographic relationships. Prerequisites: GEOG 301 and 308; or consent of instructor.

408 Environmental Geographic Information Science. (3) Emphasis upon raster and 3D modeling based upon continuous data. Laboratory exercises focus on typical environmental problems solved with GIS. Topics include the integration of thematic data and concepts when appropriate for the solution of environmental problems. Prerequisites: GEOG 308; and GEOG 301 or STAT 171 or equivalent.

409 Advanced GIS Modeling and Analysis. (3) Thorough and systematic examination of GIS analytical/ modeling methods. Students will be trained to translate real-world problems into GIS data, tools, maps, new findings, and reports. Laboratory. Prerequisites: GEOG 209 or 308, or equivalent.

450 Geography Workshop. (1) General workshop of a variety of geographic topics. Discussions and creative activities are emphasized in a supportive environment. Not open to students with credit in GEOG 322 or METR 322. Prerequisite: elementary algebra or equivalent. Graded S/U only.


121 Planet Earth: Surface Processes and Interactions. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) The interplay between landforms, soils, water, climate, and life forms (including humans) on Earth’s surface, and how these interact to shape the surface of Planet Earth. It also covers the distribution of landforms in the U.S. and other countries. Laboratory. IAI: P1 905L.

182 (Cross-listed with PHYS 182) Integrated Science II. (4) (General Education/Natural Sciences) A laboratory course in interdisciplinary science with an emphasis on the Earth’s place in the physical universe. Topics address the nature of matter and energy and their impact on the Earth’s weather and climate. (Integrated Science I is BIOL/GEOL 181) Not open to students with credit in PHYS 182. Prerequisite: MATH 100. 3 hrs. lect.; 2 hrs. lab.

421 Physiography. (3) Characteristics and distribution of landforms and underlying structures of the U.S. Prerequisites: GEOG 121 and METR 120, or GEOL 110 and 112.

426 (Cross-listed with BIOL 426) Conservation and Management of Natural Resources. (3) Problems in the conservation and management of natural resources including soil, water, rangeland, forest, wildlife, air, and energy resources. Special attention to resource problems of the United States. Not open to students with credit in BIOL 426. Prerequisites: GEOG 121 and METR 120, or consent of instructor.

430 Natural Hazards. (3) Examination of the causes, development, and impact of different natural hazards around the world. Hazards range from volcanoes and earthquakes to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and fires. Understanding community responses to particular disasters, including planning, first responses, and lessons learned.

459 (Cross-listed with BIOL 459) Biogeography. (3) Study of the geographical distributions of organisms, the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying the patterns of distribution, and the role of biogeography in biological conservation. Not open to students with credit in BIOL 459. Prerequisites: BOT 200 (C grade or better) and ZOOL 200 (C grade or better), or permission of instructor.


100 Introduction to Human Geography. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences) (Global Issues) Analysis of the spatial patterns of population, population trends, human migrations, ecological processes, and the impact of people on the natural environment. IAI: S4 900N.

251 Principles of Urban and Regional Planning. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences) Examines contemporary planning processes with an emphasis upon utopian planning precedents, frameworks and mechanisms for planning, and comprehensive planning and implementation.

341 Economic Geography. (3) The production and distribution of the world’s commodities and their regional aspects. The reproductive, extractive, and manufacturing industries and their natural and cultural relationships. Prerequisite: GEOG 100 or consent of instructor.

352 Planning Applications. (3) Introduces basic applications of urban and regional planning processes to understand land development, including the use of GIS analysis, zoning, form-based coding, and future land use planning. It involves research projects to understand these processes. Prerequisites: GEOG 251 and 308, or consent of instructor.

443 Population Geography. (3) Description and spatial analysis of population data and of fertility, mortality, and migration of the human population. Some emphasis given to migration; some to the United States. Prerequisites: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

445 Urban Geography. (3) An analysis of the nature, distribution, and principal functions of urban settlements and supporting areas. Prerequisites: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

448 Introduction to Urban and Regional Planning. (3) An examination of contemporary planning processes. Emphasis upon utopian planning precedents, frameworks and mechanisms for planning, and comprehensive planning and implementation. Prerequisite: POLS 370, or its equivalent, or consent of instructor.

457 Historic Preservation Planning. (3) Explores the practice and regulation of historic preservation planning. Students will identify and interpret best practices for the preservation and interpretation of historic resources. Focus will be on U.S. resources with a brief introduction of international conservation practices. Prerequisites: GEOG 251 or consent of instructor.


110 World Regional Geography. (3) (General Education/Social Sciences or Multicultural Studies) (Global Issues) A survey of the world’s regions emphasizing the spatial arrangements of resources, population, institutions, economic activities, and cultural landscapes, and their significance for distinctive regional problems. IAI: S4 900N.

466 (GEOG 466—Africa is cross-listed with AAS 466) World Regions. (3, repeatable for different regional subtitles to 9) (Global Issues) Analysis of the physical and cultural geography of a major world region chosen from the following: Latin America, Russia, Monsoon Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle America, South America, and Asia. Not open to students with credit for AAS 466. Prerequisite: two courses in Geography or consent of instructor.

(Theory, Methods and Research)

301 Introduction to Quantitative Geography. (3) Principles of quantitative analysis and their application to geographical problems. Prerequisite: two courses in Geography, MATH 128 or high school algebra, or consent of instructor.

405 Senior Thesis Capstone Course. (2) Writing Instruction in the Disciplines (WID) course. Prerequisites: ENG 280, Geography or Meteorology major, and senior status.

495 Honors Thesis. (3) Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

497 Internship in Applied Geography. (1–3, repeatable to 3) Assignment as an undergraduate assistant in public, private, or university agencies engaged in planning, meteorology, environmental assessments, cartography, etc. Only 3 s.h. may be applied to minimum degree requirements. Prerequisite: permission of department chair. Graded S/U only.

498 Individualized Studies. (1–3) This course is available to students who are interested in the study of topics which are not currently a part of the curriculum. The students should consult their advisor or the department chair about the procedure which is to be followed. Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

499 Special Problems in Geography (Research). (1–6, repeatable to 6) Prerequisites: senior standing and consent of instructor.


Department of Geography

Chairperson: Dr. Sam Thompson
Office: Tillman Hall 312
Telephone: (309) 298-1648
Fax: (309) 298-3003

Geography Website
Geography Directory
Geography Advisor

College of Arts and Sciences (CAS)

Dean: Dr. Susan Martinelli-Fernandez
Associate Dean: Dr. James A. Schmidt
Interim Associate Dean: Dr. Kyle R. Mayborn
Assistant Dean (WIU—QC): Dr. James A. Rabchuk
Office: Morgan Hall 114
Telephone: (309) 298-1828
Fax: (309) 298-2585

CAS Website

Website: Quad Cities Advising
outside of Morgan Hall