Geography Department: Goals and Objectives
Geography emphasizes the spatial study of society from a variety of theoretical perspectives and analytical scales, ranging from local places to larger regions and global systems. For example, geographers might examine the allocation and use of world resources, the spatial dynamics of metropolitan areas, political geographies of social problems and human rights, or the roles of political borders in contemporary global affairs. Geography courses frequently make use of regional case studies to indicate important perspectives and issues. The geography courses at Vassar generally fall into three complementary areas of concern: Geographic Methods, including map history and interpretation and qualitative geographic research techniques;
Environmental Land-Use Analysis, which emphasizes issues such as physical geography and human-environmental issues; and Society and Space, which focuses on spatial and regional analysis applied at various scales.
Geography offers analytical skills and theoretical perspectives of spatial, regional, and place-oriented analysis—among the most basic and yet often underdeveloped ways of knowing and understanding the world around us. Courses emphasize geographical methods and techniques, regional studies, and topical issues that contribute to the general education of majors and non-majors. For example, courses in the methods and techniques focus on computer-assisted mapping and geographic information systems. Regional-studies courses apply geographic theory to the study of major world regions; although staffing limitations prevent us from covering all major world regions, we try to address geographical perspectives in the U.S. and major areas of the developing world. Finally, topical courses offer systematic perspectives on issues such as urban geography, the conservation of natural resources, and economic geography.Majors and correlates are expected to master basic geographic methods—such as computer-assisted cartography, GIS, remote sensing, and spatial statistics—and to be familiar with theoretical perspectives and advanced debates in regional studies and spatial analysis. For example, majors and correlates should be able to master seminar topics in Advanced Urban and Regional Studies (340), Environment and Land-Use Planning (356), and Advanced Topics in Human Geography (370). In addition, we expect majors to be able to carry out original geographic research, as might be expected in a senior thesis or seminar paper at the senior level.