Department of Geography

The Master of Arts in Geography

"I enrolled in the Geography Master's program to further and perfect my GIS analysis skills and personal knowledge. The Master's program provided me with the tools that I needed to tackle different projects in the field of urban planning, urban forestry, environmental consulting, and natural resources and soil conservation. Having a background in forestry, I enjoyed the challenges that were handed to me by my supervisors and professors. I truly believe that their professional guidance helped me in getting a GIS position."  Stephanie G. Leblond (2012) is an assessment engineering specialist with Engineering Consultant Marcel Sirois Inc. in Quebec City, Canada.

The WIU Department of Geography offers the Master of Arts degree. The requirements are highly flexible, allowing a student to arrange programs of study that will serve as a basis for further graduate study or to prepare for positions in industry, business, or government. It is possible for students, through internship experiences and/or specific course combinations, to enhance their career opportunities. (A list of recent thesis and project titles).

Several of our graduate students are participants in the Peace Corps Fellows Program in Community Development, where returned Peace Corps Volunteers serve an 11-month internship in a rural community providing hands-on assistance and leadership on local projects. In 2002, the Peace Corps Fellows program was the only program in the United States to be awarded the Innovative Program Award from the Community Development Society. Students in the program occasionally pursue a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Community Development concurrent with the Master's degree.

The department offers planning courses at the graduate level. The planning track views planning as a problem-solving activity concerned with the quality of the built environment in small towns, cities, regions, states and nationally. Students can specialize in one of several emphases including economic development, environmental planning, land use regulation, housing, and community development. The planning track is designed to prepare students to take on complex and challenging issues. Most planning students go on to positions at local, regional, state, and private-sector agencies. Others move on to pursue doctoral degrees.

Admission to the Geography MA Program

Students shall have completed a minimum of 24 semester hours in geography. The GRE is not required for admission. Students who lack preparation in basic cartographic techniques and/or basic quantitative analysis techniques are required to complete GEOG 208 and/or GEOG 301 as deficiencies. Students with deficiencies may elect to—and are strongly encouraged to—complete deficiencies prior to beginning the program. If not completed prior to beginning the program, deficiency coursework must be completed during the first semester, unless the required courses are not available during that semester. Contact the department's Graduate Committee Chairperson for additional information concerning deficiencies.

Exceptions to the minimum 24 semester hour requirement may be made if the student has a strong background in cognate areas. Students who do not have the minimum number of hours should contact the department's Graduate Committee Chairperson for additional requirements.

Advisors. Graduate students must have a thesis or applied project advisor during their second semester as a full time graduate student.  Before designating an advisor and committee members, students should meet with them and obtain their approval for the research or project.  Consult with the Department's Graduate Program Coordinator for information on selection of an advisor or changes to advisor or committee.

Assistantships. The department has a limited number of graduate assistantships (click here for information about applying for an assistantship). Assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis and are not guaranteed as part of admission to the program. Currently, assistants are assigned to the department's introductory physical geography labs (GEOG 120 and 121), the McDonough County GIS Center, and to do work for the City of Macomb (as needed). Students interested in applying for assistantships should have a background in physical geography and/or GIS.

International applicants should also refer to the International Education homepage (international student application forms are available at this site).

Master's Thesis  / Project Guidelines and Procedures