Graduate Program

Graduate Program Curriculum Statement

Rutgers Geography Graduate Program
Curricular Statement

The curriculum of the Rutgers Geography Graduate Program is designed to fulfill a number of pedagogical goals aimed at training advanced research students to develop empirically rigorous and conceptually and practically transformative projects oriented toward producing a more sustainable and just future. Part of this involves learning the history of the discipline and the methods and theories it has used to examine the earth’s landscape, human and natural transformations of that landscape, and the social and human–environment relations thereupon. Part of this involves deep training in methods of spatial analysis. And part of this involves systematic introduction to theories of explanation used to understand social and biophysical causes and consequences of geographical change, as well as the meanings derived from them.

An additional core focus of the Geography Graduate curriculum is the evaluation, review, and critique of past and present epistemologies and conventions of geographical inquiry: why has a particular theory, method, or perspective persisted or dominated, and what blind spots, biases, or forms of violence, exclusion, or erasure did and does it enable? How have geographical theories, methods, or perspectives emerged through past and present forms of coloniality in all its forms? What counts as valuable knowledge or ways of knowing in the discipline? Who makes those decisions, and whose voices are left out? What innovative, non-normative, or radical techniques, theories, or collaborations can transform Geography into “a practice of freedom,” to borrow from bell hooks’ (1984) theory of education in Teaching to Transgress?

The Geography Graduate Program pursues its curricular goals through small, intensive graduate seminars designed with an openness to student and teacher experimentation and potential, and through a mentoring and support system designed to ensure both upward and downward accountability to the communities of which we are a part—in the department, at Rutgers, in the academy, and in society at large. This involves treating training in Geography as an individualized journey, one that extends the etymology of our field—“geo” + “graph”, or the writing of the world—to the writing of the geographical self. Being a geographer means developing a critical self-awareness of how one moves through the world and with what implications for the human and non-human entities with which they connect. It involves seeing how conventions or traditions of movement—driving to work, residing in a white neighborhood, living in a settler state—normalize and reproduce unequal systems of benefit and harm. The Geography faculty is committed to fostering each graduate student’s journey by tailoring the course of study to the scholarly and social commitments that student brings, with the goal of transforming those commitments into powerful tools of discovery and positive societal and environmental change.

Practically, this means ensuring a tremendous amount of curricular flexibility, with only two required courses for all students. This also involves a commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging in Geography, which we seek to model through relations of mutuality, respect, and care in teaching, research, and advising. But, we recognize that this is hard work—it is an active process that we can rarely fully live up to—and that it alone is not enough to encompass the healing and justice-oriented work necessary to confront the U.S. and imperial racial system of which we are a part.

The academy, and Geography in particular, plays a central role in this racial system, which, as Rutgers Geography alumna Ruth Wilson Gilmore (2007) reminds us, maintains the “state-sanctioned production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” Rutgers Geography is inspired by the leadership of scholars and activists—especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color—who have been raising the cry for racial justice in response to the deepened racial disparities induced by the COVID–19 pandemic and ongoing police brutality and anti-Black violence. We are also inspired by those who have been raising that same call, despite so rarely being heard, for decades prior—including in our own discipline. We recognize Ibram X. Kendi’s (2019) charge that “the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify it and describe it—and then dismantle it.”

As a Geography Graduate Program, we commit to this difficult and collaborative work by dedicating ourselves to an interrogation of the classroom space and our enacted pedagogies: are they equitable? Are they anti-racist? Enacting an anti-racist pedagogy is more than adding diverse content to a course or curriculum, important as that is. It is “about how one teaches, even in courses where race is not the subject matter” (Kishimoto 2018). Anti-racist pedagogy is a “paradigm located within critical theory utilized to explain and counteract the persistence and impact of racism using praxis as its focus to promote social justice for the creation of a democratic society in every respect” (Blakeney 2011). Geography is a discipline uniquely oriented toward identifying and describing the spatial predicates of social and human–environment relations that produce “group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.” It thus lends itself to a pedagogical approach aimed at revealing unjust relations within society, and it is uniquely suited to dismantling those unjust relations by identifying and fostering geographies of freedom. But, developing anti-racist geographical practice is not an easy task. There is no magical “anti-racism” text or device or method or program. Anti-racist pedagogy is an experiment on which we commit ourselves to embark and that must infuse our wider ethics of practice so that we can remake Geography, so that we can help re-write the world.

The two core courses for all Rutgers Geography graduate degrees—601, Geographic Perspectives, and 602, Research Design—are designed to provide a foundation for students to share with faculty in this positive project. These are courses designed with input from the Graduate Curriculum Committee, which includes one graduate student representative. 601 offers a critical introduction to the history and theory of the discipline, examining how Geography has understood, misunderstood, or might better understand human–environment relations. 602 introduces students to different approaches to geographical explanation while attending to how epistemology and theories of change conceal or make visible specific relations and structures, and it asks how geographers can harness existing and emergent methods of analysis to geographically diagnose the conditions in which we live.

Our project of making a better Geography, though, takes place most intensely in the culture of practice in which we all share: in department meetings and seminars, in admissions and hiring decisions, and in informal meetings, greetings, and learning activities of all varieties. We commit to a mutual process of learning as a key step toward environmental and societal repair.

References:

Gilmore, R.W. (2007). Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. University of California Press.
hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge.
Kendi, I.X. (2019). How to be an Antiracist. One World.
Kishimoto, K. (2018). Anti-racist pedagogy: From faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom. Race, Ethnicity, and Education 21(4): 540-554.

Prepared in January 2021

Admissions

Applications to the MA/MS and PhD programs are due by January 15. Applicants who miss this deadline may not be considered for funding opportunities. Applications received after January 15 will be accepted and reviewed on an intermittent basis throughout the spring. If applications are delayed until the summer months, however, they may not be reviewed until the following academic year.

Application requirements for the MA/MS and PhD programs are:

  • Online application
  • $70 nonrefundable application fee
  • One official transcript from each post-secondary institution attended
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Curriculum vitae

Our department does not accept applications for mid-year enrollment. If you wish to begin classes in the spring semester, you must be admitted for the preceding fall semester and then request that your entrance into the program be deferred until spring.

Applications should be submitted directly to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions via the online application portal. In this case, all of your materials will be submitted electronically and will be available to the admissions committee of the Graduate Program in Geography. If some of your materials are only available in hard copy form (e.g., some letter writers will only write hard copy reference letters), these should be mailed directly to the Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions at the following address:

Office of Graduate and Professional Admissions
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
56 College Ave
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8541
USA

After submitting your application and paying the application fee, you can track the admissions process online via the application portal, using the "Check Your Status" link to confirm whether your file is complete and has been transferred to our program office.

 

Graduate Student Admissions FAQ

 

PhD Program

Doctoral Degree Requirements:

The doctoral program in Geography at Rutgers emphasizes preparation for a research-oriented career in academia, public service or the private sector. While most applicants to the PhD program have at least one prior degree in geography, applicants with degrees in other disciplines are nonetheless encouraged to apply. The PhD differs qualitatively from bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in its emphasis on research and the dissertation as a major, original contribution to knowledge. Accordingly, the doctoral program in Geography at Rutgers emphasizes preparation in the student’s area (subfield) of specialization, research as a problem-solving activity, and preparation of research results for publication.


For more information:

 

MA/MS Degree

The geography graduate program offers the following degree options: Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). For students seeking a terminal master’s degree (i.e., not en route to a PhD), the requirements for the MA and MS degrees are identical. Students may opt for either designation at their discretion.


MA/MS Degree Requirements:

The MA/MS in Geography requires completion of 30 credit hours, and students may follow either a “Thesis Option” or “Exam Option” course of study.

The Thesis Option requires 24 credits of coursework and 6 research credits, submission of a thesis written under the supervision of the student’s committee, a public presentation of the thesis, and a successful oral defense of the thesis (involving a response to questions prepared by the student’s committee).

The Exam Option requires 30 credits of coursework, submission of a writing sample for approval by the student’s committee, and passing written comprehensive exams given and evaluated by the student’s committee. The writing sample, typically a revised and expanded seminar paper, is expected to be substantial, although considerably less ambitious in scope than a master’s thesis.


For more information:

Ph.D. Degree Learning Goals and Assessment

Ph.D. Degree Learning Goals and Assessment

The doctoral program in Geography trains students at the highest level to assume leadership roles in research, teaching, and applied work in Human Geography, Human Environment Geography, and Physical Geography.

The leadership of the Geography graduate program will regularly review the structure and content of the PhD program and the feedback received from assessments and surveys. These reviews will be used to provide the best possible education to students in order to meet the needs for highly trained individuals in Human Geography, Human-Environment Geography, and Physical Geography.

Courses - Graduate

Rutgers catalog course descriptions for UNDERGRADUATE classes and GRADUATE classes in Geography

SAMPLE SYLLABI - graduate
16:450:501 (F) Introduction to Natural Resources Management (3)
sample syllabus*


16:450:502 (S) Resource Management Decision Making (3)
sample syllabus*

16:450:503 (S) Environmental Management (3)
Prerequisite: 16:450:502 or equivalent.
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16:450:504 (F) Coastal Geomorphology (3)
Prerequisite: 01:450:403 or 404 or equivalent.
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16:450:505 (F) Advanced Physical Geography (3)
Prerequisite: 01:450:403 or 404 or equivalent.
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16:450:507 (S) Applied Geomorphology (3)
Prerequisite: 01:450:403 or 404 or equivalent.
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16:450:508 (S) Environmental Problems in Developing Countries (3)
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16:450:509 (F) Human Geographical Problems of Developing Countries (3)
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16:450:510 (S) Water Resources Management (3)
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16:450:511 (S) Land-Use Systems (3)
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16:450:513 (S) Settlement Geography (3)
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16:450:514 Environment and Culture (3)
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16:450:515 (S) Population Migration and Mobility (3)
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16:450:516(S) Urban Geography (3)
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16:450:517,518 Directed Study in Geography (3,3)
Prerequisite: Permission of graduate director.
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16:450:519 (F) Problems in Political Geography (3)
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16:450:520 Women in the Urban Environment (3)
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16:450:521 Regional Hydrology and Landforms (3)
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16:450:522 Tourism Geography (3)
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16:450:523 The Climate System and Global Climate Change (3)
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16:450:525 Restructuring of Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 (3)
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16:450:526 Property Theory and Policy (3)
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16:450:530 Data Structures and Algorithms for Spatial Problems (3)
Prerequisite: 01:450:321 or 420 or 11:372:415.
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16:450:533 Geographic Information in the Visual Arts (3)
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16:450:601,602 Field and Research Methods in Geography (3,3)
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16:450:603 (F) Research Proseminar (3)
Required for graduate degrees.
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16:450:605,606 Geography Seminar (3,3)
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16:450:607 (S) Seminar in Historical Cultural Geography (3)
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16:450:612 Natural Hazards Management (3)
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16:450:613 (F) Seminar in Coastal Resources Geography (3)
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16:450:614 (F) Seminar in Medical Geography (3)
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16:450:615 (S) Seminar in Remote Sensing (3)
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16:450:616 Seminar in Technological Hazards (3)
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16:450:617 Seminar in Remote Sensing of the Biosphere (3)
Prerequisite: 16:450:615 or equivalent or permission of instructor.
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16:450:625 Seminar in Geographic Information Systems (3)
Prerequisites: 01:450:420 or 11:372:415.
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16:450:632(S) Seminar in Regional Geography (3)
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16:450:701,702 Research in Geography (BA,BA)