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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

History of the Department

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The Minnesota State Geography Department has a long tradition in education, community service, and basic and applied research. Minnesota State University started as a state normal school founded in 1867 and later evolved into a Teachers College in 1921, a State College in 1957, and a State University in 1975. Classes in Geography were first offered at Mankato Normal School upon its founding and by 1890 it had expanded to a full-time offering of Geography under Miss Defransa Swann as part of a Social Studies program. For many years the number of Geography faculty was limited, but some professors became quite well known in Minnesota and beyond. George J Miller founded the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and its flagship publication, Journal of Geography while at MSU; he served 35 years on the faculty from 1913 to 1948. Journal of Geography

Other professors over the years joined George J Miller in instructing and furthering the cause of Geography at this university. Cora P. Sletten came to Mankato in 1923 and taught until her retirement in 1953. For many years she was an associate editor of the Journal of Geography and made major contributions to Geographic education in the US. The arrival of Bert E. Burns in 1950 and Arthur Grove in 1951 began to show the momentum towards growing the strong Geography program we have today. The Geography program became its own department in 1953 offering both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Growth continued through the early 1970's, by 1973 the department had 19 faculty positions. These numbers would decrease in the late 1970's and early 1980’s due to financial hardship at the university, but the ground work had been laid for future success of the department.

During the 1980's and 1990's the program continued its track record of education, service and research, while producing well educated students who successfully joined the work force. The Geography Department has been considered among the "most productive" on campus and remains so today. In the late 1990's through the present, Geography has seen a resurgent interest and demand centered on Geographic Information Science and Geospatial Technologies (includes: GIS – Geographic Information Systems, remote sensing, and GPS – global positioning systems). The US Department of Labor has identified “Geospatial Technology as one of the highest job growth fields for the foreseeable future." Thus, the demand for geospatially trained university graduates has reached all-time highs. The Geography Department is focused on meeting these 21st Century demands by providing state-of-the-science facilities, equipment and instruction in Geospatial Technologies and in the theoretical components of our field.

We in the MSU Department of Geography hold this long tradition of excellence in high regard and hope that you see evidence of this in how we strive to meet the needs of our students and community today.

The Geography Department Office - Morris Hall 206

The Geography Department Office

The GIS Laboratory - Morris Hall 212

The GIS Laboratory