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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Graduate Programs

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Geography Masters of Science

Graduate Program Coordinator:
Phillip Larson, Ph.D. (For inquiries about the Graduate Program, call 5073892617)

The Graduate Program in Geography is designed to help students develop advanced skills in research methods and theory in physical geography/earth science, human/cultural geography, and geospatial technology. The department provides necessary continuing education for a variety of elementary, high school and post-secondary teachers and other professionals (e.g. planners), as well.

In addition to a diverse and experienced faculty, graduate students in Geography have access to state-of-the science geospatial technology and software. We operate and maintain a cartiographic laboratory and a geospatial laboratory that is updated with the latest GIS, Remote Sensing and cartiographic design software and computers capable of operating this software. We also have cutting edge differentially corrected GNSS and GPS units (Trimble GeoPro XH and Geo7x) and Trimble Juno GPS units - along with access to Trimble Pathfinder Software for post-processing of GPS/GNSS data.

In addition, the Department also co-hosts Minnesota State's AGES (Archeology, Geography, and Earth Science) Laboratory led by the directorship of Dr. Larson (Geography and Earth Science Programs), Dr. Bowen (Geography and Earth Science Programs), and Dr. Schirmer (Anthropology). This lab focuses on addressing research questions related to human-environment interactions and human and natural systems through the Quaternary. AGES hosts research expertise in geomorphology, earth surface processes, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and upper Mississippi native american archeology, and these are the focus of work conducted within this lab. A new laboratory space is in the process of being acquired and rennovated to allow for an array of equipment to be utilized, including: ground penetrating radar, geospatial methods (GIS, GNSS, drones, surveying), pollen analysis, dendrochronology, soil and sediment core analysis, particle size analysis, and geochronological dating prep work. Field equipment is alsoavailable for geomorphic and archeologic field work.

Minnesota State's Weather Laboratory that contains high end computers for meteorological research and coursework.

The university library holds many of the major U.S. geographical and earth science focused journals. The library's map and atlas holdings are formally organized in its Map Collection, which is a depository for maps produced by federal government agencies including (but not limited to ) the U.S. Geological Survey, the Defense Mapping Agency, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (including the Forest Service).


Applicants for admission to graduate programs in Geography should have maintained a grade point average of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale for a four-year degree. Applicants having grade point averages below the minimum who present convincing evidence of potential for success may be considered for provisional admission.

Applicants should submit a letter of intent, official transcripts from all universities previously attended, and letters of recommendation from three individuals familiar with the applicant's undergraduate academic performance in order to be considered for the program. These materials should be submitted to both the Admissions Office through (or emailed to and to the Geography Department's administrative assistant.

It is HIGHLY recommended that applicants to the program inquire with potential advisors in our Department, if interested in enrolling in this program. It is also HIGHLY recommended that potential applicants detail in their letter of intent who their potential advisor(s) might be and describe their research interests and how that aligns with the potential advisor(s). This will help the Department of Geography align prospective students with the appropriate faculty members if they are accepted and help us assess if the applicant and our program is an appropriate fit. Again, we highly encourage and recommend that you to reach out to faculty members in the department and discuss your ideas with them before applying!

International applicants must submit a TOEFL score of at least 75, within a minimum score of 15 in each section of the TOEFL or an IELTS score of at least 6.0 (total score), with a minimum of 5.0 in each category.

It is strongly encouraged that all application materials be submitted to the Geography Department by March 1st of the academic year prior to the fall in which a prospective student wishes to enroll. Applications submitted after this deadline have a decreased chance of being granted financial assistance and/or being accepted to the program.

To begin the application process please visit:

Financial Assistance

Several graduate assistantships are available through the Geography Department and through the College of Graduate Studies or via external research funding brought in by Geography faculty. Further information about the availability of assistantships and about the status of applications for assistantships can be inquired about from the Department and/or your potential advisor.

Program Outline

Descriptions of courses listed below are available on the Graduate Bulletins page.


  • Thesis Plan: 30 credits (at least 50% must be 600 level courses)
  • Alternate Plan Paper: 34 credits

Professional Track Option

Required Core and Research (6 cr)

  • GEOG 678 – Geographic Research & Writing (3)
  • GEOG 680 – Philosophy of Geography (3)

Required Electives (24-26cr)

  • Choose any 500/600 level elective courses in consultation with an advisor. 15 credits must be taken in Geography. See the Graduate Bulletin and/or the online class schedule for information on courses and availability.

Required Thesis or Alternate Plan Paper

  • GEOG 694 – Alternate Plan Paper or Internship (1-2)
  • GEOG 699 – Thesis (3-6)

Reminder to graduate faculty and graduate students

This note is to remind faculty and students that our graduate program has two core courses which are required for anyone who wants to receive a master's degree in geography from Minnesota State University, Mankato. These classes are GEOG 678 Geographic Research & Writing (3 credits) and GEOG 680 Philosophy of Geography (3 credits). These courses are foundational for completing a program of study. Failure to complete these two courses, comprehensive examinations and the writing of a thesis or APP will result in the denial of a geography degree from our institution. No other courses can be substituted for Geography 678 Research and Writing unless that course is approved in advance by the graduate coordinator or department chair. Such substitutions must be made based on compelling criteria and not mere convenience.

If you have any questions or other concerns please feel free to contact the Graduate Program Director ( or the Department Office (507.389.2617)



GEOG 509 (1-4) Selected Topics

The instructor will develop a specific course on a geographic topic, such as soils, landforms, water resources, energy, housing, population geography, or some other topic for the class.

GEOG 510 (3) Climatic Environments

A qualitative regional climatology of the world, including the Pleistocene Ice Ages and urban impacts upon climate. Emphasis is on the characteristics of particular climates and understanding the factors that control their spatial distribution.

Prerequisite: GEOG 101 or consent

GEOG 511 (3) Soils Geomorphology

This course examines soils and their role in interpreting the history of landform development. Soils chronicle the environment in which they have formed, and reflect the environment they currently support. Understanding their formation and subsequent distribution is essential to good management practices. Applications include the analysis of soil data bases and assimilation of field derived soil profile data. (F) (S, Summer on demand)

GEOG 512 (4) Advanced Weather

Meteorological principles and theory are applied to the analysis and interpretation of weather data in order to better understand the structure and evolution of synoptic-scale weather systems. Basic knowledge of mathematics will be assumed.

Prerequisite: GEOG 217

GEOG 513 (4) Soil Conservation

This course examines basic concepts and components of soils, factors that influence formation and degradation, soil as a natural resource for ecosystems and societies, and the importance of soil conservation to restore functions that reduce erosion, improve water quality and quantity, mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity, and increase agricultural productivity to feed an expanding population. Students will gain hands-on experience in field and laboratory settings to assess soil quality and quantity, investigate site-specific and landscape-scale impacts to soils, and develop management strategies to protect and improve soils in urban and agricultural systems.

GEOG 514 (3) Biogeography

This course involves the global distribution of plants and animals, with emphasis on natural and human induced causes of this distribution. The role of humans in the endangerment and extinction of species and conservation of vital habitats are also discussed.

GEOG 515 (4) Earth Surface Processes

This course examines the natural processes that operate on our planet and shape the landscape presently. This will be done through a focus on applied exercises, measurements and direct/indirect observations. Through applied projects students will have an understanding of how these processes interact within a variety of Earth Systems.

GEOG 516 (4) Fluvial Geomorphology and Hydrology

An in-depth investigation into fluvial systems including sediment transport, sediment budget analysis, channel geometry/morphology, drainage basin analysis, geomorphic evolution of fluvial landscapes, hydrology (i.e., runoff generation and channel formation, storm hydrograph and flood analysis, discharge measurements) of fluvial systems, and effects of anthropogenic modification and use of fluvial systems. (F) (S, on demand)

Prerequisite: Geog 101 or Geog 121, or instructor consent. Geog 315 or 415 are recommended.

GEOG 517 (5) Quaternary Environments and Climate Change

An interdisciplinary investigation into Quaternary environmental/climatic change and the impact of change on the behavior and evolution of humans. This course has three segments: 1) An examination of natural systems responsible for climatic change, the impact climatic fluctuations have on Earth systems, timing of Quaternary changes, evidence of climatic/environmental change from spatially distant, climatically distinct environments; 2) Investigation into worldwide evidence of human evolution, global dispersion, and adaptation to environmental systems; 3) Introduction into various methodological approaches in Quaternary archeologic, geomorphic, and climatic studies. Focus is on proxy records used for climate/environmental reconstruction, archeologic/geomorphic field methods, geochronologic dating methods.

GEOG 520 (3) Conservation of Natural Resources

Survey of natural resources emphasizing energy, metallic, fisheries, and water resources. Also addresses timber, wetlands, and wildlife on public and private lands.

GEOG 525 (3) Economic Geography

Examines national and international economic geographical order and trade activities. Topics include economic development, competition, and impacts on the environment and people

GEOG 535 (3) Urban Geography

Hypotheses and generalization related to urban functions, structure, land use, distribution, growth, and decline. Emphasis will be mostly on the United States' urban places

GEOG 536 (3) Rural Geography

Introduction to theoretical frameworks for analyzing processes of economic, environmental, and social change in rural regions. Includes basic and advanced geographical principles and techniques for studying non-urban areas. Designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for carving out research projects on rural environments.

GEOG 537 (3) Political Geography

Spatial problems and structure of governments, focusing on countries of the world. Covers such topics as boundary problems, strategic locations, and geopolitical explanations of international relations and conflict.

GEOG 538 (3) Social Geography

Concepts and theories concerning global and national social problems and the significance of geographic analytic methods for social research. Study of factors related to variations in regional standards of living.

GEOG 539 (4) Transportation Modeling & GIS        

Four major sets of ideas will be covered: Introduction to spatial organization, network analysis, allocation methods, and rrban transportation. The emphasis is on these approaches to understanding the geographic of transport by description, explanation, and normative or optimal methods.

GEOG 540 (1-4) Field Studies

Various excursions to study physical and cultural landscapes inside and outside Minnesota.

GEOG 545 (3) Latin America

Regional geography covering the ecological and human environment of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Students can pick specific topics to study in detail. The geographic relations between the USA and Latin America are also covered.

GEOG 546 (3) Canada

Students will develop a knowledge of the environmental, cultural, historical, and economic geographies of Canada. Readings of best-selling fiction and scholarly works written by Canadians will provide a Canadian perspective on the nation's past, present, and future.

GEOG 550 (3) Europe

Cultural, environmental, and economic background of Europe west of the former USSR Following a general geographic survey, the course will cover major regions and countries.

GEOG 554 (3) Russian Realm

Survey of the area of the former Soviet Union. Examines regional patterns of the physical environment, natural resources, population distribution, cities, and economic activity. Relates people to the land.

GEOG 556 (3) Africa

A survey of the physical and cultural resources and economic development of the continent with emphasis on current problems. Topics discussed will focus on Africa south of the Sahara.

Prerequisite: Jr. or Sr. status

GEOG 558 (3) Geography of East Asia

Examines the physical and human environments of eastern Asia, mainly China, Korea, and Japan. The class will be assisted by visual sources and hands-on use of primary documents.

GEOG 564 (4) Teaching Earth Science

An applied course tailored to meet practical needs of a teacher, related to curriculum development and earth science lab equipment and supplies.

GEOG 571 (4) Digital Field Mapping with GPS

This course will cover basic strategies for conducting field surveys and gathering from the real world data appropriate to mapping the earth's surface. Emphasis will be upon simple but reliable techniques, ranging from compass-and-pacing to global positioning systems (GPS).

Prerequisite: GEOG 373 or permission of instructor

GEOG 573 (4) Intermediate GIS

Comprehensive examination of GIS for manipulation and analysis of spatially-referenced data, including data structure and organization, input and output problems, data management, and strategies for analytical work.

Prerequisite: GEOG 373

GEOG 574 (4) Introduction to Remote Sensing

This is an introductory course on theories and techniques of remote sensing. Focus will be placed on providing students with a general overview of the application of remote sensing to practical problems and hands-on experience for image processing and analysis.

GEOG 575 (4) Advanced Remote Sensing & GIS

Provides studentsthe opportunity to develop further knowledge off remote sensing. Emphasis will be placed on introducing advanced theories and techniques for digital image processing and helping students obtain independent research skills using remote sensing data.

GEOG 576 (3) Spatial Statistics

Descriptive statistics, probability, hypothesis testing, introduction to non-parametric statistics, correlation, introduction to regression analysis, spatial statistics and principles of data representation in graphs, tables and statistical results.

GEOG 577 (1-3) Topics in Techniques

This offering will include a variety of selected technical topics in geography, including (but not limited to) manual cartographic drafting and negative scribing, photomechanical techniques in production cartography, aerial photo interpretation, and advanced coverage of digital analysis of satellite-derived remote sensor data and global positioning systems.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor

GEOG 578 (3) Spatial Analysis with GIS

Survey of theoretical frameworks for spatial analysis and geographic quantitative methods. Includes basic and advanced spatial analysis principles and methods for studying and examining spatial patterns. Designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for carrying out research projects that demand spatial point pattern analysis and analysis of areal units.

GEOG 579 (1-4) GIS Practicum

This offering will include supervised project work in raster-based and/or vector-based GIS, using problems and data drawn from local or regional agencies or other professional-level organizations with whom the Geography Department maintains a relationship. Students must have completed one of the prerequisite courses, or a course or professional-level experience.

Prerequisite: GEOG 373, or 473/573, or permission of instructor

GEOG 580 (1-4) Seminar

Topics vary in physical, cultural, economic, political, and historical geography, as well as environmental conservation and geographic techniques. Prerequisite: GEOG 373 or GEOG 573

GEOG 597 (1-10) Internship

An applied work and learning experience. The student will provide a written internship report on professional practicum and the work supervisor will be consulted on how much the student has accomplished.

Prerequisite: permission required

GEOG 609 (1-3) Selected Topics

The instructor will develop a specific course on a geographic topic (land forms, soils, waters, natural resources, cities, agriculture, or any other topic of a geographic nature.

GEOG 610 (1-4) Issues in Physical Geography

Discussion and analysis of contemporary issues in the field of physical geography. Designed to allow in-depth focus on current problems/issues that geographers will encounter in their professional practice. Topics vary according to instructor.

GEOG 620 (1-4) Issues in Cultural Geography

Discussion and analysis of contemporary issues in the field of cultural geography. Designed to allow in-depth focus on current problems/issues that geographers will encounter in their professional practice. Topics vary according to instructor.

GEOG 650 (1-4) Issues in Regional Geography

Discussion and analysis of contemporary issues in the field of regional geography. Designed to allow in-depth focus on current problems/issues that geographers will encounter in their professional practice. Topics vary according to instructor.

GEOG 670 (1-4) Issues in Geographic Techniques

Discussion and analysis of contemporary issues in the field of Geographic Techniques. Designed to allow in-depth focus on current problems/issues that geographers will encounter in their professional practice. Topics vary according to instructor.

GEOG 673 (3) GIS for Professionals

To introduce URSI and Park and Rec. graduate students to geographical analysis in urban and regional planning through the use of GIS technology, particularly Arc/Info. Students will be introduced to various urban planning projects taking place in various local agencies.

GEOG 677 (1-4) Individual Study

A study assignment for a student to meet specific objectives for the student's needs. It could be a term paper, readings, reports, field report, or mapping project.

Prerequisite: permission of instructor

GEOG 678 (3) Geographic Research & Writing

Required of MS professional degree candidates. To acquaint students with the geographer's perspective and methods of inquiry; to examine types of geographic research; to develop student's ability in producing research papers; to give students experience in writing research papers and to provide students experience in professional oral presentation.

GEOG 680 (3) Philosophy of Geography

The history and development of geographic thought from ancient times to the late 20th century.

GEOG 681 (3) Environmental Issues

This course surveys various environmental issues within the United States with an emphasis on state and federal legislation and policies. The forces prompting environmental legislation, its subsequent implementation and modification by the courts, and various perspectives about the problems, their possible solutions, and the assessment of current efforts are discussed.

GEOG 690 (1-4) Topics in Meteorology/Climatology

The focus of this/these course(s) will be on Meteorology/Climatology. This course may be repeated up to three times.

GEOG 694 (1-2) Alternate Plan Paper

Student culminating experience in lieu of a thesis.

GEOG 698 (1-6) Internship

An applied work and learning practicum. The student will provide a written report on his/her own learning. The work supervisor will be consulted regarding students' accomplishments.

GEOG 699 (1-6) Thesis

A culminating project related to basic or applied research