An Open Letter to Prospective Graduate Students

Geography is a broad academic discipline and attracts students with a variety of professional and academic backgrounds. Students in the department have undergraduate degrees in fields as diverse as anthropology, physics, art history, and economics. Don’t worry if you’re asking yourself, “What is Geography anyway?” The field has changed a lot over the last few decades, and continues to evolve. Many students were attracted to Berkeley Geography for the flexible, interdisciplinary approach and intellectual rigor this ongoing redefinition of the field encourages. The faculty in our department are in the forefront of this transformation. To learn more about their research interests, please read the faculty profiles found on this website.

One way to understand more about a field is to look at the kinds of questions asked within it. In Geography, these include:

What is the significance of “place” in an era of globalization?
What are the dynamic processes of climate change?
How can race and gender be situated geographically as well as historically?
How can we understand the evolution and role of cities through film and literature?
How can pollen data help us understand the origins of agriculture?
How have human beings shaped, and been shaped by, their environments?

These and other questions are explored in classes offered within the department. The course schedule for the current academic year is on the main Geography web site, and should give you a good idea of available resources.

While many graduate students take the bulk of their courses within the department, almost everyone has taken at least one class outside it. The Berkeley campus has incredible academic resources, and our faculty and students have strong ties to other departments. Many Geography students are also involved in centers for area studies and special working groups on campus, including the Center for African Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Center for South Asian Studies, and the Berkeley Food Institute, several of which are run by Geography faculty.

The department is located on the 5th floor of McCone Hall. Our famous balcony overlooking the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge provides a nice rest and study spot between classes. In addition, all graduate students are given office space in the department. We have the friendliest, most competent administrative staff on campus, so Geography students are blessedly free of bureaucratic difficulties. Every Wednesday the department gathers for the Department Colloquium, a lecture by a Berkeley or visiting scholar, preceded by tea, cookies and conversation.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Student Advisor, Marjorie Ensor. We also encourage you to look through the student directory and contact a student with similar interests. If you would like to meet with faculty whose research interests you, please contact them directly to ask for an appointment. All e-mail addresses are available on the Geography website.

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