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6 Emphases = 1 Geography

Geography at Brigham Young University focuses on our interdependent world: the spatial relationships between the physical landscape, diverse societies, and current events. The Geography major at Brigham Young University nourishes a sense of curiosity about the world around us, a desire to serve our local and global communities, and the skills necesary to solve significant problems that are inherently spatial.  Hundreds of students major in geography to prepare for a professional career or graduate study, or just because of an inherent  interest in exploring and understanding the world around them.

We emphasize both technical and critical thinking skills, including geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, statistics, data collection, interpretation, and communication using the written and spoken word, and visual data display: maps, charts, and graphs.

Operating from the base of intellectual knowledge and skills gained as Geography majors, our principal purpose is to prepare our students to leave BYU with a moral commitment to live lives of faith, to have an eternal thirst for knowledge, a willingness to serve in family, church, and community affairs, and the knowledge and skills so that they may be effective in their service.

What is Geography all about?

  • Geography uses a spatial perspective to study a diverse subject matter, traditionally divided between human and physical Geography. In recent years, a third focus of geography has been on problem-solving tools and methods that employ the spatial perspective, including statistics, geographic information systems, remote sensing, and cartography.
  • Geographers study the complex reciprocal relationships between human societies of the Earth and their natural environment.
  • The geographer's canvas is colored by place, space and time: recognizing the great differences and dynamics in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes and environments across the world, and the links between them.
  • The study of geography includes a plurality of ways of knowing and understanding the world, and the depth to which individual specializations are studied will vary.
  • Geographers are curious about the world, and are able to discern the social and physical environments through contemplative observation and rigorous field research.
  • Geographers understand the evolution and significance of the distinctiveness of place and environment, including different ways of considering those relationships, and a parallel understanding of the significance of spatial linkages in social and physical processes.
  • Geographers leverage conceptual and technical skills to interpret, analyze, and solve geographical issues, including both general communication abilities (e.g., writing), critical analysis (e.g., statistics), geographic modeling, and geospatial technologies (e.g., GIS, remote sensing)

Successful students in this degree will:

  • Gain a higher level of reflective thinking concerning their "place" in the world and their associated responsibilities with an emphasis on situating secular knowledge within the context of revealed gospel truths.
  • Strengthen their initiative, motivation and discipline to observe our complex world and use the geographic perspective to understand local and global events.
  • Learn to use communication and presentation skills, to work with others in order to accomplish common goals, and to exhibit personal behavior consistent with high moral and ethical standards.
  • Develop proficiency in critical thinking and analysis by selecting, applying, and evaluating theoretical models and empirical evidence that leads to better understanding of place and space. Students will learn how to solve problems by selecting, using, and evaluating a variety of geographic data and methods--these include skills related to using the library, primary and secondary data gathering techniques, and field work. Students will also learn to consider their work reflectively, including the broader consequences of the solutions they develop.
  • Gain practical experierience by either working closely with a faculty mentor on collaborative research or a capstone project, or in a professional internship in their emphasis.  These experiences emphasize active learning, reflective analysis by the student on the continuity and complementarity of geographic knowledge beyond the classroom, and the development of the student's identity as a geographer and how he or she can contribute to improvement in the human condition.
  • Develop personal attributes that are relevant to the world beyond the classroom, including a desire for lifelong learning, a desire to employ strong ethics and values in their work, a desire to create quality work, and a desire to serve and improve the wider community.

Which emphasis is right for me?

BYU Geography includes seven emphases, tailored to a variety of student interests and career paths:
  • Global Studies focuses on the general principles of geography, and their application to international issues.
  • Environmental Studies focuses on the application of physical and environmental geography to the study of environmental change, and the management of human actions in the physical environment.
  • Tourism Studies looks at the worldwide tourism industry with a geographic perspective, understanding global and local patterns of travel, and professional tourism planning.
  • Urban and Regional Planning focuses on professional skills that employ geographic principles in the planning of future land use in cities and public lands.
  • Geographic Information Science focuses on geospatial technologies, based on the principles of geography, that are used in other areas of geography and in a wide variety of other disciplines.
  • Geospatial Intelligence focuses on the application of geospatial technologies, geographic principles, and situational understanding (e.g., culture) to solve issues relevant to national security.
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