The Committee on Geographical Studies The University of Chicago

Studying: Overview


Professors Mikesell and Conzen are available for consultation on all matters geographical. Undergraduates should confer frequently with Professor Mikesell on the composition and progress of their Major program of study. Professor Conzen, as chairman of the Committee as a whole, may be consulted on all matters of relevance.

Areas of study

The program pivots on the research interests of the Committee's faculty, and offers wide scope for research into such realms as: Urban organization and change; resource use and management strategies; cultural foundations of nation-building; and landscape studies.


Solid grounding in modern geography can lead to careers in government service, environmental consulting, marketing, publishing, planning, and teaching at all levels.

For further ideas, see the AAG Career Guide.

Selected courses

Below are some examples of recent and current Geography courses at the University. Check the course catalog for current offerings.

Cultural Geography. This course is an examination of the two main concerns of this field of geography: (1) the logic and pathology revealed in the record of the human use and misuse of the Earth, and (2) the discordant relationship of the world political map with more complicated patterns of linguistic and religious distribution.

Historical Geography of the United States. This course examines the spatial dynamics of empire, the frontier, regional development, the social character of settlement patterns, and the evolution of the cultural landscapes of America from pre-European times to 1900. All-day northern Illinois field trip required.

Changing America, 1900 to the Present. This course explores the regional organization of U.S. society and its economy during the pivotal twentieth century, emphasizing the shifting dynamics that explain the spatial distribution of people, resources, economic activity, human settlement patterns, and mobility. Special focus on the regional restructuring of industry and services, transportation, city growth, and cultural consumption. Two-day weekend field trip to the Mississippi River required. This course is offered in alternate years.

Seminar: Problems in the Human Geography of the Middle East. This course includes a review and cartographic demonstration of habitat types, modes of livelihood, and ethnic distribution. Students then present reports on selected aspects of human geography.

Ancient Landscapes I, II. The landscape of the Near East contains a detailed and subtle record of environmental, social, and economic processes that have obtained over thousands of years. Landscape analysis is, therefore, proving to be fundamental to an understanding of the processes that underpinned the development of ancient Near Eastern society. This course provides an overview of the ancient cultural landscapes of this heartland of early civilization from the early stages of complex societies in the fifth and sixth millennia BC to the close of the Early Islamic period around the tenth century AD.

Biogeography. PQ: Completion of the general education requirement for the biological sciences and a course in either ecology, evolution, or earth history; or consent of instructor. This course examines factors governing the distribution and abundance of animals and plants. Topics include patterns and processes in historical biogeography, island biogeography, geographical ecology, areography, and conservation biology (e.g., design and effectiveness of nature reserves).

Roots of the Modern American City. This course traces the economic, social, and physical development of the city in North America from pre-European times to the mid-twentieth century. We emphasize evolving regional urban systems, the changing spatial organization of people and land use in urban areas, and the developing distinctiveness of American urban landscapes. All-day Illinois field trip required.

The Chinese Environment. This course explores the changing interrelationship between humans and the physical environment in China. We begin by dealing with physical geography and the country's resource base. We then consider the human response to the opportunities offered by China's physical environment. Finally, we shift our emphasis to environmental problems.

Economics of Urban Policies. PQ: ECON 20100. This course covers tools needed to analyze urban economics and address urban policy problems. Topics include a basic model of residential location and rents; income, amenities, and neighborhoods; homelessness and urban poverty; decisions on housing purchase versus rental (e.g., housing taxation, housing finance, landlord monitoring); models of commuting mode choice and congestion and transportation pricing and policy; urban growth; and Third World cities.

Introduction to Cartography and GIS. PQ: GEOG 20000 or consent of instructor. This course provides an introduction to cartographic practices (e.g., map preparation, compilation, construction, and design) using computer-based geographic information system techniques. Lab sessions required.

Urban Landscapes as Social Text. PQ: Advanced standing and consent of instructor. This seminar explores the meanings found in varieties of urban landscapes, both in the context of individual elements and composite structures. These meanings are examined in relation to three fundamental approaches that can be identified in the analytical literature on landscapes: normative, historical, and communicative modes of conceptualization. Emphasis is placed on analyzing the explicitly visual features of the urban landscape. Students pursue research topics of their own choosing within the general framework.


The Committee is located on the 3rd floor of Albert Pick Hall for International Studies, 5828 S. University Avenue, directly west of Rockefeller Chapel and the Oriental Institute.

For campus map and local transportation information, see UChicago Maps.