History of the Department of Geography and The Environment
By Gregory Knapp
Geography courses were introduced to The University of Texas by Lindley Miller Keasbey in 1905. Keasbey inspired Walter Prescott Webb to write his masterpiece of historical geography and environmental history, The Great Plains, although subsequently he critiqued the book's environmental determinism. William J. Reilly developed his Law of Retail Gravitation while at Texas in the 1920s; his discovery was an important precursor of the "quantitative revolution" in geography and planning.
Geography courses were offered in the Department of Geological Sciences and the School of Business Administration (by Stanley Arbingast, for example) prior to the formation of the Department of Geography in Fall 1949. The original faculty of the Department included Professors Donald D. Brand (1905-1984), Dan Stanislawski (1903-1997 ), and George W. Hoffman (1914-1990), all of whom led the Department for many years. The Department was the first in Texas, and the second in the Southwest, to award doctoral degrees.
From the beginning, the Department has supported regional and international studies, with special emphases on Texas and the Southwest, Latin America, the Mediterranean World and Middle East, and Northern and Eastern Europe.
The Department has also provided training in the topical areas of geography. From the beginning, these included cultural geography, physical geography (earth sciences), and mathematical geography (cartography). By 1960, conservation (environmental resource management) had become an explicit topical focus which would be further strengthened over the years. By 1970, urban and regional analysis became an area of departmental concern, and by 2004 Urban Studies had been added as a major managed by the Department. Remote sensing, computer cartography, and geographic information systems have been developed as additional areas of teaching and research. In 2004 the Department's name was changed to Geography and the Environment to reflect its enhanced role in the University.
The Department's faculty has had an outstanding record of research and publication; indeed, a recent survey in "The Professional Geographer" found the department's book publication productivity to be the highest in the nation. Faculty have made contributions to fundamental research in many areas, authored numerous textbooks of national importance, and edited influential overviews of disciplinary and interdisciplinary topics.
Well over a thousand geography and urban studies majors have earned their degrees through our Department, plus 100 doctoral students and 230 master's students. Most of the PhD alumni and many of the master's alumni found positions in higher education, and include a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a former president of the Association of American Geographers. The undergraduate program has graduated many successful people who have pursued careers in law, business, medicine, government, education, the military, and journalism. Famous undergraduate alumni include Paul Goodloe, broadcast meteorologist for the Weather Channel.
In its early years, the Department was located in what is now the Dorothy Gebauer Building. The Department moved to Waggener Hall in 1962. In 1974, Geography moved to its present location in the beautiful limestone and Spanish tile Geography Building (formerly the Journalism Building). The Department will relocate to facilities in the new, state of the art Liberal Arts Building to be completed about 2013.
Today the Department has 17 full-time faculty, plus many affiliated faculty, research fellows, and part-time faculty, There are about 400 undergraduate majors in Geography and Urban Studies, and 36 graduate students. The graduate program was ranked 14th in the nation in the National Research Council's Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, the highest ranked program in the South and Southwest. The undergraduate program was rated one of the top six in the Southwest by Rugg's Recommendations on the Colleges (2009).
Brian Roberts (2012-present), Ken Young (2009-2012), William E. Doolittle (acting chair, summer 2009), Leo Zonn (2006-2009), William Doolittle (2004-2006), Gregory W. Knapp (1996-2004), William E. Doolittle (1992-1996), Paul W. English (1982-1992), George W. Hoffman (1978-1982), Robert K. Holz (1972-1978), C. Shane Davies (acting chair, 1971-1972), Robert C. Mayfield (1967-1971), Lorrin G. Kennamer (1960-1967), Donald D. Brand (1949-1960),
Natalie Boudreau (2012-present), Dee Dee Barton (2005-2012), Karen Eikner (2004-2005), Maria Acosta (2001-2004), Sakena Sounny-Slitine (1997-2001), Ruth Schwab (1996-1997), Jacqueline Erengil, (1992-1996), BeverlyBeaty-Benadom (1992).
James Gunter (2008-present), Shannon Harris (2007-2008), Tan Thai (2005-2007), Dee Dee Barton (2001-2005), Maria Acosta (2000-2001), Mechelle Powell (1999-2000), Greg Osburn (1997-1999), Stephanie Bush (1996-1997), Ruth Schwab (1994-1996), Valerie Billingsley (1993-1994), Judy White (1992-1993), Carol Vernon (1992).
Calina Coakwell Summer (2001-present), Sylvia Edwards-Khan Fall (1999-2001), Emily Johnston (Summer/Spring 1999) Amanda Weaver Fall (1998), Melissa Mayo (1997-1998). Staff position established September 1998, replacing faculty position.