The Graduate Program of the Department of Geography and the Environment prepares highly qualified students for successful research and teaching careers at academic and other professional institutions.
Faculty and graduate students have contributed in many ways to understanding and managing earth’s diverse cultural and physical environments, ranging from local to global scales across the full range of human history. Current areas of faculty research include Space, Place, and Social Worlds; Environmental Changes and Surface Processes; and Digital Landscapes. The faculty has always had a strong international orientation and is especially well prepared to guide students in research in Latin America, South Asia, Africa, and Europe, as well as field research in the Southwestern and Western regions of the United States. The Department encourages interdisciplinary and collaborative work, taking advantage of the University’s extensive scholarly resources.
As of July 2010, Departmental alumni include 230 master’s students (including a former President of the Association of American Geographers and a current member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences), and 100 doctoral alumni located at prestigious institutions around the world.
Thanks to its careful admissions policy and mentoring, the Graduate Program has high doctor’s degree retention and graduation rates: As of July, 2010, 88 per cent of all doctor’s degree students who enrolled in the 1991-2000 period had received their doctorates from the university. The median time to graduate was 6.0 years for this group.
Of our doctor’s degree students graduating 1988-2007, over 60% hold tenured or tenure track positions in higher education, 20% hold leadership positions in nongovernmental organizations, and the remainder are employed in business, government, and other facets of education. Listings of our doctor’s degree and master’s alumni are available online.
A Distinguished Trajectory
Geography courses were introduced to the University of Texas by Dr. Lindley Miller Keasbey in 1905. Keasbey’s teaching inspired Walter Prescott Webb to write his masterpiece of historical geography and environmental history, The Great Plains (although subsequently Keasbey 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.
The Department of Geography was formed in 1949 thanks to lobbying by the University’s outstanding Latin American Studies program. The original faculty of the Department consisted of three outstanding international scholars: Donald D. Brand (1905-1984), Dan Stanislawski (1903-1997), and George W. Hoffman (1914-1990). The Department was the first in Texas, and the second in the Southwest, to award doctoral degrees.
Since then, the Department has participated fully in the life of the discipline and has maintained a high level of national visibility. 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 faculty 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. The Department changed its name to the Department of Geography and the Environment in 2004.
Intellectual and Social Environment: Austin and the University of Texas
As the state capital, Austin is home to a number of federal and state agencies with research staff and resources, as well as nongovernmental organizations. Many of these agencies and organizations are staffed with current or former Geography students.
Austin's environmental diversity makes it an ideal location for field training and research. Austin is located where the Colorado River slices through the Balcones Escarpment, the major regional physiographic divide. To the west, the spectacular Hill Country dissects the Great Plains of the American West into accessible canyons, granite domes, caves, and limestone sinkholes with a vegetation cover of live oak, juniper, and mesquite. To the east, the Coastal Plain contains intersecting ecosystems of oak forests and grasslands with intrusions of the Piney Woods and Bald Cypress wetlands of the Deep South. The region is rich in natural springs and rivers, and canoeing, tubing, and rafting are some of the many outdoor recreational activities enjoyed by Austinites.
Austin's communities are also diverse. The Mexican heritage is strong, and Austin also exhibits influences from Southern Afro-American and Anglo-American folk culture. Even before the Civil War, the area received substantial immigrants from Central Europe; even today, German, Czech, Scandinavian, and other identifiable ethnic European communities still dot the region. The area's governmental and technological importance continues to attract streams of migrants from New England, the Midwest, California, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Austin has a major Jewish cultural center, Muslim mosques, Hindu and Buddhist temples, as well as a wide range of Catholic and Protestant religious centers and seminaries.
Given Austin's attractive physical environment, substantial educational resources, and importance as the capital of Texas, the city stands out as a center of high technology research and development, yet retains the casual, tolerant atmosphere achieved in earlier decades.
The University of Texas at Austin is a major research university. Graduate students in the Department benefit from highly ranked graduate programs in complementary disciplines, and from one of the best research library systems in the world. The Environmental Science Institute and Area Studies centers such as Latin American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and American Studies offer courses, symposia, and research support to Geography students. Language training is available in all the major European languages, as well as in many Middle Eastern, East Asian and South Asian tongues, and Quichua. Graduate students in the Department utilize many other University facilities, including the Center for Space Research, the Herbarium, the Bureau of Economic Geology, the Marine Science Institute, and the Population Research Center.
The University has always been co-educational, and is a welcoming environment for persons of diverse backgrounds. The University’s student body is currently 4.5 percent African-American, 16 percent Hispanic, 15 percent Asian American, and 9 percent Foreign. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, citizenship status, or sexual orientation. The Department is fully supportive of the need to create a welcoming and open environment for all.