About the Department
The department traces it roots back to 1907, when Nevin Fenneman, a charter member of the Association of American Geographers and one of its early presidents, began teaching a series of five courses in a combined Department of Geology and Geography. Due to the popularity of his courses, by 1917 two instructors were added to teach additional geography courses. Over the years some 55 full-time and five adjunct professors have served the department. In 2008-09 there were 12 full-time and seven adjunct faculty.
In 1959 the Department of Geology and Geography was divided into two separate units: a Department of Geology and a Department of Geography and Regional Planning. In 1963 this unit was in turn split into a completely independent Department of Geography and a graduate Department of Community Planning. Professor Robert B. McNee was the first head of completely separate Department of Geography. He was succeed over the years as head by Howard A. Stafford, K. Bruce Ryan, Robert South, Roger Selya, Lin Liu, Susanna Tong, and currently Hongxing Liu. It was under the direction of Professor McNee that the department began to focus its teaching and research attention on urban-economic and historical geography. As the faculty increased in size during the late 1980s and early 1990s, two additional foci were added, physical-environmental geography and GIS/Remote Sensing.
From its earliest inception the department has offered both a BA and BS in geography. On average there are some 75 undergraduate geography majors enrolled each year. Approximately 12 students receive their BA in geography each year. The graduate program began in 1931 with the first MA degree being awarded. The department first granted a PhD in 1964. As of Fall, 2008, a total of 72 PhD degrees, 190 thesis MA and 50 non-thesis MA degrees have been awarded.
A more complete history of the first seventy-five years of department has been written by K. Bruce Ryan. It is available for reading at the Archives and Rare Books.