Applied Courses

Geography classes often include applied components where students conduct fieldwork or address real-world problems. Several department courses connect geographic theory and application with a local focus. These courses follow an active learning model through a combination of field trips, community-based independent projects, and discussions with local practitioners to explore the human-environment connections within our community. Other courses have a more global focus. Examples include:

GEOG 260: Foundations of Geospatial Analysis and GEOG 365: Advanced Spatial Analysis

Looking for a place where students are an active part of the learning process? A place where the instructor and students collaborate to solve real-world problems? Richmond’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory is the place to be! Students who enroll in Geography 260 (Foundations of Geospatial Analysis) and Geography 365 (Advanced Spatial Analysis) will ‘learn by doing’ in these applied courses. Instead of being lectured to or reading about how to do GIS, students are actively engaged in the learning process by participating in real-world projects. In 2008-2009 students mapped the University of Richmond Campus – a project which resulted in the replacement of all official campus maps with student-driven work. In 2009-2010 students mapped and analyzed protected lands and indigenous territories of the Amazon Rainforest. The result: students learn the basics of GIS and much more!

Here’s what students have said:

“… by allowing us to work on a project with substantive meaning and community significance, we are more accountable and more actively engaged in understanding our work.”

“Honestly, these are the best classes I have taken here at the University.”

“Thus far this class has been the only one that my work has actually affected real people on the campus.”

“This class opened my eyes to SO MUCH MORE than GIS and ArcMap.”

GEOG 220: Ecotourism

This upper-level seminar gets students out of the classroom to assess the sustainability of Virginia's ecotourism along the Chesapeake Bay and the James River. In March of 2009, this class visited Tangier Island for an overnight field trip with community service components. In April of 2009, seminar students visited Pony Pasture and Belle Island in the James River Park System. In upcoming seminars, students will focus on urban ecotourism in the James River Park System. We will develop an environmental curriculum for youth in local area schools to highlight the ecological and social values of these natural areas in the heart of Richmond.

Here’s what students said about their trip to Tangier Island:

“I really enjoyed the trip because it allowed me to really see the impact that certain regulations have on fishermen… It’s easy to impose policies for conservation but environmentalists don’t always see the negative effects that these regulations have on watermen, who depend on the crabbing industry for their livelihood.”

“I went on the trip not knowing what it would bring or what I would learn but I really appreciated the time I spent on Tangier, both for my research and the experience as a whole.”

GEOG 345: Global Sustainability: Society, Economy, and Nature

What course allows you to research and justify the conservation status of the Imperial Eagle and also question the sustainable development approach funding that same conservation initiative?
In GEOG 345 students combine applied research on species conservation with a critical analysis of international sustainable development. In 2009 students wrote Species Assessment Reports for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Afghanistan office. These reports contributed to Afghanistan’s environmental laws and had students recommending their listings in front of the Afghanistan Wildlife Executive Committee using Skype technology. Even as students practice applied research, they also critically analyze the process of sustainable development through the detailed examinations of key development and conservation institutions (World Bank, USAID, WWF…) using specific case studies from around the globe.

Here’s what students said about the course:

“I walked away from the experience with the knowledge that not only was my contribution of international importance for conservation but also that I was part of something that reached far beyond my preconceived notions of undergraduate work.”

"Never do you have the satisfaction at the end of a class of realizing, 'I could have changed the lives of people half a world away.'"

“I really thought this class helped me apply school knowledge to something bigger, which doesn't happen much in college."