Graduate Programs in Geography

“The power and beauty of geography allow us to see, understand, and appreciate the web of relationships between people, places and environments.”

Background Information

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is among the nation’s most distinguished teaching and research institutions, home to the second largest academic library in the United States and the largest map collection among the public universities.

A national leader in the field of computer design and applications, the Urbana-Champaign campus also houses the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and Blue Waters, a sustained-petaflop supercomputer. The campus serves approximately 43,000 students, about 10,000 of whom are engaged in graduate work in more than 100 fields of study. An internationally recognized graduate faculty of approximately 3,000 members works closely with graduate students in their respective fields.

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, formerly the Department of Geography, has a long and distinguished history of world-class scholarship. For more than fifty years, the Department of Geography has been consistently ranked as one of the nation's top geography departments for its quality of research and instruction. In each of the past five years, the department has ranked in the top 10% of Ph.D. granting geography departments in the nation, based on data from Academic Analytics. Our vibrant and diverse department is organized around four major core areas of specialization: Cities and Metropolitan Areas; Geographic Information Science; River, Watershed, and Landscape Dynamics; and Society, Space, and Environments. Each core program is staffed by a litany of leading experts in the field.

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science (GGIS) at UIUC is home to three Geography graduate programs: Master's (MA/MS), Ph.D., and a Professional Science Master's with a concentration in Geographic Information Science. The Ph.D. also includes an accelerated degree. Each graduate student selects one of the department's core program areas as a concentration for research and fieldwork, and works closely with a particular faculty adviser.

Areas of Specialization

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, and its graduate degree programs, are organized around four program areas. Each program area includes a core group of faculty and graduate students, providing a scholarly community for research and education. The organization and requirements of the areas of specialization are linked.

Cities and Metropolitan Areas: This program examines the dramatic growth in the size, number, and population of global cities, and embraces a diverse set of qualitative, quantitative, and GIS applications to advance our understanding of these areas. The program has five emphases: Urban Health and Quality of Life; Urban Governance and Politics; Race, Class, and City Policing; Critical Studies of Urban Transportation and Mobilities; and Globalization, Neoliberalization and the City.

Geographic Information Science: This program focuses on developing and utilizing gospatial data, methods and technologies to understand a wide range of social and environmental issues. Areas of emphasis include: CyberGIS, Spatiotemporal GIS, Satellite Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis, Qualitative GIS, and GIS and Society.

River, Watershed, and Landscape Dynamics: Using state-of-the-art field and laboratory equipment, researchers in this program tie together Geomorphological, Hydrological, and Ecological Processes and phenomena to advance understanding of Rivers, Watershed, and the Landscapes affected by them.

Society, Space, and Environment: This program builds upon the foundations of human geography as an integrated social science to examine the interplay of socio-spatial processes involved in the shaping of the earth's natural and built environments. The program has four emphases: Development Geography, Urban Geography, Politics of the Environment, and The Political Economy of Crime.

Research Facilities

The department also includes several state-of-the-art research laboratories maintained by individual faculty members. These include:

The CyberInfrastructure & Geospatial Information Laboratory is internationally renowned for research in GIScience. Its mission is to empower advanced digital and spatial studies through innovation of CyberGIS technologies and applications. Founded and run by Professor Shaowen Wang, and housed in GGIS and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the center addresses diverse GIScience challenges including: computationally intensive spatial analysis and modelling, cyberGIS, cyberinfrastructure-based geospatial problem-solving environments, computing and data-intensive applications and sciences, and high-performance and collaborative GIS.

The Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy initiative, directed by Professor Jesse Ribot, focuses on improving management of the earth's environment through research on social and policy dimensions of sustainability. Themes include the integration of natural and social science research on society's response to climate change, and the role of democracy in making and implementing sustainable environmental policy.

The Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, founded and administered by Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Hewings and housed in Davenport Hall, focuses on the development of models of urban and regional economies for impact analysis and economic forecasting. Clients range from state governments and city agencies to private companies.

Application Procedure & Financial Assistance

Applicants must submit a completed application form, three letters of reference, official transcripts from each undergraduate and/or graduate school attended, and an official G.R.E. (Verbal/Quantitative/ Analytical) record. The Graduate Admissions Committee evaluates the student’s academic accomplishments and promise as well as the match between the applicant’s professional goals and core faculty expertise. Each candidate’s statement of purpose is read carefully to determine his or her suitability for the department’s graduate program. For information about the department in general, as well as the professional activities of individual faculty members, may be obtained on the web. The application procedure may be found on the Applications page.

Transfer of Credit

The university has specific and stringent requirements concerning the transfer of credit. Please see the Graduate College website for Transfer of Credit requirements.

Financial Assistance

The Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science provides a wide range of financial support for graduate students working on Master's and Ph.D. degrees. Please visit the Financial Support page for details. Information on admission requirements and deadlines can be found at the GGIS Applications page. Questions may be directed to the email below or by mail at:

Graduate Admissions
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science
Computing Applications Building
605 East Springfield Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820-6371