Once You Are Accepted


2016-2017 GEOCamp grad students with alum, Trevor Hobbs

2016-2017 GEOCamp grad students with alum, Trevor Hobbs

We work closely with our graduate students and do all we can to make them feel at home.  This process begins at our GEOCamp, which is where we officially introduce new graduate students to each other and our department. GEOCamp takes place in late August, right after MSU orientation and before fall courses start.   The new cohort sets off for two days exploring the rich physical and cultural geography of Michigan. Our students tell us that GEOCamp has provided a great way to start graduate school off on the right foot.

 Meet the Faculty

2013GTU_faculty_grad infoMeet the Faculty is a no-credit course that is required for all new graduate students. The class meets once per week (typically on Fridays) for 50 minutes for most of the fall semester and is designed to orient the students to our entire faculty. We have a very large faculty and it is important for new students to be aware of the members of the faculty and the subjects on which they teach and conduct research. Students will be asked to attend the weekly meetings, read the assigned publications by faculty, and to participate in the discussions. Evaluation is based on attendance and participation.

Breadth of Requirements

Incoming graduate students who do not have a prior degree in geography may be required to take one or more courses to make up ‘breadth requirements’ in geography. These may be at the 100, 200 or 300 level, and therefore do not count towards degree credit totals. The student may, with the permission of the instructor, take a course at the 400 level (as Geo 490). However, the student may do this with only one course (3 or 4) credits. Whether or which deficiencies are ‘bumped up’ is at the discretion of the student, their Advisor, and the instructor of the course. It is recommended to be a course in the student’s area of focus. This is not a requirement; it is merely a way to do upper level work in a course which is a breadth requirement and thus make it count toward their degree credit totals. What extra work is required of the student is up to the instructor teaching the course.

Course Waivers for Breadth Requirements:

Students requesting course waivers must compile suitable documentation concerning the course proposed as a substitute for the course to be waived. Suitable documentation should include but is not limited to: course syllabi, examinations, term papers, bibliographies, textbooks, reading lists, and lecture notes. A lack of suitable documentation may be grounds for refusal to grant the waiver.

Students should request a course waiver, with the appropriate documentation, to the Graduate Program Director. The GPC will consult with appropriate faculty members and the Department Chair regarding the approval or denial of waiver. The decision regarding a waiver will be relayed to the student and Graduate Secretary, and recorded in the student’s file.

Tool Courses for the M.S. in Geography and Ph.D. in Geography Programs:

A partial list of acceptable tool course appears below. See specific programs for more detailed requirements:

Tool Area

Recommended Courses

Cartography GEO 423, 426
GIS GEO 325, 425, 428, 825, 826
Remote Sensing GEO 324, 424, 494, 824, 827
Foreign Language Second year equivalency, e.g., FRN 202 or 400, GRM 202 or 400
Quantitative Methods MTH 132, 133, 234, 235, 314, 414, STT 421, 422,441, 442, 461, GEO 865, 866, 868,869
Qualitative Methods RD 812, ANP 429, ANP/GEO/FOR/SOC/FW 859
Programming CSE 131, 230, 320

Generally, the non-language tool course must advance the level of competency, via coursework, while in the MSU program. Research techniques used to satisfy the tool requirement must be in the fields of cartography, GIS, remote sensing, computer science, statistics, mathematics, or social or physical science research methods. Coursework in combinations of these areas is permitted. Tool courses taken to satisfy the; breadth requirement may not also be used to fulfill the tool course requirement.

Acceptance of foreign language as a tool requires the student to pass a competency examination. Approval of the language courses and the level of proficiency is determined by the student’s Guidance Committee; the Committee may confer with a faculty member in the department offering the courses for guidance on the issue of language competency. Language competency refers to fluency adequate for the task for fieldwork or archival research in the chosen language.

Guidance Committee

Initiation and successful completion of independent research, technical competency, and/or creative activity requires early and continued advice and oversight and mentoring by a faculty Advisor on behalf of the academic unit. The Department of Geography is committed to the policy that graduate students have a right to the best advice regarding program planning, research, selection of courses and faculty, and general degree requirements, with the understanding that students are responsible for consulting their Advisors before making program decisions.

The specific responsibilities of the thesis/ dissertation Advisor include:

* advising students on preparing for and selection of a thesis or dissertation topic with realistic prospects for success within an appropriate time frame;

* providing training and oversight regarding the conduct of research, theoretical and technical aspects of the student’s research, and professional integrity;

* providing regular feedback on student progress, including providing constructive criticism if the student’s progress does not meet expectations; and

* helping students develop into successful professionals and colleagues.

Students should seek out not only their major Advisor for advice, guidance and mentoring, but should regularly consult with their guidance committee and others from the faculty for help, as needed. Geography faculty are willing to provide as much mentoring as graduate students need; students are viewed as young professionals and junior colleagues. Working together with faculty in a mentoring situation can be highly beneficial and is encouraged.

Guidance committees are expected to share responsibility for reviewing the graduate student’s progress and guiding the student toward completion of course and program requirements. Therefore, the Geography Department has developed policies to ensure that the Guidance Committee of each graduate student will be formed in a timely fashion and that its composition will ensure proper guidance of the graduate student and maintenance of high professional standards in the graduate student’s studies and research or creative activity.

Academic Standards

Graduate students are required to meet and maintain certain academic standards while enrolled in the Geography graduate program. These are:

  • No more than two courses with grades of 2.5 or lower, and
  • No more than eight credits with grades of 2.5 or lower.

This policy holds for all courses the student has taken as a graduate student at MSU. The only courses that are exempt from this rule are courses below the 400 level that are not on the student’s program of study. Students who fail to meet any one of the above standards will be notified by the Graduate Secretary immediately upon the receipt of the semester grade report. Simultaneous notice will be given, by the Graduate Secretary, to the Department Chairperson, Graduate Supervisor, and the student’s advisor. This information shall be taken as evidence of failure to meet departmental standards, and the student will be asked to withdraw immediately from the program.

A cumulative GPS of 3.0 or better is required for graduation from Michigan State University.

The student may petition to be reinstated to the graduate program by taking the following steps, in the order stated below. The student may not enroll in additional courses while a petition is pending.

  • The student shall meet with the Graduate Supervisor to discuss reinstatement, and
  • The student shall then meet with the Graduate Supervisor, Associate Chairperson, and Geography Department Chairperson to discuss reinstatement.

The student’s advisor shall be notified of the meeting and invited to attend. The latter group will make a recommendation to the Department Chairperson regarding reinstatement. The final decision rests with the Department Chairperson.

Additional requirements for an advanced degree are also set by the Graduate School and the College of Social Science. All Geography graduate students should become thoroughly familiar with these requirements through the following university publications:

  • Academic Programs (for both undergraduate and graduate programs), available in Room 64 Administration Building and MSU Bookstore. The cost is $3.00.
  • Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities, available in Room 118 Linton Hall.
  • The Graduate School Guide to the Preparation of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations, available in Room 118 Linton Hall.