Welcome to our Department

A Student-Centered Mission

studentslide09162013Welcome to the Department of Geography’s web page. Our department offers B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in geography, and our faculty and students, including undergraduate students, conduct research in Tennessee, the southeastern United States, and across the globe. The Department is a lively, talented, and congenial community devoted to nurturing students, serving their intellectual passions and vocational goals, and providing them the best learning environment possible—all while advancing the frontiers of geographic knowledge.

Students work alongside award-winning and renowned scholar-teachers who place great value on field work, international travel and scholarship, mapping and location analysis, the natural environment and sustainable development, state of the art technology and data analysis (quantitative and qualitative), community engagement, responsible planning, and social justice. Our faculty, students, and staff hail from a diversity of backgrounds, cultures and world regions, and we welcome prospective students from all walks of life and disciplines. After you check out the web page, consider visiting the Department at the Burchfiel Geography Building, built for us in 2000 and centrally located on campus.

Don’t Know Much About UTK Geography?

By now you have heard all the jokes about geography simply being about the memorizing of capitals, rivers, and mountain ranges. Don’t believe it for a minute! Geography has always been much more and now is a particularly exciting time to be a geographer! The world faces a growing number of environmental and social issues that geographers are uniquely trained to address as scientists, policy makers, and public intellectuals. Geography, in general and especially at UTK, provides students an opportunity to study and integrate the natural and social sciences and participate in interdisciplinary collaboration and conversations that are not found in other fields. Also important, the job market for geographers is growing fast, especially in the geo-spatial analysis field, and our students are employed in a wide range of professions across the sectors of education, business, government, and nonprofit organizations. A sample of business cards from our alumni is on display within the Department.

Geography at the University of Tennessee offers students an opportunity to address a number of questions that revolve around understanding environmental and social change. For starters: How has the movement of people changed over time and space, especially in light of telecommunications? How do cities grow and develop and what impact do these changes have on different social groups? How and where has climate changed and what field and lab methods can be used to reconstruct global climate change? How have human activities and environmental changes affected headwater streams, water resources, and the distribution of species? What factors affect the changing distribution of people and residential segregation? In what ways has the geography of manufacturing and international trade changed? How is the urban landscape an arena for debating changes in cultural identity, public memory, and race relations? (see Specialties for further information).

We operate a Cartographic Services Laboratory, where students are sometimes employed, and host laboratories devoted to GIScience, Paleoenvironmental Research, Tree-Ring Science, Environmental Dynamics, and Cosmogenic Isotope Research, as well as the University of Tennessee’s Initiative for Quaternary Paleoclimate Research, the Computational Geography Group, and the Tennessee Geographic Alliance. The Geographic Alliance plays a major role in training teachers from across the state. Some of our faculty hold join appointments and collaborate with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

An “Open Door” Policy

alderman_pic_webMy name is Derek Alderman and I am the new Head of the Department of Geography. I decided to join the University of Tennessee after seeing the excellent quality of the geography program, the enthusiasm of its faculty, staff, and students, and the beauty of the Knoxville area. I practice an “open door” policy and look forward to welcoming visitors to the Burchfiel Building. For prospective students, I especially encourage you to drop by, call me, or email if you have an interest in Volunteering to be a Geographer at Tennessee.

Derek Alderman
Professor and Head