Geography and planning department expands to include sustainability

GVL / Kevin Sielaff - Protesters gather outside of the Fox Theater in Detroit, MI on Friday, March 4, 2016 to voice their opinions about the GOP candidates.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff – Protesters gather outside of the Fox Theater in Detroit, MI on Friday, March 4, 2016 to voice their opinions about the GOP candidates.

Sanda Vazgec

With the world constantly evolving, Grand Valley State University aims to make its programs up to date with what’s going on in today’s world. With that idea in mind, the geography department is expanding its curriculum to incorporate more solutions to modern problems.

The department will now be called the geography and sustainable planning department and will incorporate over 20 courses concerning sustainability.

Elena Lioubimtseva, chair of the department, said the program offers the integration of economic development, social priorities, place-based problem solving as well as the international connection of all elements of geography. The program will also cover the solutions and adaptations to global issues such as climate change.

The department offers programs for students to major and minor in as well as certificates in GIS software and sustainability.

The job market for graduates with a degree in geography is very promising.

“The mean annual salary for those in the geography field is around $75,000 according to national averages,” Lioubimtseva said. “That’s just with a bachelor’s degree, so if they have certificates in addition to that or decide to further their education that number goes up.”

Lioubimtseva said geography majors are high in demand because the field covers so many important aspects. Not only do graduates grasp concepts about geographic planning, but they are also educated in regional, language and area studies. The students learn how to operate remote sensing, satellite and cartography technology.

The department is also very connected with local companies and prospective employers to better serve the students. Lioubimtseva said the program wants to incorporate everything employers are looking for so that graduates are fully prepared for the workforce.

The department will hold an open house on March 15 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in Kirkhof Center Room 2204. The event is open to all students and members of the GVSU community.

The goal of the open house is to provide information about the geography major as well as give students an opportunity to meet alumni and those currently working in the field.

The event will feature keynote speaker George Heartwell, former mayor of Grand Rapids and current community sustainability coordinator at GVSU.

Alyson Mabie, a senior geography major, will also speak at the event about why she chose the field and how it has impacted her life.

“I believe geography’s interdisciplinary nature cultivates a unique outlook on the world and our place in it,” Mabie said. “No subject matter is off limits because everything has a place.”

Mabie said sustainability is very important to geography and that the department’s remodeled program will advance students’ knowledge and problem solving skills in the field.

“It is hard for me to imagine anything more pertinent in today’s world than for us to pursue ideas and options that will allow the human race to continue existing without destroying the planet that sustains us,” Mabie said. “Sustainability goes beyond electric cars and bike paths. It is also about much larger social and political concepts like human health and equal access to resources.”

The event will have on-site advising to ensure any questions students have will be answered.

For more information on the geography and sustainable planning department or the open house event, visit