Geography

Re-shape how you see the world.

Geographers use the lens of location to analyze human-environment interactions and global challenges, both locally and abroad.

By studying issues like food, poverty, housing, migration, health, and urbanization, geographers examine how people interact with one another and their environments. We study how processes shape places (and vice versa), and how places are linked together, often sharing our findings through carefully crafted reports, illustrations, and infographics. Our work is part policy and data analysis, part history, and part empirical observation, served up with sides of storytelling and graphic design.

We do love a good map. Nevertheless, if you thought geography was going to be about memorizing state capitals, we have so much more to show you.


Why study geography at Macalester?

It’s rare to find a geography department at a liberal arts college these days—especially in a major metropolitan area. Our size offers our students the quintessential small-college benefits, like small classes and close working relationships with faculty. Our location offers tons of collaborative and ambitious course-based opportunities for you to work on real-world projects like transit development or how to preserve fresh water resources. Our professors cultivate diverse community partnerships with local nonprofits, government councils, and other organizations who regularly come to our students for help with projects—and often later, with job offers. But we’re not limited to the Twin Cities. We teach in, conduct fieldwork, and take students to Africa, East Asia, North America, and South America on a regular basis.

Geography isn’t just a subject; it’s a discipline. That means we’ll teach you to think like a geographer—sharpening your critical thinking and showing you how to look for context and connections—while equipping you with technical and design skills in GIS (geographic information systems) and geovisualization. These skills help you translate complex information into powerful visual tools. Many of your assignments will be small-group projects designed to help you learn collaborative skills and bond with your classmates. And at Macalester, we pride ourselves on using that skillset to help make our community and the wider world into a more just and equitable place.

Jim Smith '21 on his experiences in Urban Geographic Information Systems

Life after Macalester

Geography majors go on to a wide range of careers. Many develop passions for fields like urban planning or environmental policy; others become consultants in international development or work in the design field, and a few become professional cartographers. Our students are well prepared for graduate school, and many go on to master’s and PhD programs at some of the best universities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Geography in the cities

Our courses regularly partner with Twin Cities organizations and institutions, like the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

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Internships mentored by Geography faculty in the last five years

Present course findings to councilmembers at city hall.

Join our community

  • Field Trips – Every year, professors take dozens of students on trips around the Twin Cities and the wider region.
  • Geography Honors Society – In addition to typical honors society events, we organize regular Geography Department social events for all our majors, like Black Panther and popcorn night, or a trip to the John R. Borchert Map Library.
  • Geography Lounge – Not on the official campus map, but our department has a pretty cozy set-up where majors often study together or chat with professors and classmates.
  • Alumni Network – Alumni stay connected with each other and the college, often acting as mentors for current students.
Students sharing dinner
Professor Xavier Haro-Carrión having dinner with students in his home.

Our alumni form a tight-knit community, too, and they stay connected with one another and with the college long after they graduate. Many current students find opportunities to meet with geography majors from years past, who can serve as mentors or the first links in a professional network.

Department happenings

PROFESSOR HOLLY BARCUS ENDOWED
CHAIR LECTURE & CELEBRATION
November 17, 2022

ANNOUNCEMENT
Mac Geography is now recognized by the US Government as a STEM major.

HIGHLIGHTS
Bill Moseley Inaugural Lecture as DeWitt Wallace Professor of Geography

SUMMER RESEARCH PROJECTS
Check out recent summer research projects funded by The Leland and Kathleen Hansen Geography Research Endowed Fund

GEOGRAPHY HONORS PROJECTS
Now available in the Digital Commons

ALUMNI LIFE HISTORY PROJECT
The Geography Alumni Life History Project reflects the semester-long work of students in Qualitative Research Methods (GEOG 377).

Our department in the news

Women and girls can transform food systems for climate resilience | CGIAR | November 22, 2022
Professor Bill Moseley, who is a member of the steering committee of the UN High Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition, presented research about labor resource pressures women are facing in Burkina Faso at a COP27 side event.

Why Geographer Bill Moseley Grounds His Work in Real Life | Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa | November 14, 2022
Professor Bill Moseley shares how his time in the Peace Corps in Mali led to his lifelong love of indigenous agricultural practices, and a lasting interest in what people experience in their home countries.

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