Professor Holly Barcus

Course Description
This course introduces students to Rural Geography, a sub-discipline within Geography. Using a sustainable development framework this course emphasizes the linkages between human and physical landscapes through the evaluation of landuse and community change in rural areas throughout the US and other Global North countries. We will explore the implications of demographic (including migration and immigration), economic, cultural, and environmental changes for rural environs using several case studies from across the US and Western Europe, including an overnight field trip to northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Rural community strategies for adapting to and accommodating competing demands for water and landuse will be considered, including pressure for new housing developments, recreation opportunities (boating, fishing, hiking, biking), and conservation needs. Students will be exposed to theoretical and empirical approaches to rural development in different regional contexts, as well as problems associated with these development paradigms. We will explore the rapidly changing rural environments in a Global North context in order to deepen our understanding of the interconnectedness of human and physical systems more broadly.

What do you hope students will learn?
“Though we talk a lot about how urban the world has become, a sizable portion of the world’s population still live in rural areas. Rural places are the primary producers of food and natural resources, and are an essential part of life and community. This course examines patterns and processes of change in rural communities.”

What project are you doing in the community?
“In this class, we take an overnight field trip to rural Wisconsin and Minnesota communities.  Our objective is to explore rural communities and have conversations with local farmers, civic leaders, conservationists and native community leaders.  Our intention is to explore how rural communities and economies are changing, their challenges and opportunities.  Spending time in conversation with a diverse group of community members, across several different communities and economic sectors, provides a real-world engagement with and appreciation for the complexity of rural America.”

Annabel Gregg ’22 (Stillwater, Minn.)
Geography major with a concentration in community and global health 

“My biggest takeaway from this course has been the recognition of how our environment constructs our experience. On our overnight field trip, we met with local leaders from Bayfield, Wis. over breakfast to learn about the role that tourism plays in their town of roughly 500. We had the opportunity to utilize our formalized knowledge from the classroom and apply it to our understanding of Bayfield. Sitting around the table with the leaders, we discussed how issues ranging from climate change to coronavirus to gentrification impact their community. We also visited one of the largest dairy farms in the Midwest. We had the honor of meeting the cows, seeing the milking robots, and gaining insight into what it takes to excel in the dairy industry today in America. This part of the trip was my favorite because it allowed me to better understand the relationship between food production and consumption. Living in a city often distances you from your relationship to cultivation and this tour was a great reminder of the many intricacies and people necessary to produce the food we all rely on.”

April 9 2020

Back to top