Graduate Program of Study
Most students begin their MA program in the fall, and thus many important elements of the graduate program are planned for the fall semester. The first semester experience is geared toward introducing new students to professional geography, to the Department's faculty, and to one another.
Full-time students register for 9 credit hours per semester, which is typically three courses. First semester graduate students are expected to enroll in 8760 (Geographic Thought), along with two other classes. Second semester graduate students are expected to enroll in Geography 8750 (Research Methods), along with two other classes. All courses numbered 7000 and above in Geography or other departments are available for graduate credit. A diverse set of Geography courses is available to MA students, ranging from exploration of the sub-fields of the discipline to analytical techniques and specialized seminars. Consideration of the wealth of courses in related and supportive fields is also wise: many students enroll in ancillary coursework in areas such as language, computer science, history, natural resources, or other allied fields.
Geography 8750 and 8760
Geography 8750 and 8760 are seminars on Research Methods (8750) and Geographic Thought (8760) that are intended to help new graduate students get a better sense of what has brought them here, and where they wish to go within geography. These courses are also intended to help each student define their research interests, and initiate a research proposal that might serve as the foundation of a thesis. Through these two classes, each student interacts with the professional literature of the discipline, with seminar discussions, writing, and formal oral presentation. Typically, each Geography faculty member is given some time to talk about his or her own education and research interests in these courses. These presentations give new graduate students the opportunity to meet and observe faculty members with whom they may not have previously interacted. It helps each student to see what the individual faculty members are like, to learn what courses they teach, and -- most importantly--to get a sense of which faculty members he or she would like to work with as part of a productive and satisfying M.A. program.
Planning a Program
The M.A. program is designed to allow a full-time student to graduate after four semesters of coursework and research hours. Through consultation with the graduate advisor and other students, it is desirable for each student to plot out--in at least an approximate sense--their entire of progression through the M.A. program early on. During the first semester, it is wise to take the time and invest the energy in generating such an approximation. This plan should be formalized on the Program of Study (M1) form by the end of the semester. This schedule can be changed, but it can also serve as a guideline for class decisions, field work, part-time work, etc., as the rest of the student's program takes shape. By the end of the second semester, decisions about research plans and graduate committee membership should be settled, and formally recorded on either the M2 (thesis committee) or G2 (research project committee) forms.
Notes about Assistantships
Teaching and Research Assistantships are considered half-time appointments, and constitute a 20 hour per week time commitment. These responsibilities, in conjunction with 9 hours of coursework, constitute at least a full-time job. RAs and TAs are not permitted to hold outside employment.