Undergrad Talk

Madeline Clarke

A chat with three geography undergrad students

Why did you choose to take geography classes and/or major in geography?

Kadie Clark: My freshman year I was undeclared and was trying to find a major I was really passionate about. Over winter break of that year, I went on a Mizzou Alternative Breaks (MAB) trip to Bluff, Utah, to do service on the Navajo reservation. One of the men on my trip at the time was a geography major, and I found it totally fascinating how he thought about people, the land, and their relationship. I knew I wanted to be able to conceptualize the world in the way the he did. He told me to talk to (Dr. Doug) Hurt after we got back from break, so I did, and the rest is history.

Joe Frimel: I guess it’s because I’ve always been interested int the subject of geography. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents at a young age and that was what they were interested in. Their interest rubbed off on me, and I just fell in love with the subject.

Madeline Clarke: My freshman year I decided to take “Regions and Nations” because I had loved my high school geography class. Before the semester was over, I had gone to meet with Dr. Hurt and added geography as a major.

What do you enjoy most about geography?

Kadie Clark: What I enjoy most about geography is the people; right from the beginning, my geography professors and peers made me validated and purposeful. There is so much to be said about an entire department that actually knows its students, checks up on them, and invests in them outside of the classroom. As a discipline, geography offers a lens with which we learn about other human experiences and, thus, allows us to understand others on a more profound level, which I think is powerful.

Joe Frimel: I would say learning about new places. I’ve always had a fascination for different places and I always wanted to either travel to them or experience them.

Madeline Clarke: I enjoy how geography allows me to explore the world and use geography to understand other disciplines. I find that geography goes really well with my other majors in history and political science because the combination of different disciplines allows me to approach the world with a new perspective.

What have you learned about geography that surprised or impacted you in some way?

Kadie Clark: On the first day of my “Geography 1550” class with Soren, I remember him saying, “Geography is a spiritual experience.” While I kind of chuckled at the time, it was because I did not know what he meant; geography is so intrinsic and natural, that it is something we all share to a certain degree. When I went on Maymester this past summer, Soren’s sentiment became very real to me as I realized this experience could have only happened the way it did with these people who also valued and believed in the discipline.

Joe Frimel: There’s a lot more opportunities when it comes to dealing with technology than I originally thought. For example, I did not know GIS existed prior to becoming a geography major. So that opened my mind to that subsection of geography.

Madeline Clarke: I was surprised by how much I could learn and do with GIS. When I added the major, I didn't have much interest in learning GIS, but once I started learning to use ArcGIS in my classes, I realized the applications of mapping skills to other projects I work on. This summer at my internship I was even able to utilize mapping skills to help with a project my boss was working on, even though it was a history internship.

Would you recommend geography to other students?

Kadie Clark: Yes! No matter what discipline you are in, geography provides a great foundational lease with which you can view every issue. As everything is inherently spatial, you can still “do” geography while doing whatever it is you are already passionate about, and geography will just enhance your understanding of the world by changing how you see it. 

Joe Frimel: Of course, I would recommend geography to other students. I believe that by either majoring in geography or taking different geography courses, it opens people’s minds to different peoples and different environments. And I believe that would make people more well-rounded and cooperative.

Madeline Clarke: I would definitely recommend other students take at least one class in geography because you never know where it will lead you!

What are your plans after graduation?

Kadie Clark: After graduation I plan on taking a gap year or two before attending grad school—perhaps Peace Corps or crunching some numbers doing economic analysis. My endgame is to be a professor, but as there are very few jobs in academia, I will just have to see what higher education looks like in 10 years. 

Joe Frimel: That’s a question I’m still trying to figure out. I thought about doing something along the lines of GIS or potentially join the Peace Corps. So hopefully I will figure out something shortly as I am a junior.

Madeline Clarke: I am currently looking for jobs in Columbia, as I will be graduating in May. This new chapter of my life will be especially exciting as I will be getting married in October to my wonderful fiancé and am very much looking forward to starting our lives with each other and our cat Calvin. In the long term, I hope to use the skills and knowledge I have gained at the University of Missouri to encourage the interdisciplinary study that has defined my college experience with a career in education or public history.

Kadie Clark

Joe Frimel