Undergrad Talk

Sarah Frost

Fall 2020 classes are about to start, and undergrad students Sarah Frost, Jefferson Daubitz and Kyle Bals are ready! Here’s their answers to the department’s questions on why they chose geography, what they’ve learned, future goals, and much more.


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

Frost:  The first geography class I took was Environmental Geography with Joseph Hobbs — the first semester of my sophomore year. It was more something I stumbled into than a planned part of my schedule, but by the time Hobbs finished summarizing the types of research he'd conducted over the years, I was sold. I wasn't sure about career opportunities, though, and didn't formally switch into the major until the summer before my junior year. Wish I'd declared geography sooner! I chose this as a career path because it's the only field I've found that doesn't ask me to narrow my interests, to choose one at the expense of another. I enjoy studying topics across the board, from humanities and environmental health to mathematics and engineering. With geography, I can investigate any curiosity and tag-team with just about any other field in an engaging and meaningful way. 

Daubitz: I actually took my first geography class when I was a freshman just trying to fill a gen ed requirement (shout out to Doug Hurt and Regions and Nations). I wouldn't take another one until second semester of sophomore year while I was looking for a minor to add to my political science major. Taking those classes, I realized how much I loved the subject matter and the department here at Mizzou and I completely switched to do the major. My mom actually pointed out to me, after I told my parents I switched majors, that I had been drawing maps and pointing out weird geography facts since I was little and that choosing geography as my major “took me long enough.”

Bals: I chose to major in geography because I have always had a love for maps, landscapes, and countries. Since I was very young I have enjoyed drawing maps.


Geography: What do you enjoy most about geography?

Frost:  Opportunity! Applicability! You'll not only learn new information but new ways of processing information and of processing the world around you. For me, the biggest draw of geography is that it synthesizes the specific and the broad, the in-depth and the general, in a way that keeps me curious and continually introduces me to new ideas. 

Daubitz: The most enjoyable thing about geography is just how fascinating it is. I understand that sounds very vague so allow me to try to explain. There is so much depth in the field and always more to be discovered. There is always something to find, whether it be a new pattern in the natural world or evolving patterns in how humans develop and change the world around us. It allows humans to better understand an ever-changing world and I love that. 

Bals: I enjoy making and interpreting maps whether it is for fun or for coursework.


Jefferson Daubitz

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

Frost:  I was introduced to geography, and the practice of purposefully thinking about “where” (I am, you are, this is, that will be — every kind of “where” there is), at the beginning of a pivot in my life. Columbia is my hometown and Mizzou was not my first choice for college. I felt trapped here and resented it. My progression of realizing how much I truly love being here was bolstered by my progression of learning [through geography] what "being here" even means. I didn't anticipate the impact of understanding what a sense of place is or of understanding my own sense of place. That's been very personally meaningful, and has helped me feel more grounded as a person, not just as a student. 

Daubitz: Geography impacts everything — always has and always will. Of course, I have always kind of had a sense of that from the reading and things like that I did growing up [I read (still do) Wikipedia pages for fun]. The specific concepts and ideas however that I have learned in the department have allowed me to take that and apply it to things such as my political science classes and better understand how world history was shaped by geography. 

Bals: Learning about GIS and how important it is for so many companies and government agencies has been fascinating. Geography has proven to include so many more aspects than I ever could have imagined.


Geography: Would you recommend geography to other students?

Frost:  A resounding "absolutely." I often think back to high school, when I ignored my school's AP Human Geography class. “Geography? Yeah, I'm not so much into memorizing capitals and filling in maps.” So I thought! Firstly, I was rightfully humbled and learned that maps are actually incredibly cool. Second, geography is more than those quizzes you took in high school. The field has a lot of personal significance. Give it a go; you might learn something about yourself, even if you decide it's not for you.


Daubitz: It depends. I think that everyone should have a basic understanding of physical geography and geopolitical issues. I also personally find it satisfying and love the faculty here, so on the one hand yes. The key distinction though is that this is more than just memorizing what an isthmus is, and potential students must be ready and willing to challenge other people’s analysis and have their own challenged.

Bals: I would definitely recommend geography! Whether it is just taking a class to see what it’s about or majoring in it, all of the staff is incredibly welcoming and passionate about geography!

Kyle Bals

Geography: What are your plans after graduation?

Frost:  I'm looking at getting at least a masters, so after graduation I've got more school. I can see myself going into teaching, but we'll see what opportunities arise. ? 

Daubitz: Right now, I don't have specific plans for after graduation. The two areas I love learning about most are maps themselves and where people choose to live. For that reason, I would like to get a job working in an area more focused on the cartographic or demographic aspects of geography. I am excited to find out what that will be!

Bals: After graduation I hope to attend grad school in hopes of being an urban planner.


Geography: Anything else?

Frost:  Check out Geography Club! 

Bals: When you tell people you are a geography major, eight out of ten of the time people will say “so you study rocks ?” Lol ?