UM Geography Department Joins College of Forestry and Conservation

June 24, 2019

MISSOULA – The Department of Geography will transition from the College of Humanities and Sciences to the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana on July 1.

UM geography undergraduate Max Enger tests a tethered weather balloon. (Photo courtesy: David Shively) UM’s Department of Geography is home to about 40 undergraduate students and 12 graduate students. Founded in 1956, the department specializes in mountain landscapes, community and environmental planning, and geospatial science and technologies.

Its programs provide a strong educational base while preparing graduates for a wide variety of professional careers, as well as graduate studies in geography, planning, geographic information systems or related fields.

UM Geography Field Techniques students classify and map hydro-geomorphic channel units. (Shively)“This is a great move for the Department of Geography and an exciting development for the college,” said Tom DeLuca, forestry college dean. “Adding geography to our college will provide students with an increased breadth of opportunities and catalyze new initiatives and synergies between geography and our existing three departments. I am very excited about this move and the implications it has for building our strengths in geospatial, social and environmental sciences.”  

The Department of Geography moves as a fully intact department with its current curriculum. All tenured faculty members housed within it will stay with the department and transfer to FCFC, including Professors Anna Klene, Sarah Halvorson, David Shively and Christiane von Reichert. Geography classes will remain open to students in the College of Humanities and Sciences and other campus majors.

The Department of Geography voted as a faculty to join the forestry college in an effort to expand collaborative opportunities and integrate curricular offerings in geospatial analyses, planning, social sciences, earth system studies and other areas. The request received strong faculty support in the forestry college and approval by the Faculty Senate in February and Provost Jon Harbor in March.

“We’re really happy to be joining the FCFC this summer,” said Dave Shively, geography chair. “Our areas of study and our goals and values closely align with those of the college. As a faculty, we’re deeply committed to the success of our students, and we’re excited about the increased opportunities and support this transition will offer them.” UM geography graduates and faculty, spring 2018. (Shively)

The forestry college and Department of Geography already have strong ties, including an interdisciplinary Certificate in Geographic Information System Sciences & Technologies created in 2007. Three current FCFC faculty and one staff member also hold doctoral degrees in geography. 

“Geography is a vibrant and critical area of study, especially in an era of globalization and international connectedness,” said Harbor, geographer as well as UM provost. “This move will strengthen UM’s programs in geography and other disciplines. Students will learn from professors with complementary and relevant expertise, and opportunities for hands-on learning will increase. I look forward to the transdisciplinary courses and scholarship that will inevitably result from this exciting move.”

More information about the transition will be communicated directly with geography majors. 

Through innovative teaching, research and service, FCFC empowers society and its future leaders to better understand and more effectively conserve, restore and sustain complex social-ecological systems in the Rocky Mountains and beyond. Founded in 1913, the college now has 41 faculty members and serves about 814 undergraduate and graduate students. Beginning July 1, it will offer six undergraduate degrees, nine graduate degrees, five minors and three certificates spread across four departments.

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Contact: Kasey Rahn, communications specialist, UM College of Forestry and Conservation, 406-243-6693, kasey.rahn@umontana.edu.