Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Geography Courses

The information below includes the course number and name, semester hours in parenthesis, whether it's offered in the fall or spring, and a brief course description.

GHY 1010: Introduction to Physical Geography (3) F;S - General Education: Integrative Learning Experience (Theme: “Sustainability and Global Resources”) - A comprehensive study of our physical earth emphasizing the distributional patterns and inter-relatedness of its land, soils, natural vegetation and habitat, and weather and climate. Examinations of environmental issues including hazardous wastes, acid rain, floods, droughts, deforestation and air pollution. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

GHY 1011: Global Climate Change (4) F;S - General Education: Science Inquiry Perspective (Theme: “Global Environmental Change”) - This course provides a scientific examination of global climate change, including the physical patterns within the atmosphere, climate change due to both natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms, and projections of future change at various spatial scales. Students will employ the scientific method in a series of field-based experiments to answer problems and address issues that Geography and Planning complement the lecture material and focus on aspects of global climate change. Lecture three hours, laboratory two hours. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

GHY 1012: Global Change of the Biosphere (4) F;S - General Education: Science Inquiry Perspective (Theme: “Global Environmental Change”) - An introduction to the patterns, dynamics, and causes of change in the biosphere. Students will examine the fundamental geographic determinants of biodiversity patterns and the natural and human factors that drive biotic change, including climate change, land cover change, and biological invasions. Students will use the scientific method in hands-on laboratory activities to investigate causal relationships between global change processes and biome shifts, species migration, extinction, and loss of biodiversity. Lecture three hours, laboratory two hours. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

GHY 1020: World Regional Geography (3) F;S - General Education: Social Science Designation; Liberal Studies Experience - The study of our contemporary world through an examination of many of its regions. Examination of global issues, including population, technology and culture change, rural versus urban development, the environment and climate, international trade, political identity, and international conflict. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

GHY 1040: Introduction to Human Geography (3) F;S - General Education: Social Science Designation; Liberal Studies Experience - This course examines the spatial patterns of human society. By focusing on the description and analysis of the spatial dimensions of human language, economy, religion and government, this course is a celebration of human diversity. Lectures, readings, films, slides, writing exercises, map quizzes and class discussions will help the student to understand and appreciate the geography of the human mosaic. 

GHY 2310: Cartographic Design and Analysis (3) F;S - An introduction to the relevance of maps, techniques of map interpretation, and map construction. Students will develop a knowledge of basic computer operations, cartographic communication theory, map use, data selection and processing, map design, and computerized map production techniques. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours.

GHY 2500 - Independent Study (1-4) F;S

GHY 2812: Geospatial Technology in a Changing World (3) F;S - An introduction to geospatial data and technology used by geographers, planners and others. This includes the collection, management and output of geospatial data. Topics include computing fundamentals, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, and database management systems. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours. (Same as PLN 2812.)

GHY 3000: Communicating Geographic Information (3) F;S - General Education: Junior Writing in the Discipline (WID) - This course introduces students to writing styles in geography and provides practice with written and oral communication skills in a variety of academic and professional contexts. Students will critically evaluate geographic writing and oral presentations, use writing as a means of enhancing clarity of thought and depth of knowledge in geography, and communicate effectively in academic and professional settings.

GHY 3011: Europe Past and Present (3) S - This course will explore the geography of the European region, including population, technology and culture change, rural versus urban development, the environment and climate, international trade, political identity, and international conflict.

GHY 3012: U.S. and Canada (3) S - A survey of the physical, demographic, economic, and political patterns in the United States and Canada, with a focus on characteristics of regions. Students will examine historical and contemporary factors contributing to the geographic diversity and interdependence of the two countries.

GHY 3013: North Carolina (3) F;S - The study of contemporary conditions and problems of land and people in a southern state. Topics include: economic development and potential for change, population mobility, urbanization and the impact of development in rural and environmentally fragile areas, regional impact of changing life styles, national and international interdependence. Recommended for future North Carolina teachers, public administrators and business leaders.

GHY 3014: Geography of Latin America (3) F - General Education: Social Science Designation; Integrative Learning Experience (Theme: “Las Americas”) - This course stresses the diversity of physical environments, cultural traditions, and economic activities within Latin America and places special emphasis on the unique approaches that geographers bring to the study of this region. This course develops understanding of spatial patterns in Latin America through current readings, class discussions, lectures, slides, and videos.

GHY 3015: The Geography of Asia (3) F - An introductory survey of the region. Emphasis is placed on the geographical patterns and the similarities and differences in physical and cultural environments, population growth, mobility and urbanization; natural resource location and exploitation; economic growth and international linkages; the environmental implications of development; and political stability and change.

GHY 3016: Geography of the American South (3) S - A geographical examination of the natural regions, cultural landscapes, and regional identity of the American South. Topics include colonial settlement, spatial patterns of slavery and race, regional folk culture, geography of economic activity, globalization and social change, and patterns of physical geography. A focus will be the influence of the American South on American cultural identity. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

GHY 3017: Spain and North Africa (3) F - This course analyzes Spain and North Africa’s geography, history, culture, politics, and society. The course will focus on critical periods, events, socio-political forces, and geographic characteristics that substantially influenced Spain and the countries of North Africa, and demonstrate Spain’s role as one of Europe’s key links to Latin America and North Africa.

GHY 3100: Weather and Climate (3) S - This course focuses on the basic principles, elements, and controls of meteorology and climatology. The primary objectives are to familiarize the student with major components of the earth’s atmosphere, to enhance the student’s understanding of the spatial distribution of meteorological elements, and to demonstrate the interactions between human activities and atmospheric elements.

GHY 3110: Ecoregions and Dynamic Landforms (3) F - The course examines changes in natural and human environments that are illustrative of the broad principles of physical geography. Students will apply laboratory and field methods to analyze changing environments around the world. The course is a comprehensive study of our physical earth, emphasizing the patterns and interrelations of natural vegetation and landforms in North America and globally. Students will study the interactions between physical systems and human activities, and human effects on environmental quality and sustainability.

GHY 3130: Geography of Biodiversity (3) S - The study of past and present geographic patterns of biodiversity. The course focuses on the living environment, emphasizing the physical and ecological conditions and processes that influence the distributions of organisms, communities, and ecosystems. Topics include past climates and continental configurations, dispersal and invasion, patterns of speciation and extinction, biodiversity, and application of biogeographic concepts of environmental conservation.

GHY 3140: Mountain Geography (3) S - This course explores the physical and human dimensions of mountain environments. Specific topics include: global change in mountain environments, mountain meteorology, mountain hazards, glacial processes, mountain peoples and cultures, health and health care, human adaptation to mountains, and sustainable mountain development. Case studies are drawn from mountain regions around the world, especially the Appalachians, Andes, and Himalayas, with regional emphasis varying by the instructor.

GHY 3210: Economic Geography (3) S - The geographic analysis of world economic systems, regions and patterns, as affected by interrelationships between both human and physical variables. Emphasis will be equally divided between theoretical and real-world patterns. Specific subjects of study include agriculture, manufacturing, services, transportation, urban/rural relationships, international markets and trade, and cultural differences in economic patterns. Recommended for business majors and required for geography majors.

GHY 3310: Environmental Remote Sensing (3) F - An introduction to remote sensing technologies used for environmental and geographic analysis. Topics include aerial photo interpretation, satellite sensors, analysis of satellite imagery, thermal and radar sensors, and applications of remote sensing technology for vegetation, hydrology, landform, settlement, and economic development studies. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours.

GHY 3320: Environmental Issues in Appalachia (3) F - This course offers a systematic study of the physical and cultural setting of Appalachia. Topics include weather and climate, landforms, soils, vegetation, population, settlement and resource use. Emphasis is placed on the various interactions between people and their environment (e.g. air and water pollution, accelerated erosion, landslides). Field trips will be taken. 

GHY 3500: Independent Study (1-4) F;S

GHY 3510: Advanced Honors Seminar in Geography (3) S - Seminar on selected geographic topics. Enrollment by invitation of the Department or by application. Barring repetitive content, qualified students may repeat course once. For enrollees, this course may substitute for the appropriate Geography elective.

GHY 3520: Instructional Assistance (1) F;S - A supervised experience in the instructional process on the university level through direct participation in a classroom situation. Graded on a S/U basis. (Pre: junior or senior standing)

GHY 3530-3549: Selected Topics (1-4) On Demand

GHY 3600: Climate Change, Snow and Ice (3) F - Students will acquire the scientific background and develop the skills necessary to understand elements of climate change, snow science, and glacial processes. The course will include a comprehensive assessment of climate change detection, attribution, and future climate projection with specific reference to the cryosphere. Topics will include: Arctic sea ice decline, alpine glacier change, sea level rise, ice cores, high-mountain environments, science of snow, climatology of snow, ski industry, and projections of future climate change.

GHY 3700: Geography of Food (3) S - Food production and consumption are geographic. What foods we produce, and what foods we consume, are dictated by the specific conditions of place. This course will take a broad view of food production and consumption with an eye towards issues of global sustainability, gender, and justice. While remaining mindful of the global context of food, we will be taking advantage of our location in the southern Appalachians, many of the examples we use in this class will be rooted in the specifics of Watauga County, North Carolina.

GHY 3800: Introduction to Quantitative Methods (3) F;S - This course will introduce students to a suite of statistical methods used to address research and applied problems in the fields of geography and planning. The course will include discussions of geographic data, sampling techniques, probability theory, parametric/non-parametric techniques in hypothesis testing, and introductory spatial statistics. Classes will address conceptual and theoretical aspects of each technique in conjunction with manual and software-based analyses of geographic data. (Same as PLN 3800.)

GHY 3812: Geographic Information Systems (3) F;S.- The course covers principles of geographic information science and applied practice with geographic information systems (GIS). Emphasis will be on the primary functions of GIS use, map design, and spatial analysis relevant to social and environmental issues through laboratory exercises and projects. The course is comprised of both lecture and laboratory components for three hours a week.

GHY 3814: Web Mapping and GIS (3) S - This course provides an introduction to web GIS, including the programming concepts that support the design and implementation of web mapping applications and their underlying databases. It focuses on both proprietary and open source platforms for customizing web-based mapping applications. The course is comprised of lecture and laboratory components for three hours a week. Lectures will focus on the theory and application of web GIS in research, business, and government. Labs will allow students to gain technical experience building web maps and applications.

GHY 3820: GIS for Environmental and Social Sciences (3) F- The application of geographic information science (GIS) to the environmental and social sciences. Topics include geospatial data, coordinate systems, cartographic design, remote sensing, and spatial analysis. Lab exercises complement classroom lecture and discussion. An independent project will allow students to apply GIS concepts and skills to a research topic in their discipline.

GHY 4005 - Geography of Health and Disease (3) S - This course provides an understanding of medical geography, a field that focuses on geographical aspects of health and diseases. Medical geography deals with human-environment interactions and the influence these interactions have on public health. The course will focus on the geographical patterns of health and disease from the view point of populations rather than individuals, using three main approaches to medical geography research: ecological approaches analyzing relationships between people and their environments; social approaches, including political economy and socio-behavioral approaches; and spatial approaches employing maps and spatial statistics to identify patterns of single and associated variables.

GHY 4200: Urban Geography (3) F - Spatial organization of human activity focusing on the evolution and organization of city systems, the internal structure of urban areas, and urban problems, policies and planning with emphasis on problem solving and field work. The course is applied in nature and recommended for majors in social studies, business, and planning.

GHY 4230: Political Geography (3) F - Spatial aspects of territoriality, boundaries, voting patterns, government programs, formation of political units, political development and integration, and environmental policy.

GHY 4510: Senior Honors Thesis (1-4) On Demand - Independent study and research for an end product, the honors thesis; directed by a member of the geography faculty, supported by one additional faculty member who may be external to the department. Enrollment by qualified applicants only. For enrollees, this course may substitute for a Geography & Planning free elective or other course as agreed upon by the Geography & Planning Honors Advisor.

GHY 4530-49: Selected Topics (3) On Demand

GHY 4620: Atmospheric Circulation (3) F. Alternate Years - This course focuses on atmospheric circulation at multiple spatial scales. Basic meteorological elements and concepts such as precipitation formation, jet streams, cyclogenesis, and extreme weather are discussed. The course also investigates the major teleconnection patterns of El Niño-Southern Oscillation, Arctic Oscillation, and Madden-Julian Oscillation and their associated regional and global impacts.

GHY 4810: Digital Image Processing (3) S - Course focuses on acquisition of digital images, image processing, image enhancement techniques for interpretation, and applications of remote sensing technology. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours.

GHY 4812: Advanced Geographic Information Systems (3) F;S - GIS is a wide ranging topic encompassing five distinct functions within a total system context. These functions are: 1) data input, 2) data storage, 3) data management, 4) data manipulation and analysis, and 5) data output. Emphasis will be placed on the applications frequently found in geography and planning. This course is project oriented to give the student maximum experience in each of the functions of a GIS and to allow the student to associate the technical areas of GIS with real-world scenarios. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours.

GHY 4816: GIScience and Water Resources (3) F;S - This course provides an overview of the contribution that GIScience (including GIS, remote sensing and other geospatial technologies) can make in addressing the spatial representation and analysis of water resources problems. This course takes a geocomputational approach to linking GIS and remote sensing software and data with water resources models to represent space-time processes. The geocomputational linkage with watershed and flood modeling will be explored. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours.

GHY 4820: Geographical Hydrology (3) S - The study of the occurrence and movement of water on the earth, with a focus on applications of surface hydrology. Water movement through the hydrologic cycle, flood analysis, and water use/water policy are emphasized.

GHY 4830: Professional Development in Geography and Planning (3) F;S - This course provides a capstone experience for graduating geography majors, with a balance between academic and practical experiences. Topics covered include: resume design and cover letter writing, portfolio development, preparation for job interviews, internship experiences, graduate school opportunities, and what it means to be a geographer. (Same as PLN 4830.)

GHY 4900: Internship in Geography & Planning (3-12) F;S - The internship emphasizes field work in the areas of locational analysis, environmental assessment and impact, and/or land use planning and is conducted jointly with an appropriate public or private agency. The type of internship, location of field experience, and sponsoring agency must be satisfactory to the student and to the department. Graded on an S/U basis. A research paper is required. (Same as PLN 4900.)

Planning Courses

PLN 2410: Town, City and Regional Planning (3) F;S - General Education: Social Science Designation; Liberal Studies Experience - Towns and cities grow and change, ideally in an equitable and sustainable manner. Planners rely on a variety of tools that help to guide the growth of rural and urban areas, touching upon social, economic and environmental systems and problems. This course introduces students to the world of planning - its history, what works, what doesn’t, and how people get involved in this process. (Global Learning Opportunity Course)

PLN 2500: Independent Study (1-4) F;S

PLN 2812: Geospatial Technology in a Changing World (3) F;S - An introduction to geospatial data and technology used by geographers, planners and others. This includes the collection, management and output of geospatial data. Topics include computing fundamentals, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), remote sensing, and database management systems. Lecture two hours, laboratory two hours. (Same as GHY 2812.)

PLN 3432: Planning Techniques (5) F - General Education: Junior Writing in the Discipline - The course helps students develop skills and knowledge of planning methods and learn techniques that planners use to accomplish tasks in the planning office. The class combines formal lectures, discussion, and in-class exercises.

PLN 3500: Independent Study (1-4) F;S

PLN 3510: Advanced Honors Seminar in Planning (3) S - Seminar on selected community and regional planning topics. Enrollment by invitation of the Department or by application. For enrollees, this course may substitute for the appropriate Planning elective.

PLN 3520: Instructional Assistance (1) F;S - A supervised experience in the instructional process on the university level through direct participation in a classroom situation. 
May be repeated for a total credit of three semester hours. Graded on an S/U basis.

PLN 3530-3549. Selected Topics (1-4) On Demand.

PLN 3730: Land, Property, and Law (3) F;S - Planners make plans. Planners also like to make plans happen. Plan implementation is one of the more difficult aspects of planning because it can interfere with citizens’ property. This course teaches students about the power and limitations of both land use regulations and private property rights, and explores constitutional and case law at that sometimes contentious and murky intersection. Students also explore the regulatory and incentive-based framework of zoning, subdivision, and other land use regulations. 

PLN 3800: Introduction to Quantitative Methods (3) F;S - This course will introduce students to a suite of statistical methods used to address research and applied problems in the fields of geography and planning. The course will include discussions of geographic data, sampling techniques, probability theory, parametric/ non-parametric techniques in hypothesis testing, and introductory spatial statistics. Classes will address conceptual and theoretical aspects of each technique in conjunction with manual and software-based analyses of geographic data. (Same as GHY 3800).

PLN 4030: Planning for Climate Resilience (3) F - City planners have many tools to address the impacts of local growth, environmental protection, economics and social equity. What is currently lacking are plans that account for climate change and build the capacity for resilience and adaptation in the face of the negative outcomes. In this course, we will gain a better understanding of climate change and the ways in which the cultural and political discourse influences our capability to address the climate change challenge at the local, regional, national and international level.

PLN 4240: Sustainable Transportation Planning (3) F - Not all transportation is cars. In order to create a sustainable transportation system planners understand how a transportation network that supports transit, biking, walking and cars in an interconnected and equitable manner can connect the built environment. Major topics include transportation policy and planning, environmental implications of transportation decisions, equity, technology, non-motorized and group travel modes, active living and active travel, public health and strong communities, and emerging models.

PLN 4425: Task-Oriented Group Facilitation Methods (3) S - Develop leadership and group facilitation skills through hands-on instruction that demonstrates how to conduct focused conversations, lead workshops, and accomplish action planning. Application opportunities using these skills include community development, organizational planning, education, government, and other occasions when people want to actively participate in the creation of their own futures.

PLN 4450: Inside the Sustainable City (3) S - This course explores the systems, planning practices, and individuals and organizations across sectors that make towns and cities work. The course considers examples-successes, failures and the more common mixed outcomes-of planning for sustainable communities, characterized by healthy environments, social justice and equity, and strong diverse economies. Major themes include poverty and wealth, production and consumption, conservation and ecosystem services, technology harnessed for sustainability, and individual and collective action. Systems studied include water, energy, waste, transportation, agriculture, construction and design, finance, education, governance, and more.

PLN 4460: Environmental Policy & Planning (3) S - This course familiarizes students with the philosophical, legal, and institutional foundations of environmental policy and planning in the United States. Students will have the opportunity to study policies and planning tools for federal, state, and local agencies.

PLN 4470: Community Development: A Sustainable Approach (3) F - Traditional models for community and economic development are giving way to 21st-century strategies using a sustainability framework that crosses temporal and spatial scales, and accounts for multiple dimensions of environment, economy and social equity. This course will explore and apply the language, tools and strategies employed by community development professionals, activists, and community members in urban and rural settings. Major topics include poverty and race, housing, economic opportunity, revitalization and gentrification, environmental justice, localism and globalism, and public participation in planning.

PLN 4510: Senior Honors Thesis (1-4) F;S - Independent study and research for the honors thesis; directed by a member of the planning faculty, supported by one additional faculty member who may be external to the department. Enrollment by qualified applicants only. For enrollees, this course may substitute for a Geography & Planning free elective or other course as agreed upon by the Geography & Planning Honors Advisor.

PLN 4530-49: Selected Topics (3) On Demand

PLN 4700: Planners in Action (3) S - Students in this advanced community-engaged research workshop will apply planning knowledge and skills to a client-identified problem or need. Students will identify required resources, write a scope of work with a time-line, collect and analyze data, and produce a report with findings and recommendations, along with a presentation for the client, and other products as needed. Students will interact with the client at several points during the semester and generate deliverables targeted for professional planning and general public audiences. Open to planning majors; others by permission of the instructor.

PLN 4830: Professional Development in Geography and Planning (3) F;S - General Education: Capstone Experience - This course provides a capstone experience for graduating planning majors, with a balance between academic and practical experiences. Topics covered include: resume design and cover letter writing, portfolio development, preparation for job interviews, internship experiences, graduate school opportunities, and what it means to be a planner. 

PLN 4900: Internship in Geography & Planning (3-12) F;S - The internship emphasizes field work in the areas of locational analysis, environmental assessment and impact, and/or land use planning and is conducted jointly with an appropriate public or private agency. The type of internship, location of field experience, and sponsoring agency must be satisfactory to the student and to the department. Graded on an S/U basis. A research paper is required. (Same as GHY 4900.)