Geography department reorganized and renamed

Northern Michigan University’s Geography Department is now the Earth, Environmental, and Geographical Sciences Department.  The departmental name change and reorganization was approved by the NMU Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting.

The reorganization was implemented to better meet the growing needs of students, according to Dr. Susy Ziegler, newly appointed department head.

“I am delighted that after a few years of careful planning our renamed department is launching a fresh set of majors,” says Ziegler. “Our new curriculum is designed to educate undergraduates about the role of humans in our changing world, and to help students prepare for careers in environmental and geographical fields.”

The department will offer six majors, including earth science, environmental science, environmental studies and sustainability, geomatics, secondary education earth science, and secondary education geography. The department's minors include earth science, environmental studies, geomatics, sustainability, and a cluster minor.

The environmental science major will feature more science-based classes, as well as the opportunity for students to select one of four concentrations: natural resources, pollution control and remediation, water resources and renewable energy technologies.

Geomatics, the updated version of the previous geographic information systems major, creates a more international approach to geographic data collecting and analyzing. GIS will be continued as a minor and as a certificate program.

“I’m excited for the students,” says Ronald Sundell, one of the faculty members instrumental in the reorganization process. “There was a lot of interest from students at informational meetings.  Their reaction has been really positive. I think these changes also provide more opportunities for academic service learning and field-oriented projects.”

The department has recently added two faculty members: Ziegler, a biogeographer and environmental geographer, who studies how vegetation has changed in response to human activities and natural disturbances; and Jonathan Hanes, a climatologist whose research focuses on seasonal interactions between the atmosphere and the biosphere. They look forward to engaging students in hands-on learning, Ziegler says.

Ziegler says she hopes students in other majors will find that EEGS courses help round out their degree programs. She adds that prospective students and current students who have not declared a major should talk to current EEGS majors to learn more about the exciting things happening in their courses.

“Better yet, come check out our classes in person! Our faculty and staff welcome undergraduates and prospective students and their families to meet with us to discuss how our curriculum, internship opportunities and department-sponsored clubs and activities could enhance your learning not only on campus, but also outside the classroom, such as in the community, on rock outcrops, in the forests and on water bodies around NMU,” says Ziegler.

For more information or to set up an appointment, e-mail