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Geography & Development: Graduate Programs

Overview: 

The School of Geography and Development of The University of Arizona offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Arts (M.A.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees in geography.  The School's graduate curricula are designed to encourage student participation in research seminars and in formal geography coursework.  Heavy emphasis on student enrollment in independent studies (with exception of thesis or dissertation) is discouraged.  The School offers opportunities for specialization in many areas of geography that reflect the teaching and research interests of the faculty.  For both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, two core courses are required.  These are: Research Design (GEOG 500), which provides a foundation for thesis and dissertation proposals, and a course on the History of Geographic Thought (GEOG 689), which provides the fundamental theories of the discipline with which we believe all SGD M.A. and Ph.D. graduate students should be familiar.  An advanced methods course is encouraged, and students may choose between several spatial statistics courses, qualitative methods, or any number of GIS, remote sensing, or geovisualization courses.  The M.A. is a two-year program of study (minimum of 33 credits).  M.A. students may take elective courses from other departments, which provides an interdisciplinary environment and takes advantage of links with other departments and research centers on campus.  The Ph.D. requires at least one year of coursework (minimum of 18 credits) in addition to a Masters degree, and approximately three years of independent study and research culminating in a dissertation.  For Ph.D. students, the linkage to other departments is formally established through the Ph.D. minor, required of all University of Arizona Ph.D. students.  Geography Ph.D. students tend to take minors in departments such as Anthropology, Arid Lands, Gender and Women’s Studies, Geosciences, Political Science, and Sociology, or they serve the requirement by participating in one of many Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs on campus.  Those attractive to Geography Ph.D. students include Arid Lands Resource Sciences, Global Change, and Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis.

The School also offers a one-year, professional M.S. degree in Geographic Information Systems Technology (MS-GIST) that can be taken online or in person, and a two-year Masters in Development Practice (MDP) degree.  In addition, several of UA’s graduate certificates in specialized areas are homed in SGD.  These include the Professional GIST (online), Water Policy, and Science and Decision-Making.  These are distinct graduate offerings that may be taken as part of a degree program, providing useful additional qualifications for some students, or by non-degree-seeking post baccalaureate students.  In addition, SGD offers a Ph.D. minor in Geography for students majoring in other disciplines at UA.   The professional Masters degrees and the certificate programs are new since the last APR.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

MA Program

By completing an MA program in SGD, a student will:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the discipline of geography
2. Analyze relevant literature in the student's area of study
3. Conduct original research on a problem or issue in geography
4. Communicate and defend research results to faculty committee and peers

PhD Program

By completing a PhD program in SGD, a student will:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of the discipline of geography
2. Analyze relevant literature in the student’s area of study
3. Conduct original research on a problem or issue in geography
4. Communicate and defend research results to faculty committee and peers

MS-GIST Program

Student learning outcomes from the MS-GIST Programs are as follows:

Graduates of the MS-GIST programs will be able to use geographic technologies to solve a geographic problem:
1. Student displays comprehension of ArcMap, ERDAS Imagine, QGIS, and/or other related programs to effectively organize, visualize, and analyze geographic data from multiple sources.
2. Student demonstrates the ability to utilize above programs to reach qualitative and/or quantitative findings on the given project.
3. Student understands and successfully navigates the issues that come with incorporating data from many sources.

Graduates of the MS-GIST programs will be able to present geographic information orally and graphically:
1. Student is able to effectively display visual GIS findings in a public presentation following established cartographic principles and display visually stimulating, spatially accurate graphics.
2. Student has incorporated cartography and findings into a logical and aesthetically pleasing presentation using Microsoft’s PowerPoint.
3. Student shows the ability to utilize sound presentation skills such as vocal projection, engaging inflection, and regular eye contact with audience.

Masters in Development Practice

Expected Student Learning Outcomes in MDP are as follows:

1. Analyze and synthesize knowledge related to the history and theories of international development practice.
2. Evaluate and apply relevant measurement skills related to development challenges.
3. Synthesize concepts related to public health, natural resource, and social science challenges for sustainable development.
4. Comprehension and application of skills related to the management of development projects.
5. Evaluation of development projects.
6. Synthesize the skills learned in three second-year courses, and analyze the research conducted in the field practicum all within a particular area of specialization.

Assessment Activities: 

For MA and PhD program assessment activities, including rubrics, please see this document

MA program

Assessment Activity Outcome 1:
Demonstrate knowledge of the discipline of geography
Outcome 2:
Analyze relevant literature in student's area of study
Outcome 3:
Conduct original research in geography
Outcome 4:
Communicate and defend research results
GEOG 689 x      
GEOG 500   x x  
Thesis   x x x
Thesis defense     x x
Exit survey x x x x

 

PhD program

Assessment Activity Outcome 1:
Demonstrate knowledge of the discipline of geography
Outcome 2:
Analyze relevant literature in student's area of study
Outcome 3:
Conduct original research in geography
Outcome 4:
Communicate and defend research results
GEOG 689 x      
GEOG 500   x x  
Comprehensive exam x x    
Dissertation   x x x
Dissertation defense     x x
Exit survey x x x x
 

 

MS-GIST Program

The MS-GIST program utilizes two methods of assessment.  The first is a direct measure that uses the above rating system and GoogleForms to evaluate student presentations in GIST 604 and GIST 909.  In GIST 604, students give presentations based on a project in class.  In the GIST 909, the Master’s Project course, students are expected to collect, visualize, and analyze data, then present their findings in a public forum.  It is expected that GIST 909 score averages will be higher than the GIST 604 scores.  We expect at least 80% of the students to perform at or above a satisfactory level.  The second assessment activity, an exit survey, is an “indirect measure.”  The exit survey is used to determine if curriculum and strategic planning should be adjusted to better match the skill-sets and characteristics in demand in the GIS workforce.  

The exit survey consists of the following questions:

1. How many formal courses had you taken in GIS prior to enrolling in the MS-GIST program?
2. How many years of experience did you have working in a GIS position prior to enrolling in the MS-GIST program?
3. What was your undergraduate GPA (assume a 4.0 scale)?

Quantitative Program Evaluation (1-5 Likert Scale)
4. The overall effectiveness of the instructors.
5. Individual attention you received from the instructors.
6. Accessibility of the instructors.
7. Timeliness of instructor response to questions, assignments, and tests.
8. Fairness of the grading process.
9. Quality of your experience with the technical interface.
10. Intellectual challenge presented in the program.
11. Overall evaluation of the MS-GIST program director.
12. Overall evaluation of the MS-GIST program.

Masters in Development Practice

MDP Assessment Activities:

Starting in spring 2015 and at the beginning of each semester thereafter, for each course taught in MDP an ungraded evaluation of each student will be administered that will consist of questions related to the skills that the course aims to teach and questions that test the student’s ability to synthesize and apply concepts related to the course topic.  At the end of each semester, the same evaluation with the same types of questions will be administered to students to assess the degree to which they have acquired those skills.  The instructor will write up a paragraph for each student.  This assessment will not be part of the student’s graded assignments and will not influence her or his grade in any way.  This process will be explained to the students when the first and the last evaluation are administered.  A public presentation of their Master’s Projects following the formal MDP guidelines is given by each student.  Many students give more than one presentation in accordance with their individual funding source guidelines.

 

Assessment Findings: 

MA Program

We are currently collecting rubrics for all assessment activities during AY 2016-17. We will review all findings in May-June 2017 and respond as needed.

PhD Program

We are currently collecting rubrics for all assessment activities during AY 2016-17. We will review all findings in May-June 2017 and respond as needed.

 

MS-GIST Assessment Findings

Tables 1-4 present the direct measure findings from 2012 and 2013.  The percentage of student presentations that qualify as “at or above a satisfactory level” is regularly above 80%.  Student performance advanced significantly between GIST 604 and GIST 909.

 

Table 1. GIST 604 Assessment Results 2012.

Level

 

Use Technology

Present Information

 

4

 Outstanding

613

60.22%

Outstanding

579

56.99%

3

Satisfactory

320

31.43%

Satisfactory

347

34.15%

2

Developing

85

8.35%

Developing

90

8.86%

1

Underdeveloped

0

0.00%

Underdeveloped

0

0.00%

 

Total

1,018

 

Total

1,016

 
 

% Above Level 3

 

91.65%

   

91.14%

 

Table 2. GIST 909 Assessment Results 2012.

Level

 

Use Technology

Present Information

 

4

Outstanding

659

77.62%

Outstanding

616

72.47%

3

Satisfactory

166

19.55%

Satisfactory

200

23.53%

2

Developing

24

2.83%

Developing

34

4.00%

1

Underdeveloped

0

0.00%

Underdeveloped

0

0.00%

 

Total

849

 

Total

850

 
 

% Above Level 3

 

97.17%

   

96.00%

 

Table 3. GIST 604 Assessment Results 2013.

Level

 

Use Technology

Present Information

 

4

Outstanding

313

43.72%

Outstanding

355

49.10%

3

Satisfactory

342

47.77%

Satisfactory

327

45.23%

2

Developing

57

7.96%

Developing

38

5.26%

1

Underdeveloped

4

0.56%

Underdeveloped

3

0.41%

 

Total

716

 

Total

723

 
 

% Above Level 3

 

91.48%

   

94.33%

 

Table 4. GIST 909 Assessment Results 2013.

Level

 

Use Technology

Present Information

 

4

Outstanding

454

67.26%

Outstanding

511

75.48%

3

Satisfactory

189

28.00%

Satisfactory

148

21.86%

2

Developing

30

4.44%

Developing

17

2.51%

1

Underdeveloped

2

0.30%

Underdeveloped

1

0.15%

 

Total

675

 

Total

677

 
 

% Above Level 3

 

95.26%

   

97.34%

 

Table 5 summarizes the exit survey responses from students in the 2012 and 2013 cohort.  The overall Likert average increased from 2012 to 2013.  Student written evaluations have indicated the following needs: continuity with teaching assistants; less overlap in material between different instructors to maximize the number of unique topics that can be explored in the one-year program; updated lab exercises with confusing or outdated instructions removed; increased face time with University faculty, both in and out of the classroom; more guest speakers with GIS experience to impart their knowledge, expertise, and opinions to the class.

Table 5. MS-GIST Exit Survey Results 2012-2013.

 

Background Information

2012                N Responses

2013                N Responses

2012 Average

2013 Average

How many formal courses had you taken in GIS prior to enrolling in the MS-GIST program?                                      

16.00

12.00

3.81

3.67

How many years’ experience did you have working in a GIS position prior to enrolling in the MS-GIST program?

16.00

12.00

0.80

2.29

What was your undergraduate GPA (assume a 4.0 scale)?

15.00

12.00

3.47

3.42

Quantitative Program Evaluation (1-5 Likert Scale)

 

 

 

 

Overall content of the MS-GIST program

16.00

13.00

3.81

4.54

The level of presentation throughout the MS-GIST program

16.00

13.00

4.03

4.38

Overall effectiveness of the instructors

16.00

13.00

4.06

4.38

Quality of individual attention received from instructors

16.00

12.00

4.06

4.25

Accessibility of the instructors

16.00

12.00

4.59

4.00

Timeliness of instructor responses to questions, assignments, and tests

16.00

13.00

4.25

3.85

The fairness of the grading process

16.00

12.00

4.06

4.50

The quality of your experience with the technical interface

16.00

13.00

4.19

4.46

The intellectual challenge presented in the program

16.00

13.00

3.91

4.23

Overall evaluation of the MS-GIST Program Directors

 

13.00

 

4.38

Overall evaluation of the MS-GIST Program

 

13.00

 

4.54

 

Masters in Development Practice

To date, we have no assessment findings

 

Change in Response to Findings: 

MA Program

We are currently collecting rubrics for all assessment activities during AY 2016-17. We will review all findings in May-June 2017 and respond as needed..

PhD Program

We are currently collecting rubrics for all assessment activities during AY 2016-17. We will review all findings in May-June 2017 and respond as needed.

MS-GIST Program

Changes Made in Response to Findings    

1. Improve student learning and classroom instruction
MS-GIST is a modular based curricular program of five courses, six credits each.  Modules can be as short as one credit.  Based on student input we have moved, cancelled, or created modules.  Overlap of modular material has diminished each year, but some redundancy in material is pedagogically sound.  The Geospatial Instructional Specialist staff position was created as a direct result of the assessment process.  What we found was a strong need to have someone who could mediate between GIST administration, faculty, teaching assistants, and students, as well as be present for students on a regular basis as faculty came and left during the year.  

2. Assist in strategic program planning
In the student responses for 2012 and 2013, there was a sentiment to include newer technologies in the curriculum.  In 2014, we hired Nik Smilovksy to teach terrestrial LiDAR.  Other responses referenced the desire for increased exposure to internship opportunities in Southern Arizona, which we have subsequently pursued aggressively: now we have Southern Arizona companies and agencies coming to us to provide student interns.  Some students cited a desire for more electives course options in the program.  While this is not yet possible in the in-person MS-GIST offering, the online program will eventually allow this to happen across all programs.

3. Review, evaluate, and modify the curriculum in your programs.
The advantage of our current assessment process is that it allows us to address student weaknesses before students graduate.  However, we are finding that our assessment matrix is not enough to prove truly effective in a one-year program.  The quick pace of this program requires the introduction of assessment activities at the end of each class.  We are finding that some students still fall through the cracks and need more remediation before moving forward.  Further, we find that there is a need for the two MS-GIST programs to collaborate more in order to leverage resources that exist or are in development.  Issues of remediation and track specialization can be solved by hybridizing the in-person program.  
 

Masters in Development Practice

To date, we have no assessment findings, so no reponses yet.

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Updated date: Fri, 01/13/2017 - 09:31