Geography Ph.D. Requirements


Dr. Heather Smith – Geography Ph.D. Coordinator

GEOGRAPHY Doctoral Program
The Ph.D. in Geography is focused on the theoretical and empirical analysis of metropolitan areas and their broader regional, national, and global contexts. At the core of the program is the recognition that cities are complex systems made up of environmental and human elements, with critical multiscalar interactions and outcomes. Although the processes and issues that frame urban-regional analysis are global in scope, the research lens of the Ph.D. program is focused on the United States, and, especially regional topics and research questions. Indeed, the Charlotte area and other urban and metropolitan regions in the southeastern United States offer laboratories for examining economic, social, and environmental change processes that are at work across the world.

Building on the strengths and research interests of the graduate geography faculty and colleagues across campus, there are currently three broad research clusters within the doctoral program. These include:
•    urban/regional systems
•    human-environmental interactions
•    GIScience

The theoretic and empirical understanding of these research areas is guided by multiscalar analytical techniques, both quantitative and qualitative. Geographic information science (GIScience) is both a research focus and fundamental research tool.

The research clusters provide opportunities for integration and complementarity, with shared methods and theoretic structures; as well as, the focus on the urban-regional scale. In line with current research trends, scholarship that bridges human geography and environmental systems is an area of significant interest. In this context, GIScience is a fundamental tool in all aspects of the doctoral program.

Admission Term(s): Application Deadlines
Fall: February 15th (Priority, for applicants wishing to be considered for available funding), April 1st (Secondary).
Spring: October 1st
Applications will be reviewed beyond these dates on a space available basis.

Additional Admission Requirements
In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, the following are required for study to the Ph.D. in Geography:

Under most circumstances, students admitted to the program will have:

A. M.A. or M.S. degree in geography or a field related to the primary emphases of the Programs.
B. a master’s level of GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0. In exceptional cases, students with baccalaureate degrees may be admitted if they have an overall undergraduate GPA of at least 3.6 and meet other admission requirements. Students without master’s degrees will be required to complete substantial prerequisites necessary to work at a Ph.D. level.
C. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) with an average score of 150 on the verbal and quantitative and a 5.0 on the writing portions. A total score of 300 on the quantitative and verbal is thus required. Note: applicants must have taken the GRE; no other test will be accepted in its place.
D. TOEFL exam scores of at least 557 for applicants whose native language is not English. The program expects a minimum score of 55 on each of the components of the TOEFL, or a 220 on the computer-based TOEFL, or an 83 on the Internet TOEFL, or an 85 percent on the MELAB. In addition, international students who will be teaching assistants will be required to undergo evaluation by the English Language Training Institute at UNC Charlotte prior to beginning their first semester of study.
E. GIS proficiency at a minimum of the applications level is required. Other remedial course work, as determined by the program Admissions Committee, may also be required depending on the background of the student.
F. three letters of recommendation, at least two of which must come from faculty in the student’s previous academic programs.

Degree Requirements
• Total Hours Required: 51 hours of approved coursework is required, encompassing 33 hours in core and elective classes and 18 hours of dissertation units.
• Coursework: while the curriculum and experiential background of all students accepted into the program will be evaluated upon entry, students entering the program would, at a minimum, be required to demonstrate proficiencies at the level of intermediate GIS (UNC Charlotte equivalent GEOG 4120 or a minimum of two courses such as basic and intermediate GIS); a Master’s level research design class (UNC Charlotte equivalent GEOG 6200 or a Master’s level research thesis); and a Master’s level quantitative methods class (UNC Charlotte equivalent of GEOG 6100). Students who fail to meet these minimum requirements would not be permitted to enroll in classes for which they do not have the pre-requisites.
The curriculum has three major components:
1.    Core classes required of all doctoral students;
2.    Elective coursework; and,
3.    Dissertation hours

Core Classes (9 hours required)
GEOG 8100 Quantitative Methods in Geography
GEOG 8123 Urban Regional Environment
GEOG 8124 Seminar in Geographic Theory and Research Design

Recognizing that students enter the program with varying levels of skills and experience, students may opt to test out of one of either: GEOG 8100 or GEOG 8123. All students must take GEOG 8124.

Electives (24 hours required)
GEOG 8000 Topics in Economic Geography
GEOG 8005 Topics in Urban Geography
GEOG 8010 Topics in Political Geography
GEOG 8030 Topics in Geographic Techniques
GEOG 8120 Spatial Statistics
GEOG 8121 Advanced Seminar on Spatial Modeling
GEOG 8122 GIS&T and Urban Regional Analysis
GEOG 8131 Research Design Fundamentals
GEOG 8210 The Restructuring City
GEOG 8211 Cities and Immigrants
GEOG 8212 Urban Labor Markets
GEOG 8213 Development Issues on the Rural-Urban Fringe
GEOG 8300 Applied Regional Analysis
GEOG 8301 Industrial Location
GEOG 8302 Regional Economic Development
GEOG 8303 The Geography of Knowledge and Information
GEOG 8304 The Transforming North Carolina Economy
GEOG 8400 Advanced Seminar in Spatial Decision Support Systems
GEOG 8401 GIS Programming and Customization
GEOG 8402 Multi-Attribute Assessment/Evaluation for Planning & Decision-Making
GEOG 8405 Three Dimensional Visualization
GEOG 8500 Urban Planning: Theory and Practice
GEOG 8600 Transportation Policy
GEOG 8612 Advanced Geography of Transportation Systems
GEOG 8643 Rural Development Issues

Additional Doctoral Coursework in Public Policy, Infrastructure and Environmental Systems (INES), Biology, Mathematics, and Information Technology are available for elective credit. Students and advisors may select appropriate coursework to complement and complete programs of study.

Dissertation (18 hours required)
GEOG 8901 Dissertation

•    Proportion of Courses Open Only to Graduate Students: all program approved courses are open to graduate students only.

•    Grades Required: a student must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all coursework taken in the program. A grade of C will result in the student being required to re-take the course, and being placed on probationary status within the program, and could potentially mean the loss of university funding. An accumulation of two C grades will result in termination of the student’s enrollment in the program. A second failure in the candidacy examination; the dissertation proposal defense; or final dissertation defense will result in dismissal from the program. If a student makes a grade of U or NC on any course, enrollment will be terminated. A doctoral student whose enrollment has been terminated because of grades is ineligible to register in any semester or summer session.

•    Transfer Credit: up to six credit hours or two classes of Ph.D. level coursework can be transferred from another doctoral program as a part of the 51-hour requirement. Transfer credit beyond this limit must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Program in consultation with the student’s advisor.

•    Comprehensive Examination: following successful completion of the core coursework and upon the recommendation of the Faculty Advisor, a student will take a written, comprehensive examination. The purpose of the examination is to evaluate the student’s mastery of the body of knowledge in his/her research focus area, as well as, to demonstrate the research skills and methods that characterize scholars in this subfield of geography.

The comprehensive exam will be comprised of three parts. Part I addresses the theoretic and contemporary literature of geography generally covered in the core coursework and seminars. Part II will assess student’s competency in research methods and techniques. GIScience is a key element of this component. Finally, Part III will evaluate student competence in his/her research concentration.

The comprehensive examination will be written and graded by an Examination Committee made up of faculty teaching in the doctoral program. This committee will be appointed by the Graduate Coordinator in consultation with the Faculty Advisor.

If a student fails the comprehensive examination or any portion of the exam, he/she must wait until the next semester to retake the examination. During the interim period, the student may be required to retake courses in which the Examination Committee determines there is a deficiency.

•    Advisor/Advisory Committee: all students in the program will have a Dissertation Advisor and an Advisory Committee. The student should select a Dissertation Advisor before the end of the second year of residency. The student and the Dissertation Advisor will jointly determine the Advisory Committee. The Dissertation Advisor serves as Chair of the Advisory Committee and must be a member of the Graduate Faculty of UNC Charlotte. The Advisory Committee should have at least four members, three of whom are chosen by the student. The final member of the committee will be the Graduate School representative to the Committee. That appointment will be made by the Dean of the Graduate School.

•    Dissertation: the student must complete and defend a dissertation. The dissertation represents an original and substantial research product. The student must orally present and defend the dissertation before his/her Advisory Committee in a defense that is open to the university community. A copy of the dissertation must be made available to the Geography Graduate Faculty at least three weeks prior to the defense. While the defense presentation is open to the university community, the deliberations of the Advisory Committee are held in Executive Session. The dissertation will be graded on a pass/unsatisfactory basis by the Advisory Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. The dissertation defense if the final examination. It is a Graduate School requirement that a student that fails the final examination twice will be terminated from the program.

•    Time Limits for Completion of the Degree: it is generally expected that full-time students will complete coursework within a three-year timeframe and the dissertation will be completed one to two years later. Students must achieve admission to candidacy within six years after admission to the program. All requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years after first registration as a doctoral student. Further, the oral examination in defense of the dissertation must be passed within five years after being advanced to candidacy.

•    Residency: residency requirements for the program include completing 21 hours of continuous enrollment, either as coursework or dissertation credits. Residence is considered to be continuous if the student is enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 21 hours are earned.


GEOG 8100. Quantitative Methods in Geography. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6100. Multiple regression, trend surface, factorial analysis, cluster analysis, discriminant analysis. (Fall)

GEOG 8120. Spatial Statistics. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6130. Analysis of spatial data and exploratory spatial data analysis. Topics include visualization, point pattern analysis, global and local measures of spatial association, modifiable areal unit problems, spatially weighted regression. Emphasis on applying methods and developing skills useful in empirical research. (Spring)

GEOG 8121. Advanced Seminar on Spatial Modeling. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6121. Prerequisite: GEOG 5131, GEOG 5132, or permission of the instructor. This seminar focuses on the theories of spatial modeling and simulation. Topics include, but are not limited to, spatial systems, models for spatial analysis, models for spatial simulation, modeling life-cycle, model verification, validation, and accreditation. (Fall)

GEOG 8122. GIS&T and Urban Regional Analysis. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6122. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. This course focuses on the spatial thinking, spatial analytic methods and their GIS applications suited for urban and regional analyses. Modeling approaches include spatial interaction models, spatial optimization methods, spatial diffusion, space-time modeling of individual behavior and integrated transportation land-use models. (Fall)

GEOG 8123. Urban Regional Environment. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6123 and PPOL 8610. Examination of the nature of urban regions and the basic factors that shape urban regions as they grow. Impact of: geography; history; social factors; economic factors; concerns about gender, race and ethnicity, and class; and other determinants of the nature of urban regions, their problems, and possible policy solutions. (Spring)

GEOG 8124. Seminar in Geographic Theory and Research Design. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6124. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Critical examination of trends in the history and philosophy of geographic thought and research. Principles of research in geography and urban regional analysis.

GEOG 8131. Research Design Fundamentals. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6131. Scientific research and problem solving. Problem identification, bibliographic search, data sources and collection, techniques selection and preparation of reports and proposals. (Spring)

GEOG 8210. The Restructuring City. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6210 and PPOL 8615. Critical assessment of the causes and consequences of contemporary urban restructuring. Evaluation of theoretical, planning and policy challenges facing urban society associated with global-local change. (Fall, Alternate years)

GEOG 8211. Cities and Immigrants. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6211. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Examination of changing patterns and dynamics of immigrant settlement and adjustment in U.S. and Canadian urban areas. Topical areas include assimilation and integration, identity formation, trans-nationalism, enclave development, labor market involvement, gateway versus new destinations, immigrant suburbanization and socio-spatial isolation. (Spring, Alternate years)

GEOG 8212. Urban Labor Markets. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6212. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. This course will explore the changing social and spatial structure of urban labor markets in post-industrialized cities. Special reference to immigrant and minority labor markets in the U.S. Topics include discrimination, industry and occupation concentrations, job queues, ethnic networks, ethnic entrepreneurs, technological change and economic restructuring.

GEOG 8213. Development Issues on the Rural-Urban Fringe. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6213. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. This course focuses on changes in the rural-urban fringe and the resulting fringe geographies including challenges that local and regional governments face with growth management, sense of place, and sustainable integration into their new regional settings.

GEOG 8300. Applied Regional Analysis. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6300. Prerequisite: Basic computer skills including spreadsheets. Introduction to methods and techniques used in regional analysis. Topical areas include data sources and collection, regional delineation, community and regional profiles, regional accounts, methods of analysis and impact assessment. Topics are discussed in terms of theory, use, and role in economic geography and regional development. Emphasis is placed on application of economic and demographic methods at the regional level. (Spring, Alternate years)

GEOG 8301. Industrial Location. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6301. Addresses factors influencing the location of industrial and service activities. Classical theories of industrial location are augmented with contemporary interpretations of the economic landscape. Emphasis is placed on theoretical foundations and new developments in industrial location theory, patterns and trends of industrial location, the site selection process, community impacts of locational decision-making, and the role of governments. Patterns and trends are examined in regional, national, and international perspectives. (Fall, Alternate years)

GEOG 8302. Regional Economic Development. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6302 and PPOL 8642. Neo-classical and contemporary theories of trade, economic geography and urban and regional development. Topics include theories of urban and regional growth, location theories including industry, central places and growth centers; human capital, labor force and entrepreneurial contributions to growth; policy dimensions of urban growth and development are addressed from theoretical and empirical perspectives. (Fall)

GEOG 8303. The Geography of Knowledge and Information. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6303. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Examination of the factors that influence the location of economic activities in the information age. Discussions and lectures explore the geographic aspects of the transition away from manufacturing to information processing as the primary mode of production. The transition is examined in terms of technology development, urban and regional development, information flows and the location of quaternary industry. (Fall, On demand)

GEOG 8304. The Transforming North Carolina Economy. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6304. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. An examination of the contemporary and historic forces which shape the economic geography of the state. Themes examined will include human-land interactions, past and present economic transitions and the rural-urban balance within the state. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the economic forces which will most dramatically impact the future. Seminar format.

GEOG 8400. Advanced Seminar in Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS). (4) Crosslisted as GEOG 6400 and PPOL 8642. Prerequisite: GEOG 5120 or permission of instructor. Theoretical aspects of spatial DSS including technical, social, political and psychological consideration; systems design; systems manipulation; and case studies. Three hours of lecture and one two-hour lab per week. (Fall)

GEOG 8401. GIS Programming and Customization. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6401. Prerequisite: GEOG 4120/5120 or permission of the instructor. This course consists of tutorials, readings, projects, and discussions of how to customize and to program ArcObjects within various programming environments: to program automatic repetitive tasks, to build their own applications, to write geoprocessing scripts, and to develop and customize the Web applications.

GEOG 8402. Multi-Attribute Assessment/Evaluation for Planning & Decision-Making. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6402. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. The course provides a survey and comparison of multi-attribute assessment and evaluation methods in spatial planning and decision-making; and discusses the implementation of these methods with the aid of geographic information techniques. Topics include land suitability/vulnerability assessment, environmental and social impact assessment, risk assessment, site selection, plan evaluation, and multi-criteria decision analysis. (Spring)

GEOG 8404. Spatial Data Analysis in GIS. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6404. Prerequisite: GEOG 5120 or permission of the instructor. Advanced analytical methods used in GIS and spatial data analysis to advance the understanding of spatial patterns and to invoke powerful principles of spatial thinking. Examination of theoretical and conceptual aspects of algorithms used in GIS software to analyze spatial data. Critical assessment of the use, misuse, abuse and limitations of GIS analytical techniques.

GEOG 8405. Three Dimensional Visualization. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6405. Prerequisite: GEOG 4130/5130 or permission of the instructor. This course consists of tutorials, readings, projects, and discussions concerned with how geo-visualization techniques can be used to display geographic information driven from spatial analyses in 3D GIS. Students who successfully complete the course are able to understand advanced geographic information systems, focusing on multi-dimensional data models and three-dimensional geo-visualization as spatial analyses tools. In addition, students work on independent and group projects to develop 3D GIS applications such as 3D Urban Simulation System using existing 3D GIS and visualization software.

GEOG 8500. Urban Planning: Theory and Practice. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6500 and PPOL 8616. Critical assessment of alternative planning theories and their application to planning practices. Examination of economic, political, social, cultural and geographical factors affecting the operations of cities and resource distribution. (Alternate years)

GEOG 8600. Transportation Policy. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6600 and PPOL 8613. Examination of surface transportation from a public policy perspective. Institutional components and role of government at all levels influencing investment; changes in technology, environment, security, safety, equity, cost-effectiveness, public health and welfare are covered. (Fall)

GEOG 8612. Advanced Geography of Transportation Systems. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6612. Prerequisite: GEOG 6100/8100 or permission of the instructor. Exploration of transportation systems from a geographic perspective. The course emphasizes the importance of these systems in the past, present and future. The course explores the relationships between the organization of the space economy and transportation, the flow of people, commodity and ideas at different scales of observation from the small picture (urban transportation) to the big, global picture (international transportation), mobility issues in everyday life and in the economy. The social, economic, physical, and political contexts of transportation systems are discussed. The course is also designed to develop analytical capabilities by using a few fundamental techniques of transportation planning and analysis.

GEOG 8643. Rural Development Issues. (3) Crosslisted as GEOG 6643. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor. This course provides research experiences that focus on policy formulation, and demographic, economic and planning issues in rural areas. (Fall)

GEOG 8800. Directed Problems in Geography. (1-4) Crosslisted as GEOG 6800. Individual research into geographic topics. May be repeated one time. (On demand)

GEOG 8901. Dissertation (1-9)

GEOG 9999. Doctoral Degree Graduate Residency Credit. (1)