The Program

Group Photo

Geography is the study of the earth’s peoples, places and environments. It bridges the humanities and social and natural sciences, with an emphasis on the study of the processes that shape our landscapes and societies over space and time. Geography thus draws from multiple fields of knowledge to study complex human and environmental systems.

The UC Davis Geography Graduate Group (GGG) is an interdisciplinary academic program that spans 20  departments. We offer Masters and Ph.D. degree programs in Geography. Our programs provides a strong core in Geographic concepts, theories, and methods, with more in-depth course-work available in many other areas. We aim to provide a stimulating, innovative, and dynamic intellectual environment to ensure that our students obtain the an outstanding education possible; and help them become excellent researchers, educators, and/or practitioners who can pursue excellence in their careers. Our alumni have positions in universities, non-governmental organizations, government and the private sector.

With over 55 geography faculty members in 20 departments across campus we are the nation’s largest geography graduate program in terms of the number and diversity of affiliated faculty. The graduate group structure supports our interest in interdisciplinary research. Areas of faculty interest include: global environmental change; environmental and social dimensions of regional change; community development; sustainable transportation; agriculture and food systems; political ecology and environmental justice; remote sensing, and computational geography.  Research centers and programs led by GGG faculty members include the Center for Regional Change, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, the UC Davis Institute of the Environment and the Sustainable Transportation Center and the Center for Spatial Sciences.

California provides a unique context for our research efforts. If California were a country, would be the world's 5th largest economy, as it combines a strong agricultural sector with the global center of the entertainment, biotech, and computer technology industries, and many other sectors. Davis is a stone's throw away from the state's capital city Sacramento that has been referred to as "America's Most Diverse City"  (students in the Sacramento school district speak more than 70 different languages at home). We are in the heart of one of the the most fertile and productive agricultural region in the world, but with substantial challenges such as sustainable water use. The diverse ecosystems of California, ranging from the deep underwater trenches of the Monterey Bay, to the southern desserts, the redwood forests, and highest mountains in the continental U.S. also provides ample research opportunities on biogeography, conservation, and the use of natural resources.


The geography graduate group offers programs of study for the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)  degrees. Normally, admission into the graduate program is for full-time status, and for Fall Quarter only.

Entrance Requirements

Students with undergraduate degrees in other fields than geography are encouraged to apply, but applicants should have some prior preparation in geography or a related field. Students should have completed at least one upper division course in each of the following: human geography, physical geography, and geographic methods. There is a range of upper-division courses in other disciplines that can be approved as constituting the equivalent to these courses. Students should also have completed at least one upper division course in three of the following six areas of study):

  • Geographical field methods
  • Geographical theory
  • Cartography
  • Remote sensing
  • Statistics
  • Geographic information systems (GIS)

Students may be required to take additional courses or readings to overcome any deficiencies.


The curriculum for the MA and PhD programs is similar and has three elements: Core courses; Geographic depth courses; and Minor electives. The core courses are:

  • GEO 200AN – Geographical Concepts (4 units)
  • GEO 200BN – Theory and Practice of Geography (4 units)
  • GEO 200CN – Quantitative Geography (4 units)
  • GEO 200DN – Methods of Socio-Spatial Analysis in Geography (4 units)
  • GEO 200E – Advanced Research Design in Geography (2 units--required for Ph.D. students only)
  • GEO 297 – Seminar in Geography (2 units--students must take this at least 2 different quarters)

Geographic Depth Courses is a series of elective courses in the main subfield of interest of a student. listed by four broad areas of geography. These are somewhat vague areas but they can be helpful to find useful courses. As courses come and go, and because geography spans so many areas of interest, the lists provided is far from complete and not exclusive.



A student’s Major Professor serves as a mentor and is a primary resource for advising and scholarly information on research projects and sources of external funding. The Major Professor’s home department is the student's department and responsible for providing the graduate student office, laboratory space, mailbox, and support, as necessary and available. The Major Professor serves as chairperson of the dissertation/thesis/master’s exam committee (see the  Committee Guidelines). They should guide the student on coursework, exam preparation and the preparation of their dissertation proposal for the Ph.D. qualifying examination. There are some formal Mentoring Guidelines.

In addition, the student should regularly meet with a Graduate Advisor to discuss academic progress. Graduate Advisors are appointed to certify to the Office of Graduate Studies that the student has followed the required program to reach the completion of the M.A. or Ph.D. degree. A graduate advisor must also certify that a student with deficiencies has satisfied these.

The Graduate Program Coordinator (Carrie Armstrong-Ruport; ) is the best source of information for all things administrative, as well as for funding opportunities. Her office hours are posted on the door of Room 129 Hunt Hall. The Graduate Program Coordinator, manages almost all paperwork related to the Graduate Group. A Graduate Advisor need to sign most student forms. You can make arrangements to speak with the Graduate Advisors at any time. Paperwork also may be left in the graduate program coordinator’s mailbox in Room 131 Hunt Hall during normal business hours.

Graduate Advisors

Graduate Advisors are nominated by the Chairperson of the Geography Graduate Group and appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies to serve in matters affecting graduate students in their academic program. The Graduate Advisor’s signature is the only signature officially recognized by Graduate Studies on a variety of forms and petitions used by graduate students. In general, Graduate Advisors act as the student’s first source of academic program information and provide assistance with the requirements of the program. Students should meet with their Graduate Advisor on a regular basis and keep him/her up to date on progress. In particular, the Graduate Advisors are responsible for:

  1. Providing feedback on academic study plans developed by the student.
  2. Reviewing and acting on requests by graduate students to drop or add courses or to take courses on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis.
  3. Reviewing and approving petitions for advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and making recommendations for the composition of committees for M.A. theses and exams, doctoral dissertations, and/or qualifying examinations.
  4. Periodic review of the student’s progress towards degree objectives, and in particular:
    1. meeting with each student in Fall quarter to discuss and approve their course plan for the year,
    2. completing a degree requirement checklist with each student and submitting these to the program coordinator by December 1 each year,
    3. filing an annual Student Progress Assessment concerning each student’s progress toward completion of degree requirements by June 30.
  5. Going over the details in this handbook regarding QE procedures, forming committees, and thesis/dissertation research and writing to ensure student comprehension and compliance.
  6. The approval of Planned Educational Leave (PELP).
  7. For students without prior academic degrees in Geography, the Graduate Advisor is responsible for approving a preparatory program of courses in geographic theory and methods, in consultation with the student and their Major Professor.

Financial Support

It is the student’s responsibility to obtain needed funding. Many sources of financial support are available for students. UC Davis Graduate Studies has detailed information about possible sources of financial assistance available here:   If you have questions about any of these funding sources, please be in touch with Carrie Armstrong-Ruport, Program Coordinator, at

UC Davis Geography graduate students typically fund their education through a combination of sources, including:

Teaching Assistant Positions Teaching assistant (TA) positions are often available for classes taught by GGG faculty members through their home departments. Geography graduate students are available for TA positions in all departments across campus. Decisions are made by the individual departments.  If you are interested in TA positions, please be in touch with Carrie Armstrong-Ruport, who can put you in touch with the proper people in departments relevant to your own areas of interest and expertise. Graduate students may also directly contact faculty in charge of teaching particular courses or the management officer of each department to learn of teaching assistant opportunities. Apply early, preferably between December and May the prior year. Application forms for Teaching Assistantships should be submitted to the Department or Graduate Group offering the course on which the student wishes to assist. A partial listing of available positions and contact information is available at the Graduate Studies website at TA positions of 25% or greater time carry an in-state fee  waiver.


Graduate Student Researcher. Individual faculty members fund graduate student researcher (GSR) positions. Faculty in your area of interest should be contacted to discover opportunities. GSR positions of 25% or greater time carry an in-state fee waiver and non resident tuition waiver. There is a partial listing of currently available TA, GSR and Reader appointments on the Graduate Studies online listing at:

Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student Researcher positions afford excellent opportunities to gain experience in areas of intrinsic importance to your graduate education and to receive financial support at the same time. A minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA is required to hold such an academic appointment. GSR and TA appointments at 25% and above provide full remission of in-state fees for the quarter the appointment is held. This policy is reviewed for renewal each year. Nonresident (NRT) remission is provided as a non-taxable benefit to all eligible Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) employed by the University of California, Davis. The Tuition and Fees webpage with estimates for UC Davis by program is also available at

Work-Study. The Geography Graduate Group has a limited number of 25% time work-study positions each year. Eligibility for these grants is related to individual income. Work-study grants are used to match funding from other employment on the campus, usually graduate student researchers. A 25% work-study GSR appointment includes full remission of in-state fees for the quarter the appointment is held. Deadlines and procedures for applying for work-study are available from the Graduate Program Coordinator.

GGG Block Grants. Graduate Studies allocates the GGG a block grant award to help fund students. The GGG issues a call for block grant applications in the winter quarter, and the Awards Committee makes recommendations to the Chairperson on these awards. Awards may be used towards fees or as stipends.

Other On-Campus. Other employment on campus may be available in technical and service capacities. See the Student Employment Center for more information at:

Fellowships. The University offers several fellowships for new and continuing students. Fellowships are allocated on a competitive basis. Fellowship deadlines and applications are available from the Graduate Staff Assistant. External fellowships are also available through federal agencies and private organizations with Graduate Studies providing information on many of these.

Off-Campus. Off-campus employment opportunities exist in many areas of geography. The opportunities can often be discovered through the Internship and Career Center (2nd floor, South Hall) or through directly contacting agencies and firms doing work of interest to you. Jobs also frequently are sent to our email list for distribution.

Research Funding. Geography Graduate students have been very successful in obtaining funding for their research projects from various private, state and federal agencies. There is a wide range of general research grants, scholarships, fellowships and internships available to graduate students that are offered by a range of different agencies and organizations. Each has their own particular eligibility criteria and application process. We encourage you to actively pursue such opportunities.  UC Davis maintains a list of upcoming fellowship opportunities here:   UCLA has a particularly useful searchable database of extramural funding sources (including research grants, scholarships, fellowships and internships), called the Graduate and Post-Doctoral Extramural Support (GRAPES) Database, available here: Several funding sources are also available at UC Davis and UC system-wide. Further information may be found on our Graduate Studies and Office of Research campus websites.

Financial Aid. 

Financial need or the availability of other sources of support in your graduate program is not relevant to the evaluation of academic merit, but may be an additional criterion for some fellowships. Students must establish eligibility for need-based awards by filing a FAFSA with the Federal Student Aid Program by the March 1 deadline. To file the FAFSA online, go to or pick up a paper application from the Financial Aid Office in Dutton Hall.

Financial Aid, which is only available to U.S. citizens, permanent residents or immigrants, is awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need, and is administered by the Financial Aid Office. Federal financial aid includes student loans, grants, and work-study funding. Contact your graduate program regarding the availability of work-study funding. All applicants (US citizens, permanent residents, and immigrants) are required to apply for financial aid. You may apply for financial aid before you have been admitted. As noted above, it is strongly suggested that you file the FAFSA by the priority processing date of March 1. A full-time counselor for graduate financial assistance is available for appointments and scheduled drop-in hours in the Financial Aid Office.

Financial Assistance: This is available only to US citizens, permanent residents or immigrants, is awarded based on demonstrated need, and is administered through the Financial Aid Office. Federal financial aid includes student loans, grants, and work-study funding. Details are available here:  Graduate students who are US citizens, permanent residents or immigrants are encouraged to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible, but no later than March 1. This form is used to determine financial need only. All domestic students are required to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA is available online at

Geography Graduate Group Program Grants:  These are fellowship funds in the form of a living allowance, and/or in-state tuition, and/or nonresident supplemental tuition that are allocated by the Geography program directly.  These are mostly awarded to incoming students.
The minimum cumulative undergraduate or graduate grade point average required for a living allowance, in-state fee award, or nonresident tuition fellowship is 3.0 (A=4.00).


GGG Executive Committee

The GGG Executive Committee normally meets monthly from October to June to conduct the work of the group relating to curricula, awards, financial support, activities, and other matters. Members of the Executive Committee include the Chair, the Vice-Chair, the Master Graduate Advisor, three at-large members, and an appointed graduate student representative (in an advisory capacity). Serving on this committee is a good way to learn more about how our grad group and the University work and anyone is welcome to volunteer!

Business Meetings of the GGG

The GGG holds an annual business meetings of the full group (faculty, staff, students and friends) near the end of the spring quarter. These are both business and social functions and are very enjoyable events.



If you have any questions please let us know in person, by telephone, or by e-mail. We will do our best to help as fast as we can. Many questions regarding Campus graduate policies can be answered by consulting the Campus Graduate Guide, which is published over the web ONLY. The web address is

Graduate Student Handbook and QE Guidance Memo

More details are available in the Geography Graduate Group handbook. You can also consult the Archive of old guides.

QE Guidance Memo

Here are some more Online Resources