University of Colorado at Boulder


The Department of Geography

We’re experts at bridging the physical and human sciences

We bring a holistic perspective to the physical and human processes that shape the world around us, and we strive to understand how people interact with, are shaped by, and in turn help shape, our world. Our teaching and research span an exceptional array of disciplines and we excel at providing field-oriented, hands-on experience. We train our students – in a friendly, well-supported environment – to be top scientists as well as citizens of the broader world to which we’re all connected.

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs

The Department of Geography in Boulder attracts some 3,500 undergraduates to its courses every year, and has approximately 190 undergraduate majors in Geography. Undergraduates receive a broad, liberal education that integrates the study of human activity and the natural environment, with possible concentrations in physical geography, human geography, environment-society relations, or geographic information science.  The graduate program of the Department of Geography offers both MA and PhD degrees.  There are currently about 90 graduate students enrolled in the program, with a slight majority of these in the PhD program.  The MA program was founded in 1930, and the PhD program began in 1965; the first PhD was awarded in 1968. The Department is ranked as one of the top programs among the nation’s doctoral-granting departments of geography.  CU Geography has one of the nation's highest rates of PhD placement in academic geography programs as well as one of the highest rates of external funding for graduate student research.

Our Partners

Many of our faculty and students conduct interdisciplinary research and are affiliated with other units on the CU Boulder Campus as well as nearby Federal labs.  See some of our partners >>


We've been integrating the study of human activity and the natural environment since 1937, when Harold Hoffmeister was appointed CU's first Assistant Professor of Geography.  Geography was jointly-housed within the Department of Geography and Geology until 1957 when it was granted autonomous status, with Albert Smith as its first Chair, serving from 1957 to 1960 and beginning a tradition of rotating chairmanship in the department, which continues to this day.  In 1959, Geography moved into the Guggenheim Building, where the Law School was formerly housed.  Our PhD program was initiated in 1962, with the first PhD awarded in 1968 to Ian Campbell.  In 1972, Gilbert White and Ken Erickson initiated an interdisciplinary major in Environmental Conservation, which in 1993 became the separate program in Environmental Studies. 

For a complete listing of CU Geography Milestones click here (PDF).      For a history of the department faculty click here (PDF).


Our departmental community totals more than 300 people. Here are some approximate numbers:

88 Grad Students
5 Staff
200 Undergraduates


CU Geosciences Ranked Among the Best by U.S. News and World Report

We are ranked #2 in the world!

Diverse Education

Physical, human, environment-society, and GIScience

Hands-On Experience

Learn by doing, not just studying

Solid Foundation

Strong student support and advising; great job placements

Engaging Research

White lab coat probably not required

Strong Field Focus

Opportunities abound for field trips and field research

Deep GIScience

Research the theory of GIS & remote sensing, not just learn methods

Friendly Atmosphere

We have active student communities


The faculty believes that both physical and human geography are essential to an outstanding department, that both are complementary and indispensible parts of the same subject. Despite individual specializations, all members of the faculty see their interests and research as ultimately related to spatial and environmental systems, human-environment relations, and the character of places.

Physical Geography

Climatology, geomorphology, biogeography, arctic and alpine systems, hydrology, and global change

Human Geography

Population, political, urban, social, and cultural geography

Environment-Society Relations

Human dimensions of environmental change; natural resources; conservation behavior

Geographic Information Science

GIS, cartography, and remote sensing

Geography Rocks!