Reinventing the Ph.D.


The Revised Doctoral Program Went into Effect in Fall 2001

In late Spring 1999, the UWM Geography Department began a comprehensive planning process, with an overall goal of "reinventing" our graduate programs, especially the doctoral degree. We had sufficient financial resources in place for this effort, and the full support of the College of Letters and Science, the Graduate School, the Provost, and the Chancellor. Departmental faculty were confident that the resulting plan would be given adequate resources and actually implemented. Thus, we felt that our efforts had an excellent chance of leading to new, distinctive, and viable graduate programs, as well as an enhanced presence of geographic education on this campus. Based on our traditional strengths, ongoing campus-level planning, and other factors, we decided in advance that our new programmatic thrust should be in the general area of "Urban Environments." We continued to refine this idea as the process proceeded. We also hoped to incorporate the spirit of Prof. Gober's call for "synthesis" between human and physical geography in our new graduate curricula (Past Presidential address at the AAG meetings in Honolulu, March 1999).

Our vision is to evolve a comprehensive and innovative program of instruction, scholarship, and community engagement linked to themes of the campus-wide Milwaukee Idea, and built around the theme of "urban environments." We envision the urban environmental theme as broadly inclusive, encompassing processes and problems associated with the intersection of human and natural environments, and strongly focused on "the city" as the entity of engagement. The program will offer unique experiences to doctoral students by encouraging both generalist and specialist approaches, by integrating individualistic studies in group activities, and by spanning the interface between basic and applied research. In so doing, the program is responding to contemporary imperatives for multidisciplinary collaborative efforts that bridge the major branches of knowledge. Graduates of the program will be geographers who are comfortable and knowledgeable about working in collaborative arrangements dedicated to the exploration and solution of locally relevant, real world problems.

A critical aspect of our planning process was obtaining expert advice from leading members of the discipline. A first departmental workshop with invited outside consultants was held 26-28 May 1999, and their report was submitted to the department in late June 1999. Subsequently, the faculty discussed detailed aspects of the curriculum, and further refined the plan. This process included conferring with other UWM programs, and geography departments at other universities in the region. A second workshop was held with the consultants 20-21 December 1999, to help develop a final set of recommendations. A final report, outlining our proposed new doctoral program, was submitted to the Provost on February 25, 2000. Administrative approval was given in December 2000, and new students started entering the program in the Fall 2001 semester. Here is the new curriculum.