Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) – Geography

If you are interested in the PhD-Geography degree program, we recommend that you explore the department website, including faculty and student webpages, to learn more about UW-Madison Geography before you apply. Feel free to contact the Graduate Program Director by email (gradschool@geography.wisc.edu) or phone (608-262-3861) for additional information. Be sure to tell us about how your interests intersect with ours and ask any questions you may have about the program. You’ll learn the most about program logistics and funding from the Grad Director; you’ll learn the most about academic content from your interactions with faculty and students.

If you’re interested in arranging a visit, contact the Graduate Program Director. We’re happy to meet with you while you’re here, arrange for departmental tours and answer any questions you may have. We encourage you to work independently to set up meetings with faculty and students, but are happy to assist in making those arrangements.

Each spring, once admissions and funding decisions are made, the department makes special arrangements for admitted applicants to visit in late March or early April. Ask our Graduate Program Director about these visit opportunities.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is widely regarded as one of the best public universities in the country, and the Geography Department is considered strong, not only on campus, but also within the discipline.

Geography is broad and we welcome students with different backgrounds into our graduate programs. We have found that students from different backgrounds do very well in our graduate programs once they have completed breadth requirements in geography.

Prospective graduate students who have thought about the details of their graduate study, such as the names of individual faculty members with whom they might want to work, courses they might take, and research that they might pursue, are often at an advantage over students who have not given these matters any thought.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.

GPA Requirement

Minimum grade point average (GPA) for admission required by the Graduate School is 3.00 (4.00 scale). Because of strong competition within the Geography Department, our standards are somewhat higher. Applicants with less than a 3.25 GPA should have particularly impressive letters of recommendation; other types of excellence may also help a student who lacks a high GPA.

Application Deadline

December 15
Please note – this program does not admit in the spring and summer.

GRE(Graduate Record Examinations)

Not required

English Proficiency Test

Proficiency with the English language is vital to functioning in the University classroom. Students whose native language is other than English need to submit the TOEFL scores along with the application. The TOEFL score for students admitted into this department is much higher than that required by the Graduate School, typically over 615 (paper based test), 260 (computer-based test), or 105 (iTOEFL). An international student whose native language is not English but wishes to be considered for teaching assistantships will need to have taken the speaking part of the TOEFL test and have the score reported on the application. See the UW Graduate School Policy on English language proficiency as well as university policies related to TA spoken English proficiency.

Prospective graduate students who have thought about the details of their graduate study, such as the names of individual faculty members with whom they might want to work, courses they might take, and research that they might pursue, are often at an advantage over students who have not given these matters any thought.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.

MODE OF INSTRUCTION

Face to face

CURRICULAR REQUIREMENTS

Minimum Credit Requirement – 51 credits

Minimum Residence Credit Requirement – 32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement – Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university’s Course Guide.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement – 3.00 GPA required.

Assessments and Examinations – Students must pass a general exam covering one of the breadth areas and a specific exam devised and graded by individual’s committee. Student must orally defend dissertation proposal before a thesis committee.

Language Requirements – Competence in a non-English language can be used to fulfill skills requirement.

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements – All doctoral students are required to complete a minor. Students who choose to complete the Culture, History and Environment doctoral minor can use no more than one Geography course for the minor and that course must be outside of the student’s primary subarea of study

REQUIRED COURSES

Breadth Requirements
Students must complete the equivalent of one undergraduate-level course in each subarea (Physical Geography, Human Geography, People-Environment Geography, Cartography/GIS). One course taken for breadth can also be used to fulfill degree requirements. Typically, these courses are not seminars. Most students complete this coursework for breadth requirements prior to entering the program. Students who begin the program lacking one or more of the breadth courses are expected to complete such coursework by the end of the 2nd semester in the Ph.D. program.

Coursework
GEOG 765 Geographical Inquiry and Analysis: An Introduction (1 cr); two (3 cr) geography seminars with two different faculty members (cannot use seminars completed as M.S. student); skills coursework (6 credits of intermediate or advanced courses)—any coursework completed as a graduate student can be used. Competence in non-English language OR quantitative and/or qualitative skills.

Before Applying:

• Read the program overview.
• Visit our faculty webpage to identify potential shared research interests and contact faculty to discuss your interests.
• Make a visit to UW-Madison, if possible. (You are welcome to contact our Graduate Program Director if you want to visit.)

Online Application:

• Complete the Graduate School online application.

  • When specifying “Intended Field Study,” select:
    • “Geography Ph.D.” for Degree of Philosophy in Geography
      • You must have, or be in process of completing, a Master’s degree to apply directly to the Ph.D. program. (The degree does not have to be in Geography.) Students with a Bachelor’s degree who plan to pursue a Ph.D. in Geography should apply to the MS-Geography or MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option) and indicate their intent to continue to the Ph.D. in their statement of purpose and by checking the appropriate box on the application form.
  • Required Documents:

  • Three (3) letters of recommendation from recent employers or faculty are required.
    • Letters of Recommendation are submitted online by your references. Each recommender will receive an electronic invitation to submit a letter on the applicant’s behalf. You can check to see if your recommendations have been submitted in the online application status system.
  • GRE scores are not required.
    • Effective Fall Semester, 2020, the Department of Geography at UW-Madison no longer requires (nor considers) the GRE for admission to all Geography and Cartography/GIS MS and PhD programs. 
  • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores.
    • TOEFL/IELTS scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. TOEFL scores are sent electronically from ETS. Use ETS institution code 1846
  • Submit a one or two page “statement of purpose” or “reason for graduate study.” This document should be uploaded as a PDF directly into the online application.
    • It is extremely important to clearly identify your topical or methodological interest within the field of geography. If you know your research topic, please state it in the document. Also see the graduate school’s guidelines on preparing a statement of purpose.
  • Submit transcripts for all post-secondary coursework to the Dept. of Geography.
    • Unofficial copies of these documents should be uploaded electronically as PDFs directly into the online application. Please include the issuing institution in the file name of each transcript you upload.(e.g., UWMadisonTranscr.pdf). Official transcripts or academic records from each institution attended will be requested from applicants who are recommended for admission. Please do NOT send official documents until requested.
    • International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signature.
  • Complete the supplemental application form to indicate your primary and secondary area of interest within Geography. This form is contained within the online application for MS-Geography and PhD-Geography applicants.
  • Upload a CV/resume. Please include your name in the file name of the document.
  • Application fee paid to the Graduate School ($75) – Note that an additional fee is required of international applicants due to the additional processing required.

The University has special funds for fellowships for U.S. students from minority groups and we encourage such individuals to apply to our program. Applications from international students are also welcome.

Students in the PhD. program are eligible for Federal Student Aid.

To apply for financial aid, please visit the FAFSA Website and complete the online registration. When applying for aid you will need the University of Wisconsin – Madison Institution Code: 003895.

For more information about Federal Student Aid, please visit the UW Office of Student Financial Aid.

Further funding information is available from the Graduate School at
<a href="https://grad.wisc.edu/funding/"https://grad.wisc.edu/funding/.

Master’s students who intend to continue on to the Ph.D. program must apply to the Graduate Admissions Committee by January 5 in the second year of their master’s program by submitting the following materials to the Graduate Program Director/Graduate Studies Committee:

• statement of interest indicating plans for the Ph.D.
• letter of support from current (MS) advisor
• letter of support from prospective PhD advisor (if different)

The Graduate Admissions Committee will evaluate these internal applications in the Spring (typically in February) along with all other applications to decide which of these internal applicants will be admitted to the Ph.D. program.

With admission, students who entered the program with a multi-year funding guarantee will receive the remaining three years of support. Students who entered the program without a multi-year funding guarantee can be admitted into the PhD program with or without 3 years of financial support.

Receipt of guaranteed Ph.D. funding is conditional on successful completion of M.S. requirements (including defense of thesis). If the student fails to complete M.S. requirements by the end of the twelfth week of their fifth M.S. semester, the student’s guaranteed support from the department will be deferred. Guaranteed support will not resume until the academic-year semester that follows the academic-year semester when M.S. requirements are met prior to its twelfth week. Any university support provided to the student during the lapse period will count against contract duration.

If circumstances beyond the control of the student prevent the student from meeting the deadline, an appeal may be made to the Graduate Studies Committee to use one semester of the financial aid allotment from the Ph.D. program to complete the M.S. requirements. In their appeal, the student must clearly explain the circumstances that prevented completion in two years.

The chair (or co-chair) of a doctoral student’s Dissertation Committee is the student’s Advisor. This individual must be UW-Madison graduate faculty in Geography or affiliated with Geography. The committee must have at least 4 members, all designated as “readers” (responsible for reading the entire dissertation). The committee must have members from at least 2 University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate programs. Three members must be UW-Madison graduate faculty (or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation/retirement). At least 2 members must be from UW-Madison Geography or affiliated with UW-Madison Geography. At least one committee member must be from outside the major field of study. The fourth member and any additional members can be UW-Madison graduate faculty (or former graduate faculty up to one year after resignation/retirement) or qualified individuals from within or outside UW-Madison. Inclusion of committee members who are not UW-Madison graduate faculty must be approved by the student’s Advisor. Students can add a 5th committee member, who can serve as “non-reader” (not responsible for reading the entire dissertation, able to provide input on specific areas of expertise).

See Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the Graduate Study Applications Process.

For more information about admission or the application process, please contact the Graduate Program Director by email (gradschool@geography.wisc.edu) or at (608) 262-3861.

The Geography grad handbook is updated every year with faculty changes and any policy changes implemented by the Program or the Graduate School. Students are held to the terms of the handbook that is in effect when they matriculate, unless changes in University or Graduate School policy require otherwise.

Please note – this handbook is associated with the MS-Geography, MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option), and PhD-Geography programs. Please visit the GIS Professional Program website for the handbook associated with the professional programs.

Any questions, comments, edits for this handbook should be directed to the Graduate Program Director.

Once you finish your coursework (at least 32 credits’ worth!), including your minor*(9 credits) and your skills (6 credits), and your seminars, you’re well on your way to becoming a Dissertator. To get there, though, you’ll need to jump these additional hurdles:

  • Qualifying exam (affectionately known as “quals”), which has 2 parts – a general exam and a specific exam
    • The General Qualifying Exam: The general exam tests the candidate’s broad knowledge in the subfield. Its scope and depth are motivated by the faculty’s belief that any student earning a Ph.D. should be able to teach an introductory course in the subfield. It follows, therefore, that students should be able to demonstrate knowledge at the intermediate level in all areas of that subfield. Each subfield (Human, Physical, People-Environment, and Cartography/GIS) conducts these exams differently. It is the student’s responsibility to talk with their dissertation adviser to gain a complete understanding of the nature of these exams and the way they are administered.
    • The Specific Qualifying Exam: The specific exam evaluates a candidate’s preparation in their own research areas. This exam is different from the dissertation defense in that the exam is centered around how well the candidate understands the theories, techniques and issues in their own research areas and is administered and graded by the student’s dissertation advisor.
  • Proposal Defense
    • The Ph.D. dissertation proposal is defended in front of the dissertation committee. This committee is not the same group of faculty who graded the general qualifying exam although some members may serve on both.

Together, the Qualifying Exam + Proposal Defense = Preliminary Exams (known as “prelims”).

Necessary Paperwork – At least 3 weeks prior to your Proposal Defense, see the Graduate Program Director to request a Prelim Warrant from the Graduate School. The signed Warrant is the signal that the Grad School needs to change your status to DISSERTATOR!

Dissertator Status (also known as Ph.D. Candidacy) – Once you’re a Dissertator, you must enroll continuously every fall and spring for 3 credits (no more, no less!). At this point, time begins to matter, as well – you have 5 years to complete your degree or risk re-taking your Preliminary Exams.

* If you plan to pursue a Specific Minor (Option A), you should complete this PHD Minor Agreement Form and have it signed by both your advisor and by the department in which you intend to complete those nine credits. You can learn more about the PhD Minor in the Graduate School Academic Guidelines.

The Graduate School has a very useful webpage that discusses the steps to completing your doctorate, including deadlines, details, and instructions about formatting and finishing your dissertation.

A few notes about these pages:

  • Don’t forget to enroll in the semester (fall, spring or summer) in which you intend to complete your degree!
  • Don’t forget to request your warrant at least 3 weeks before your defense. Work with the Graduate Program Director to make this request.
  • When “department style requirements” are referred to, consult with your advisor or use the AAG format.
  • We recommend that you deposit your dissertation electronically. In addition, the Geography Department will require a printed copy and an electronic file of your thesis.

Exit Interview – All graduating students are expected to have an exit interview with the Graduate Program Director. The purpose of the interview is for us to get some feedback from you on the effectiveness of our graduate program.

Thesis Defense – You should plan ahead for the defense to give committee members ample time to read your dissertation. You must check with the Graduate Program Director three weeks before your scheduled defense to be sure that you have all of the official paperwork done (such as requesting the warrant for the defense). See the back of the degree plan form for details.

Please note, these awards, except for the Barbara Bartz Petchenik Award in Cartographic Design, are designated for students in the MS-Geography, MS-Cartography/GIS (Thesis Option), and PhD-Geography programs. Students in the Accelerated Non-Thesis Masters in Cartography/GIS are eligible to participate in the Petchenik Award competition.

Awards by name:

  • Trewartha/Odebolt Conference Travel Awards
  • Trewartha Graduate Research Awards
  • The Leopold Geomorphology Graduate Research Award
  • Whitbeck Graduate Dissertator Awards
  • Olmstead Award for Outstanding Publication by a Graduate Student
  • Olmstead Award for Outstanding Teaching
  • Olmstead Award for Outstanding Citizenship
  • Barbara Bartz Petchenik Memorial Graduate Award in Cartographic Design**
  • Campus-wide TA awards
  • L & S Teaching Fellow

For awards involving travel reimbursement, we recommend you review the campus requirements.

Departmental Awards:

Trewartha/Odebolt Conference Travel Awards (typically ~$500):

Principle: Intended to support graduate student conference travel. The travel grant may be used for participation in major conferences in any of the subfields of geography. However, not all conferences are qualified. The Graduate Studies Committee will decide on the qualification of conferences for this travel fund and the amount to be awarded per request depending on the costs of attending the conference and the number of people who have applied.

Eligibility: Each Master’s student may receive conference travel support once during their tenure as Master’s student in the department and no more than once each academic year. Each Ph.D. student may receive conference travel support up to 5 times during their tenure as Ph.D. student in the department, but no more than once each academic year.  Activities that qualify for this travel support are: presentation of paper or poster, serving as a judge at paper competition or a panelist/discussant or as chair of a session at the qualified conferences.

Amount and Application Procedure: Application should be submitted as a single PDF document to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu) and should include title of paper, poster, or session + an abstract as appropriate, an image representative of your work for use in dept news/PR  (Any raster format or PDF, EPS, or AI), and an itemized budget (eg, travel, registration, other).

Deadline: Sept 15 and Feb 15

Reimbursement Procedure: Contact the department for information about reimbursement procedures.

Acknowledgement: Recipients should acknowledge the Trewartha / Odebolt fund for this support in their publications/presentations.


Trewartha Graduate Research Awards (typically ~$400 for M.S. students and ~$600 for Ph.D. students):

Principle: Trewartha Research Grants are intended to defray costs related to thesis or dissertation research, including research travel to study site, purchases of research experiments and materials, and similar costs.

Eligibility: A Master’s student may receive this support once during their tenure here as a Master’s student. Master’s students should apply during their first year so that the funds can be used for the summer. Ph.D. students may receive this support once during their tenure here as a Ph.D. student.

Amount and Application Procedure: Application should be submitted as a single PDF document to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu) and should include a description of research (not to exceed one page or approximately 500 words), plan as to how this award will directly facilitate the research activities and the completion of the graduate degree, proposed itemized budget, including other pending funding sources that could be used for this research.

Deadline: Oct 15 and March 15

Reimbursement Procedure: Contact the department for information about reimbursement procedures.

Acknowledgement: Recipients should acknowledge the Trewartha fund for this support in their publications.


The Leopold Geomorphology Graduate Research Award:

Principle: This award is intended to support Ph.D. research work in the area of geomorphology.

Eligibility: Ph.D. students whose Ph.D. work substantially engages with the field of geomorphology are eligible to this support. A Ph.D. student may receive the Whitbeck Dissertator Award (see below) or the Leopold Geomorphology Graduate Research Award once during their tenure in the department.

Application Procedure: Application should be submitted as a single PDF document to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu) and should include:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Description of research (not to exceed two pages or approximately 1000 words)
  • Plan as to how this award will directly facilitate the research activities and the completion of the Ph.D. degree

A supporting letter from the major advisor should be sent separately by the advisor to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu).

Deadline: March 15

Reimbursement Procedure: Contact the department for information about reimbursement procedures.

Acknowledgement: Recipients should acknowledge the Leopold fund for this support in their publications.


Whitbeck Graduate Dissertator Awards:

Principle: This award is intended to support dissertators while they are in the final writing stages of the Ph.D.

Eligibility: Ph.D. candidates (ABD) in their final year are eligible for this support. A Ph.D. student may receive a Whitbeck Dissertator Award once during their tenure in the department.

Amount and Application Procedure: Each academic year, a maximum of 2 awards of equal amounts will be awarded.  Application should be submitted as a single PDF document to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu) and should include:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Description of dissertation (not to exceed two pages or approximately 1000 words)
  • Plan as to how this award will directly facilitate the final write up of the dissertation and completion of the Ph.D. degree

A supporting letter from the major advisor should be sent separately by the advisor to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu).

Deadline: March 15

Distribution: This award is distributed via the payroll system and, as such, is subject to payroll taxes. Recipients are eligible for health insurance and receive remission of the out-of-state portion of tuition.

Acknowledgement: Recipients should acknowledge the Whitbeck fund for this support in their publications.


 


Olmstead Award for Outstanding Publication by a Graduate Student ($100 award)

Description: Awarded to a student who has written an outstanding publication, as judged by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Application Procedure: Graduate students are encouraged to submit a publication as nomination for this award.  Papers published or accepted in the prior calendar year. Nominations should include a PDF of the publication as well as a cover letter indicating (a) why the publication (and journal) is significant and of particular merit and (b) the student’s specific contribution (especially if there are multiple authors). Submit materials to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu).

Deadline: March 15


Olmstead Departmental Award for Outstanding Teaching ($100 award)

Description: This award may be given for accomplishment in any aspect of teaching by a graduate student in the department, including:

    1.   mentorship of others teaching in the department
    2.   lecturing or classroom acumen
    3.   conscientious use of pedagogy
    4.   an articulate teaching philosophy
    5.   graduate students nominated by the department for other campus teaching awards.

Application Procedure: Nomination letters should include the name of this award and the course(s) in which the individual has taught and should be submitted to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu).

Deadline: March 15


Olmstead Award for Outstanding Citizenship ($100 award)

Description:This award may be given in appreciation of outstanding participation in departmental activities and culture by a graduate student.  Qualifications for nominations may include:

    1.   vision or effort in representing the student body in departmental committees
    2.   active involvement in departmental events, such as Yi-Fu Tuan lectures, the recruitment weekend, and social occasions
    3.   initiative in organizing cultural events and outings related to the department
    4.   furthering geography’s contribution to the Wisconsin Idea

Application Procedure: Nomination letters should include the name of this award and a description of the contribution for which the student is being recognized and should be submitted to Marguerite Roulet (maroulet@wisc.edu).

Deadline: March 15


Barbara Bartz Petchenik Memorial Graduate Award in Cartographic Design

Description: Given to students for excellence in cartography and map design, including artistic and technical skills. Prizes awarded at both the graduate and undergraduate level (often both 1st and 2nd place cash awards)

Application Procedure: Open to any geography student who made a map in the past year. Submit map(s) to Prof. Rob Roth.

Deadline: early April


Campus-wide TA Awards:

The College of Letters & Science, with additional funding from the Graduate School, takes a leading role in recognizing the critical role of TAs in undergraduate instruction by organizing the campus-wide TA awards, which are distributed at the end of the fall semester.

  • Up to five winners in each award category per year
  • $500 award funded by the College of Letters & Science and the Graduate School
  • Teaching Assistants from all UW-Madison schools and colleges are eligible to apply
  • Departments may nominate up to three TAs per year and may distribute those nominations across the award categories as they see fit, but a department or program may nominate an individual TA in only one of the four categories per year.
  • Nominees are required to submit a personal statement. Visit the Award FAQ page to read statement guidelines for each award category.

Campus-Wide TA Awards recognize:

Early Excellence in Teaching  – recognizes outstanding and inspirational performance on the part of TAs with fewer than four semesters of teaching experience;

Exceptional Service – recognizes TAs who, in addition to their regular duties, perform exceptional service related to the educational mission of their department and our university (volunteerism, committee work, mentoring, etc.). Nominations should focus on the service performed outside of the TA’s regular duties, above and beyond what is normally required.

Innovation in Teaching – recognizes TAs who bring extraordinary creativity to their work and have developed or adapted teaching methods or techniques in new and innovative ways.

Capstone Ph.D. Teaching – recognizes TAs who have performed as outstanding teachers throughout their UW-Madison tenure. Nominees must be dissertators at the end of their graduate program and planning to defend their dissertations by the end of the school year. Therefore, Teaching Assistants may be nominated only once for the Capstone Ph.D. Teaching Award.


L&S Teaching Fellow L & S Teaching Fellow

Description: The Teaching Fellow Award is granted to TAs from the College of Letters and Sciences, the College of Ag. And Life Sciences, and the School of Human Ecology who have achieved outstanding success as students and teachers.  Winners of this award are named L&S Fellows and serve as instructors at the L&S TA training session at the start of the fall semester.  Previous award was $1000.

Application Procedure: By Nomination of the faculty in early February