In 2023 the School of Environment, Geography, and Sustainability (SEGS) was formed from the consolidation of four existing programs (the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism, the Global and International Studies Program, and the Climate Change Studies Minor) to facilitate efforts to address crucial social and environmental challenges and sustainable solutions. The goal was for SEGS to function as a hub and incubator of multi- and interdisciplinary teaching, research, and outreach on the environment, sustainability, and spatial sciences. SEGS builds on significant history of accomplishment at WMU, as described below.

a geography legacy at wmu

Geography at Western Michigan University was founded in 1905, and was one of Michigan’s earliest established Geography departments. President Dwight Waldo recruited Professor Leslie Wood (for whom our building is named), an outstanding physical geographer, to come to WMU from Northern Michigan University (NMU). Wood, in turn, recruited Professor Lucia Harrison, also from NMU. Harrison, one of the outstanding minds in North American geography and an incredibly important feminist voice who influenced the broader discipline of geography, encouraged her colleagues and her students to excel in their studies. Wood and Harrison formed a powerhouse of intellectual insight into the evolving field of geography at that time. In this early period, WMU’s prime focus was on teacher training. When WMU became a University as the post-WWII baby boom engulfed higher education, WMU was fortunate to recruit a variety of talented geographers who proceeded to build upon the strengths of the tradition previously established—not least of whom were Oscar Horst, Eugene Kircherr, Albert Jackman, and many others. This faculty team had largely retired by the turn of the 21st century, and had been replaced by a new, energetic, and talented faculty. 

Professor Lucia Harrison

In fall 2019, the Department of Geography voted to change its name to Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism, which became effective in fall 2020. The Department received the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Academic Excellence Award for Masters Programs in 2019. This award is given to the top Geography Master’s program in the country, in terms of several criteria, including program quality, shared governance, commitment and dedication to faculty and students, engagement with K-12 schools and community colleges, and placement of graduate students for further studies or in career fields. 


Emeriti are former professors who have retired from WMU after a period of distinguished service and have been officially awarded emeritus status. The Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism recognizes the contribution that these individuals have made to the academic integrity of the University and to the advancement and development of WMU as a center for distinguished scholarship in teaching and research.

Elen Cutrim (deceased)
David Dickason
Val Eichenlaub
Jay Emerson
Rainer Erhart (deceased)
Lucia Harrison (deceased)
Charles Heller
Oscar Horst (deceased)
Eugene Kirchherr (deceased)
David Lemberg
Philip Micklin
Eldor Quandt (deceased)
Henry Raup
Hans Stolle
Joseph Stoltman
Gregory Veeck
George Vuicich (deceased)

A leader in sustainability

Our Environmental Studies program, started in 1972, was among the first in the country and grew out of a widespread interest and concern energized by the first Earth Day in 1970. The first meeting of a Committee on Environmental Programs (COEP) met in February of that year. Under the leadership of Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences James Zeitlow, COEP was initially charged with developing university-wide programs in environmental pollution. This focus was soon extended to cover other environmental issues and a recommendation by the COEP to develop a full university curriculum in Environmental Studies was approved by the University Curriculum Committee in 1972. The program was housed in the Institute of Public Affairs and Robert Kaufman became its first director. The program went through major changes throughout the 1970s and 1980s due to a number of very dedicated faculty including Richard Brewer (Biology), Kenneth Dahlberg (Political Science), Tom Gossman (Business), Charlie Houston (General Studies), Al Jacobs (Anthropology), Raymond Janes (Paper Science and Technology), Maynard Kaufman (Religion), Phillip Micklin (Geography), Ron Olsen (Biology), Tom Straw (Geology), and Jack Wood (Biology). By the turn of the 21st century, the old faculty had retired giving way to new and energetic faculty as well as new programs. Our programs from the start have been highly interdisciplinary and have aimed to integrate knowledge and perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, and physical/biological sciences. In 2016 the Environmental Studies program became the Institute of Environment and Sustainability.