Student doing research in the field.Western Michigan University is a premier, comprehensive, public research university. Through instruction and research, the Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism seeks to understand distribution patterns of the world's physical and cultural features and their implications for better use and management of resources to:

  • Foster the acquisition of core knowledge in geography and the applications of such knowledge to real world issues through quality teaching and research.
  • Provide an environment for student professional growth through development of critical thinking, problem-solving and multiple learning skills as well as aesthetic and creative capacities.
  • Raise awareness, appreciation and relevance of geographic dimensions of social, cultural, political, economic and environmental issues of the day in order to address them more effectively.
  • Create and maintain a challenging and intellectually vital geographic learning community that engages students and faculty in continuing discourse, with focus on active, informed, productive, creative, open-minded and ethically responsible professional training and citizenship in a complex, multicultural world.

For more information, explore the Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism Strategic Plan.


The Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism (formerly the Department of Geography) has constituted a strong intellectual enterprise from WMU's very beginning in 1905 as one of the sciences. Geography is an important part of the College of Arts and Sciences division of physical sciences and mathematics. President Dwight Waldo recruited Professor Leslie Wood, an outstanding physical geographer, to come to WMU. Wood, in turn, recruited Professor Lucia Harrison, who was one of the outstanding minds in North American geography. Harrison 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 (Oscar Horst, Eugene Kircher, Albert Jackman and many others) who proceeded to build upon the strengths of the tradition previously established. This faculty team was largely retired by the turn of the 21st century and were replaced by a new, energetic and talented young faculty team.

In the 21st century the Department of Geography, Environment, and Tourism is well placed to:

  • Address key issues confronting society.
  • Offer state-of-the-art hardware and software in six computer labs for teaching, learning and research to support Geographic Information Science, community and regional planning, remote sensing, physical geography and meteorology.
  • Play an instrumental role in WMU's part in forging the future of Michigan's society and economy. This direction is consistent with the recognition among scholars in peer disciplines that geography, particularly in the GIScience era, plays an ever more central role in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research and learning.


We appreciate and recognize our emeriti whose contributions to academia, the University and the community have continued beyond retirement.