Undergraduate Program

The Department of Geographical and Sustainability Science offers three undergraduate majors: Geography (B.A. or B.S.), Environmental Policy and Planning (B.A. or B.S.), and Sustainability Science (B.S.) that provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle the complex environmental problems of today. See below for an overview of our majors.

The Department of Geographical and Sustainability also offers three minors: Geography, Geographic Information Science, and Environmental Policy and Planning

The department offers two certificates: Geographic Information Science and Sustainability

The department offers two Undergraduate to Graduate (U2G) 5-Year Programs: Geography/Geoinformatics and Environmental Policy & Planning/Urban and Regional Planning that both culminate in a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in 5 years. 


Geography B.A & B.S.

Interested in Environmental issues? Geoinformatics and GIS? Public policy?  Health and geography?   If you enjoy connecting the complex global system, geography might be the major for you!

Geography is concerned with place and environment and the ongoing processes of change within and between social and physical systems. Three concepts at the core of the discipline—space, place, and scale—provide theoretical constructs and methodological tools for a science that investigates the complex character of social and environmental phenomena. Geographers examine issues such as distribution and consumption of natural resources, air and water quality, climate changes and ecosystem dynamics, growth and development of urban areas, population dynamics, politics and practice of international development, social justice, and gender relations. They view society and the environment as a physical/social/cultural system. They apply uniquely geographical perspectives and tools, as well as knowledge from other social and scientific disciplines, to analyze the emergent properties of these systems.

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in geography will select 1 of 3 tracks:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Geographic Information Science (GIS) 
  • Health & Society 

Environmental Policy and Planning B.A. & B.S.

Are you committed to environmental protection and stewardship?  The interdisciplinary EPPL major trains students to tackle environmental problems through action, advocacy, and compliance.  It is excellent preparation for a career in environmental law.  The Planning track provides tools for working in city, county, or regional planning, or in land and resource use assessment.  The Policy track offers training for positions in the public or private sector.

Environmental problems are often difficult to resolve because they are embedded in a complex mesh of economics, politics, culture, and behavior. In order to address environmental problems in the future, we will need citizens who understand the human dimensions of these issues. The major provides a recognizable, meaningful label to a concentration of courses that are customized by the student, thus making graduates viable as potential employees or candidates for graduate education. Students will take a common core of courses in anthropology, economics, geographical and sustainability sciences, and political science. Then, students choose between the Planning and Policy tracks. The Planning track has courses primarily in geographical and sustainability sciences and in urban and regional planning. The Policy track has courses primarily in political science and geographical and sustainability sciences.

Students pursuing a bachelor's degree in Environmental Policy and Planning (EPPL) will select 1 of 2 tracks:

  • Planning
  • Policy

Sustainability Science B.S.

Are you interested in building a more sustainable world for future generations? Graduates of the Sustainability Science major will be able to (1) address complex problems emerging from growing populations and increasingly stressed resources, (2) communicate the importance of sustainability science and management to leaders and the public, and (3) adapt and flourish in a rapidly changing world in order to work toward a better tomorrow.

The National Academy of Science defines sustainability sciences as “an emerging field [...] dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet's life support systems.” The University of Iowa Sustainability Science major is built on an integrative curriculum, with coursework in the social, natural, and analytical disciplines, thereby providing students with the knowledge and skills needed to help build a more sustainable future in Iowa, the United States, and around the world. The program offers students relevant real-world experiences such as study abroad and community outreach, as well as an academically rigorous curriculum.