Geography and Environmental Studies are wide-ranging and integrating academic fields. They overlap with respect to environmental concerns, but differ substantively over their main subjects of study.
Geography spans the biophysical and social sciences, and to some extent also the humanities. It is the study of spatial patterns, processes and relations on the Earth's surface, as well as map design, data visualization and otherwise representing places and spaces. Geography therefore offers a variety of specializations. At SUNY New Paltz, a Geography major can include a concentration in Environmental Geography and Urban Panning. A Geography major provides perspectives and skills, including Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques, for understanding a wide variety of subjects, such as food systems, social relations of power, regional planning, resource distribution, water management, migration patterns, environmental quality, soil types and social inequalities. Geographers have been pioneers in developing socially sound environmental and urban planning policies and in the application of computer-based GIS, areas of study that are among the strengths of the SUNY New Paltz Geography program and that sharply enhance Geography students' employment prospects.
Environmental Studies is mainly concerned with the social aspects of environmental change and with exploring ecologically sustainable solutions to environmental problems that undermine the well-being of humans and other beings. An Environmental Studies Major provides an interdisciplinary set of knowledge, skills and analytical tools useful towards to addressing environmental challenges and environmental justice issues from local to global scales. An Environmental Studies major at SUNY New Paltz not only includes a focus on environmental justice and the social causes of environmental degradation, but also the development of a basic grasp of biophysical dynamics, including climate change, as well as mapping and spatial data interpretation.
Due to their substantive overlap at SUNY New Paltz, the Environmental Studies Major and the Geography major are equally equipped in providing graduating students with the wherewithal for a career path in such areas as environmental monitoring, sustainability program, parks services, energy auditing, remediation and environmental consultancy.
An Alum's Perspective: Doug Genzer '93
GIS Data Administrator, City and County of Denver
"In the New Paltz Cartography Lab, I learned how to take chances and try new, innovative ways of symbolizing data. I attribute my love of geography and much of the success in my career to my learning experiences and professors at New Paltz."