Geography goes beyond the study of maps and landforms, and the diversity in geography club’s activities reflects this. The club and Gamma Theta Upsilon, an international honor society in geography, not only expose students to geography-related activities, such as hikes, but also provide them with valuable networking opportunities.
According to geography graduate student and president of geography club Alicia Terry, of Edwardsville, the main purpose of the club is to build a community among those interested in geography, not just geography majors.
“The main focus of our club is to pursue social activities that focus on geographic interests to provide students with a community experience of going out and doing things,” Terry said.
Junior geography major and GTU president Seth Kannarr, of Machesney Park, Illinois, said because geography is a common major that students switch to, the organizations are essential for geography majors to build community.
“A lot of people tend to switch into geography later when they switch majors … it’s actually one of the highest majors that people transfer into,” Kannarr said. “A lot of them tend to be off-campus students, so geography club is one of the main ways that people build friendships and keep a community on-campus.”
At its core, geography centers around spatial applications of physical places, but there are many different aspects of geography, including physical and human geography. Geography can also draw from other subjects, according to senior geography major and geography club secretary Summer Wolfe, of Granite City, Illinois.
“You get to use many different kinds of approaches from different types of sciences,” Wolfe said. “So with the physical side, there’s chemistry, biology, ecology and things like that. With the human [side], you get into anthropology and psychology even. That’s another reason why I like it: you can bring other skills into it and make it your own.”
Kannarr said geographers solve a wealth of problems using spatial applications, including computer-mapping software.
“We are all about taking interdisciplinary problems in the world and finding ways to solve it using spatial applications,” Kannarr said.
Because of the diverse nature of the major, geography club and GTA do a variety of activities in hopes of satisfying the different branches of the subject.
“We try to focus our club activities kind of 50-50 of human geography and physical geography, so we’ll do stuff with physical geography by going out on nature hikes and stuff like that,” Terry said. “With human geography, we are trying to set up a trip to Cahokia Mounds kind of looking at historical social interactions and stuff like that.”
Kannar said past events have reflected these efforts, citing a past Pere Marquette State Park trip as an example.
“We were looking at the physical stuff with the hike, but then on the way back, we stopped in Alton and we talked about the history of Alton, the people and saw the architecture of the buildings … anything involving people tends to satisfy the human geography side, and physical geography can be satisfied in different ways,” Kannarr said. “So, a lot of times, we can get both realms covered with just one trip.”
Wolfe said she tries to keep this concept in mind when planning volunteer opportunities. She asks members of the club and GTA for suggestions based on their individual interests.
Geography club and GTU are interlinked, as they combine many meetings and events. However, there are key differences between them: in order to be in GTU, members must be geography majors and meet other requirements. According to Kannarr, GTU provides select perks.
“The reason [GTU] is nice is because it works for networking, especially for those who want to go into graduate school for geography, or who are looking for careers, it’s kind of a nice way to be interconnected together,” Kannarr said. “They also offer scholarships that are available for GTU specifically. When it comes to academic conferences that we present at, GTU also pays for travel costs, so that’s a nice factor.”
SIUE being close to St. Louis also gives members of geography club and GTU advantages, as the connections made within the organizations can benefit them once they enter the professional workforce.
“St. Louis is a really close-knit community for geography majors,” Terry said. “We have the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis, and that has created a giant hub of GIS-related positions in this area, which is kind of unique to this area. So, geography club is beneficial because you’re able to interact with so many people, and so many students that once you guys get into the professional workforce, you will have a lot of connections that you can possibly take advantage of at different places throughout the St. Louis area.”
As of right now, Kannar said leadership is planning a trip to Cahokia Mounds. For more information on upcoming events of GTU and geography club, contact Terry or Kannarr.
More information on GTU eligibility requirements can be found at https://gammathetaupsilon.org/eligibiliy.html.