The Geography department at the University of Colorado offers undergraduate students the opportunity to obtain an interdisciplinary education from four diverse themes (Physical, Human, Environment-Society, and GIS) that together provide a holistic and intricate understanding of the world around us. With the immense breadth of departmental interests and research all coming from a relatively small department, undergraduate students have access to an academic experience that is unique on campus.
Centered in Guggenheim, a stately building nestled on the western edge of the Norlin Quad, the Geography department’s nucleus is the undergraduate lounge located on the main floor. Couches and chairs are centered around a large coffee table, permeating a comfortable, relaxed, and almost homey atmosphere. Every Tuesday morning, beginning at 9:30, the department hosts a coffee and bagel break that has the lounge bustling with life as both students,faculty, and our Geography Advising staff pass through for a bite to eat. While long a department secret, word has seemed to spread and the bagels disappear a little faster each week. Nevertheless, bagel Tuesdays are a chance for students to sit together, catch up, discuss classes, or even debate current events, sometimes with a faculty member.
As a freshman, the weekly coffee and bagel breaks introduced me to a diverse, fascinating group of people who all share a willingness and enthusiasm for intellectual conversation. Most students in the department will probably agree that one of the best parts of studying geography is having the tools and skill to dive into difficult yet exciting topics. During the whirlwind of the 2016 election cycle, the lounge became the setting for some truly fascinating discussions. Each Tuesday was essentially a brief seminar in modern American politics. While not all of us agreed with one another, our conversations were respectful and thoughtful dialogues that I believe came to represent the best of the department as informed, worldly, and critical individuals. Although not everyone has the appetite for discussing such issues at length, the Geography department can be both a space where students find an opportunity to express their opinions or simply converse with friends. Even though I always come for the bagels, I stay for the company and conversation that closely follow suit.
For those who are not keen to engage in the such discussion, the Geography department has other offerings. Every week on Friday afternoons, the department hosts a colloquium series that brings speakers from both the department and across the world to discuss research and relevant geography topics. Past speakers include the department’s own Mark Serreze, who is also the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), and Waleed Abdalati, who was formerly the Chief Scientist at NASA. While a more formal setting, the colloquium talks are far more relaxed than an average lecture, with opportunity to ask questions and speak directly with speakers. Many of the series events that I have attended have direct connections to geography courses, and are a fantastic opportunity to see knowledge from the classroom translate directly into the real world. As a little incentive to go, many of my professors have offered extra credit for reaction papers to a colloquium talk. Of course, refreshments and treats are also served for those who still need convincing. To see the upcoming speakers, see the calendar on the department’s website: http://www.colorado.edu/geography/news-events/colloquium-series-calendar. The weekly coffee and bagel breaks and the colloquium series are two fairly easy ways for undergraduate students to engage with the department and enrich their academic experiences.
Come join us!