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Courses : Syllabi : 321

Geography 321 United States Geography


Diana Gauss Richardson

Course Description

Welcome to U.S. Geography!  In this class, you’ll learn the broad and complex attributes of the U.S., including the physical, cultural, economic and environmental influences that shape a region. All regions are examined, from the northeastern U.S., to Alaska and Hawaii. Current land uses and functions are covered in order to understand what makes each region unique, and relevant current issues are examined to help gain perspective on landscapes, resources and sustainability.  The purpose of the course is to engage students in learning about and analyzing the complex, fascinating and unique comprehensive geography of the U.S. 

This course is a lecture-based course; you are expected to attend class and participate in order to derive the greatest benefit from the course. The class meets twice a week, with optional field trips and community involvement for extra credit.

Students will be expected to demonstrate knowledge (via the paper and exams) of the physical geography of the U.S. (major topographic/landscape regions, vegetation, climate, some soils), cultural geography, regional environmental issues, regional economies, and locations of places within the U.S. as demonstrated by atlas work/tests. You should be able to demonstrate (via the paper and participation) critical thinking, be able to recognize and identify complex challenges and suggest possible solutions to these (understanding that solutions may not be all-encompassing, but may be a piece of a greater effort). You should be able to understand and respect (via participation and the paper) the many cultural perspectives of the U.S., efforts toward sustainability within various regions, and incorporate compassion into these perspectives.


Your grade in this course will be based on the following elements:

Term Paper:The term paper will discuss the relevant physical, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of a particular region in the U.S. Choices of regions will be suggested in class, but you can choose the region that most fascinates you. You should integrate each of the four subtopics and provide a lively and current summary of what makes this region unique. Sources may include current publications, peer-reviewed studies, texts, government publications, personal experience and interviews; Wikipedia, though useful as a starting point, should not be used as a source. The paper should consist of 6-8 pages of text (max 12-pt. font, normal margins), separate pages for sources used (MLA format suggested), and for supplementary material, such as maps, charts, etc. The rubric for grading is:

Total number of points available for paper: 100

Exams: Three exams from lecture/text material will be worth approximately 80 - 100 points each and two exams from atlas material will be worth approximately 60 points each.  Each exam covers the material prior to the exam, and subsequent exams are not comprehensive.  Lecture/text exams will include multiple choice, true/false, matching, and essays. No make-up exams are scheduled (exception-individual make up is allowed under extreme emergencies). Scantron 882 (green) required. Once exam begins, students are required to stay in classroom until finished. (Accommodations made for DSS exams – see me to set this up).  Prior to the atlas exams, a study session will be scheduled to go over atlases.  Be prepared with questions and COMPLETED atlas exercises for 3 points of extra credit (6 points total).

Attendance and Participation: Your participation, demonstrated by attendance, courtesy, discussion and/or questions, will help you achieve the greatest benefit from the class. I will take attendance randomly, which will be used for points. 20 points of attendance/participation is possible. (You may be excused from class without point penalty, or leave early or arrive late, if you let me know ahead of time, or under emergencies).

Extra Credit: Extra Credit is encouraged. In addition to the 6 points of credit possible for the atlas exam study sessions, other opportunities for extra credit are available.  These consist of field trips, participation in a relevant community event, or engaging in a community service activity; the event or service is accompanied by a summary of the event and it’s relevance to the class material.  A total of 10 extra credit points are available – most activities are worth 3 – 5 points of credit (no extra credit possible if more than 3 unexcused absences occur).  Together with the atlas extra credit, 16 points altogether are possible.  More points available for 3-day field trip – this will be announced in class. 

Grade Breakdown:

Books and Materials

Hardwick, The Geography of North America (2012)
Goode’s World Atlas, 22nd Edition (21st Ed. Ok)
7 maps suggested: U.S. Eastern U.S., Western U.S., North Central U.S., South Central U.S., Alaska, Hawaii
Articles: on Blackboard

All materials available in Aztec Shops.

Weekly Topics

Week Topic
Week One Physical Geography
Week Two Physical (cont)
Week Three Cultural Geography
Week Four Urban settlement
Land use
Week Five Atlantic Northeast
Exam 1
Week Six Megalopolis
Week Seven Great Lakes region
Week Eight South
Atlas Exam 1
Week Nine Great Plains
Week Ten Rocky Mountains/Intermontane
Exam 2
Week Eleven California/Southwest
Week Twelve
Pacific Northwest
(papers due this week)
Week Thirteen Pacific Northwest continued
Week Fourteen Alaska
Atlas Exam 2
Week Fifteen Conclusion

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