Site Navigation

Section Navigation

Programs : Doctoral : Student Handbook : Section Five

My First Semester's Started: Now What?

Okay! You’re signed in, have an office, registered for classes, know your way around and are ready to go. Next to maintaining your health and sanity, your primary focus in this Ph.D. program has to be your academic work. Someday you will look back and realize that these were the "good old days." There really isn't anything to compare with the time you'll spend in your graduate program, so you should try to enjoy it. Stretch yourself intellectually and challenge your classmates to do the same. Ultimately, the graduate student experience is only as substantial as you and your fellow graduate students make it. If you're like most doctoral students you'll learn a lot more from your colleagues than you will from your professors. Work hard and excel academically.

As of Fall 2013, the department has several graduate student groups: the Geography Graduate Student Association (GGSA), a chapter of Supporting Women in Geography, a chapter of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, and the Volunteer Hazard Mapping Corps. These groups complement the department's formal activities. For example, the GGSA includes a funding peer who typically provides information on funding opportunities.

For those of you with student loans hanging over your head from your previous encounters with institutions of higher education, remember that the Office of Financial Aid requires you to be a full-time student. If you have come here from another campus, be sure to update your enrollment information with your student loan providers (if you had student loans in the past). The Graduate Division considers "full time" for a graduate student to be at least 9 units of course units or any number of units of GEOG 897 or 899 (at least one unit of 897 or 899). Note that Graduate Affairs only pays fees for 6 units each semester (after the first semester of your first year and even then you need to request permission). This can and usually does cause confusion, but don't panic. Check with Patti and she can tell you how to get things straightened out. There are different definitions of full time depending on the purpose. Each scholarship or source of aid may have a different definition of full time, so please check this out carefully prior to registration to make sure you fulfill the requirements that you need based on your individual situation.

The deadline to add and drop courses at SDSU occurs just after the first two weeks of classes. You must complete your course registration by the deadline. If you fail to drop a course and receive an unofficial withdrawal grade, it will count the same as an F (no grade points) and deliver a fatal blow to your ability to maintain the required 3.0 GPA.

During the first week of classes you will be asked by the Doctoral Adviser to complete an entrance survey by providing brief responses about your: (1) academic strengths; (2) academic weaknesses; (3) general topic(s) you think might be involved in your dissertation research; (4) faculty members you are interested in working with; (5) goals and objectives for the program; and (6) career objectives following receipt of your doctorate. We'll also ask you to indicate the areas where you feel a need for course work. You will also be given a "4-Year Progress Calendar" and asked to develop a timetable for completing your doctoral program. On the calendar you will need to indicate what you expect to complete each year until receiving your degree. You should work through this exercise with your Interim Adviser. These items will serve as the basis for your Diagnostic Interview, which should take place before the end of September.

You and the Doctoral Adviser will select a temporary Advising Committee of two (or in some cases three) faculty members, hopefully with interests similar to yours: one of these individuals will be designated as your Interim Adviser. You will arrange for your Committee to meet with you to discuss your background and interests. They will make recommendations regarding additional preparation or remediation that you might require, and courses to meet your immediate needs as well as working with you to develop a broad outline of your doctoral program and time table. The Interim Adviser and Advising Committee will continue to work with you until you designate a Dissertation Chair and put together your Doctoral Committee.

There is no specified number of units in the doctoral program beyond the common core courses, Geog. 700 and Geog. 701, which you are required to take at SDSU. In addition to a broad understanding of modern geographic principles, you have to acquire the requisitetheoretical, methodological, and, when appropriate, language skills needed to make you expert in your areas of specialization.

The program is centered around a limited number of specializations. Areas of concentration in Human Geography are Urban, Social and Political Geography. In Environmental Geography, you can focus on Society and Environment or Watershed/Ecosystems Analysis. Within the realm of Physical Geography you can choose Biogeography, Climatology, Hydrology, or Landscape Ecology. A specialization in Geographic Information Science can include any of the methods or technique emphases listed below. In addition to your specialization, you have to declare at least one research methods or techniques emphasis. These include Spatial, Quantitative, and/or Qualitative Methods, Cartography and Internet Mapping, Geocomputation and Spatial Modeling, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing and Image Processing, Visualization and Visual Data Mining, Spatial Decision Support Systems and Participatory GIS.

By the end of the Fall Semester or, at worst, by early Spring Semester you should have decided on your systematic specialties and methodological emphasis, developed a comprehensive plan of course work and a rough time-table for completing your degree. You will need to work closely with your Interim Adviser during this process. This should help you to identify the specific foci of your program and whom you wish to invite to serve as your Dissertation Chair and the other members of your Joint Doctoral Committee, including those from UCSB. Once you've reached this point, you can officially form your Joint Doctoral Committee with the consent of the Doctoral Adviser.

Handbook Topics

How did I get Admitted?
What does the Financial Offer I Accepted Mean?
What Happens Between the Time I'm Accepted and When I Enroll?
Okay, I've Arrived at the Department. What do I do?
My First Semester's Started: Now What?
Beyond My First Semester
When Should I Plan on Spending My Year at UCSB?
Any Information that might Help Me for My UCSB Residency?
What are the Major Mileposts in My Program?

The statements found on this page/site are for informational purposes only. While every effort is made to ensure that this information is up to date and accurate, official information can be found in the university publications.