Doctoral Program History

Note: Some of the contents of this historical narrative and timeline have been adapted from a description available at the UCSB Geography website Leave geography site.

The idea of establishing a joint Ph.D. program in Geography between UCSB and SDSU evolved from preliminary negotiations between Dr. Dave McArthur (SDSU) and Dr. Reginald Golledge (Chair of UCSB Geography at that time). McArthur had been a graduate student in Geography at the University of Canterbury (NZ) when Golledge taught there in the early 1960s, so the negotiations took on a personal note from the start. But progress was slow. There were only five other joint programs at SDSU at that time, and this suggestion was at first negatively viewed by UC officials.

The mid 1980s saw a number of meetings regarding the program, both at UCSB and at SDSU. The Chair at SDSU, Ernest Griffin, pursued the idea very vigorously on his campus. At UCSB, David Simonett had become Graduate Dean, and, together with a series of Chairs (Reg Golledge, Rick Church, Ray Smith, and Jack Estes), shouldered the burden of convincing UCSB and UC systemwide administrators that the idea was feasible and could benefit both institutions. The idea was strengthened by the appointment of several of UCSB’s best Ph.D. graduates to SDSU, including Douglas Stow, Janet Franklin, and Serge Rey.

The joint Ph.D. Program officially began in 1991, but its formal origins go back to 1988 when both institutions “agreed to agree” to explore the idea. The formal proposal was drawn up in December of 1988, the final details were hammered out in 1989, the University of California’s Office of the President granted final approval of the proposal in October of 1990, and the joint Ph.D. program officially began in 1991. Stuart Phinn received the first Ph.D. as a result of the Joint Program in 1997 with a dissertation titled “Remote Sensing and Spatial Analytic Techniques for Monitoring Landscape Structure in Disturbed and Restored Coastal Environments.”

The program has been very successful for more than two decades, and continues to evolve as new faculty members have been hired in both departments, reflecting the changes, dynamism and cross-disciplinary thinking that characterize contemporary geography.