Is Geography for Gen Z? Perceptions of Geography Key Words by University of Maryland Undergraduates

Authors: Amanda Hoffman-Hall*, University of Maryland, Zihan Chen, University of Maryland, Chin-Yun Kuei, University of Maryland, Numbi Lutebula, University of Maryland, Caitlin McPartland, University of Maryland, Adam Mills, University of Maryland
Topics: Higher Education, Education , Geography Education
Keywords: undergraduate, education, geography, enrollment
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 20
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Does the word “geography” resonate with Generation Z? Do we need to rebrand our discipline for a new age? Across the country increased availability of similar interdisciplinary programs and a lack of K-12 geography awareness has led to declining undergraduate enrollment in Geography programs. To combat this, many Geography departments have rebranded themselves with new titles that aim to capture the interest of current undergraduate students (Frazier and Wikle, 2017), including at the University of Maryland (UMD), which shifted from “Geography” to “Geographical Sciences” in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, new evidence shows that many of these rebranding efforts are not capturing the attention of Generation Z like they did for Millennials. Stoler et al. (2020) surveyed 4,388 undergraduates across four universities ranging in size and student body type regarding their perceptions of geography key words and program names. While ratings varied by student demographics, students overwhelmingly preferred simple, thematic terms (environment, society, culture, etc.) over those which sounded more technical or science oriented (geosciences, spatial sciences, etc.). Most concerning, is that the terms used by UMD GEOG, “Geographical Sciences” and “Geographic Information Science”, ranked in the bottom 10 for each university. We add to these findings by surveying an additional 1,500 undergraduates at the University of Maryland, a public research university in the Mid-Atlantic United States (a region not covered by the original four universities) with strong ties to Federal agencies and the defense industry. Preliminary results indicate some agreement and differences with the other student bodies surveyed.

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