Teaching Homepage


Geography of Global Change

GEO 3001, U01.  Spring 2008


Class Location: GC 287A   Time: 5:00-6:15 p.m.  T,Th

Instructor:  Benjamin Smith   Email: bsmith@fiu.edu

Office: DM 437B Office Phone: 348-2074

Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday 1:00-1:45, 3:30-4:45, or by appointment

Teaching Homepage Which You Must Check Frequently: http://www.fiu.edu/~bsmith/teaching.htm



Mega-Cities, Melting Artic Ice, and Transnational Consumer Cultures.   Oh my!


We live in extraordinary times.  In the last few years the planet has become more urban than rural, has begun to face a multitude of problems associated with climate change, and has seen more of the world’s information potentially available to more people than ever before through the Internet.  Not to mention the profoundly interconnected planetary economy.  In the 1990’s, a term called globalization emerged to describe this seeming leveling of the world – so much so that a well-traveled person like New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman actually wrote a book called The World is Flat.   Some have even declared geography not to matter anymore – that every issue is global now.


However all these recent changes lumped under globalization have histories – or to be precise historical geographies.  Furthermore, in the words of Richard Florida, “the world is spiky”– meaning that global issues have an uneven geography, with areas of intensity and absence.  Causes and effects are often not found in the same location; nor is everywhere equally impacted.    The history and present of this uneven geography is what this class will be about.



You will have to read and understand geography stuff


The point of this course is to learn not just “facts” about global change – though you certainly will be presented with a lot of those (which you will hopefully find interesting).    More importantly, the point is to acquire a “geographic” perspective on how to contextualize, analyze, think about and act upon those facts.    This will require reading work written by geographers so you to can begin to think like a geographer.


Additionally, this is the highest numbered course all geography majors have to take, so in order to make sure majors get admitted to the super secret geography club, it is important to read work written by some of the smart people in the discipline.


So if you don’t want to read, perhaps you should consider a course in interpretive dance.



The Goals of the Course


1.      Become knowledgeable about contemporary global changes, by knowing their historical geographies and dynamics.   Most of the foundations of today’s seemingly new “global” phenomenon date back at least to the period of colonialism, sometimes early.  Furthermore, many problems are exceedingly complex without easy solutions – understanding and accepting this complexity will be part of this course.


2.      Use that knowledge to become a critical assessor of information. This course will be an introduction to global issues that will by and large be around for the rest of your lives.  Hopefully the course will inspire you to keep tabs on the issues, and maybe even act influence their course in ways big and small.


3.      Learn to think from a geographic prospective.  Though geographers analyze many of the same issues people from other disciplines do, there is a difference in how geographers approach things.    Terms like space, scale, systemic analysis and materiality are extremely important to geographers – this course will help you understand why.


Required Texts


A World of Difference: Society, Nature, Development. By Porter and Sheppard. The Guilford Press.   ISBN: 1572303247

Geographies of Global Change: Remapping the World (2nd Edition).  Edited by Johnston, Taylor and Watts.  Blackwell.  ISBN: 0631222863



Important Dates


Tuesday, February 5 –Exam One

Tuesday, February 19 –Research Proposal Due

Thursday, March 6 – Exam Two

Tuesday, March 11 – Last Day to Drop Course with DR grade

Tuesday, March 18 & Thursday, March 20 – Spring Break (No Class)

Tuesday, April 8 – Research Assignment Due





There will be 500 total points available in this class, broken down as follows:


  90 points: Global Change Research Assignment & Proposal

  50 points: Attendance and Participation 

120 points: Exam 1

120 points: Exam 2

120 points: Final Exam  

500 points Total  


The grading scale is A = 100-93%, A- = 92.9-90%, B+ = 89.9-87%, B = 86.9-83%, B- =82.9%-80%, C+ = 79.9-77%, C = 76.9-73%,  C- = 72.9-70%, D+ = 69.9-67%, D = 66.9-63%, D- = 62-60% F = 59-0%, which translates to, in points:


A :  500 thru 465 points

A-: 464 thru 450 points

B+: 449 thru 435 points

B:   434 thru 415 points

B-:  414 thru 400 points

C+: 399 thru 385 points

C:   384 thru 365 points

C-:  364 thru 350 points

D+: 349 thru 335 points

D:   334 thru 315 points

D-:  314 thru 300 points

F:   299 thru 0 points         





Each exam will be a combination of multiple choice, matching, and essay, drawn from lectures, readings, videos, etc. – basically anything covered in class or assigned.  Each exam covers only material covered since the previous exam.  This includes the final. That does not mean major concepts should be completely forgotten after first tested – indeed some concepts will be covered again and again.   I will also say this: essays will be worth a significant amount of points on the test, because this is a largely conceptual class.



Research Assignment & Proposal 


Full instructions will be released soon, but this assignment will involve demonstrating an ability to conduct and summarize research concerning global change, which takes into account a geographic prospective.   It will be submitted in person and electronically via turnitin.com at the beginning of class on Tuesday, April 8.    Additionally, a proposal, which will be used to gauge progress, will be submitted at the beginning of class (but not on turnitin.com) on Tuesday, February 19.   Assignments turned in late will have points deducted.



Attendance and Participation Points, Name Cards & Classroom Etiquette


This being an upper division course, you should not have to be reminded how important regular attendance is.   This is especially true because lectures, while drawing on the readings, will expand upon them as well.   Missing class means missing a lot of the material that will be on the test.   The same goes for the readings – if you fail to do them before the test, your efforts to answer essay questions will be hamstrung (ummm… hamstrung…ahhhhh)


I also want to get to know who you are, so as hokey as it sounds, I would like you to bring with you some sort of name card to sit in front of you while you are in class – including your first and last name, written in letters big enough for me to see from the front of class.   This way I can start to put names to faces. 


To reward you for reading and attendance, I will have various easy point opportunities throughout the semester.   Sometimes they will be announced tasks – like bringing three questions to class about the reading for discussion.  Other times, they will be unannounced – like having a quick individual quiz about the reading that asks a few, really simple questions.  If the reading is particularly theoretical, I will put you into groups during class so you and your classmates can hash it out together.  These are meant to be low stress, and providing everyone makes a good faith effort (and attends), these points should be easy to get.  Even easier to get are the points where I simply mark down everyone who is there and brought there name cards with them.


However, these points can also be taken away, at the instructor’s discretion, in extreme circumstances, due to regularly bad behavior.   Points can also be taken away if a student shows lack of engagement by talking to other students while the instructor, guest or another student is speaking, repeatedly reading the newspaper, using their cell phone or mp3 player, doing homework for other classes, or using their notebook computer for IM’s (not note-taking).  However, I doubt it will come to this.  If points are taken, the student will be notified as to why.  Also, any of the above behaviors are grounds for me to remove you from the classroom for the remainder of the class period in which the infraction occurred.   But again, I’ve not had to do that – probably because I look so threatening.


Attendance quizzes and activities will contribute a maximum of 50 points to your final grade.   There will likely be more than 50 points made available during the semester, meaning if you miss a class or have an off day, you will still be able to receive full attendance credit.


Readings and Changes to Schedule


Since this course is difficult to structure, the schedule of readings and lectures will likely be in flux throughout the semester (although exam and due dates are firm).   I will always announce the reading for next class at the beginning of each class, and update the “Class Schedule” link as needed.   It is your responsibility to know what the reading is – either by attending class or checking the class schedule.


Teaching Website, On-Line Articles, and Updates


At the top of this document, you will find the address for my teaching homepage, which is http://www.fiu.edu/~bsmith/teaching.htm .  There will be a copy of the syllabus there, as well as the course schedule and instructions regarding the paper.  Also, there and only there you will be able to find study guides for the exams – meaning I will not be handing these study guides out in class.  In addition, I will keep a blog (which will be accessible from the teaching page) for this class on which I will post announcements (such as the unlikely event of a class cancellation), answer questions and link to articles which are related to the class that I come across.   Thus, if you have a question about the structure of the class (due dates, test structure, etc.), check the website and the blog, because the answer will probably be there. 


Office Hours & Making Contact


My office hours are posted at the top of this document.  If you are having trouble at all, I strongly encourage you to stop by or call during office hours, or make an appointment to do so.   My job is to make sure you learn the material, not just to assign grades.


I will also try my best to answer questions via e-mail, but realize that apart from teaching this class, I am also teaching a second course, doing research, and administrative work, thus the quickest, best way to get an answer is to stop by or call me during office hours.   Please do not call outside of office hours – it is easier for me to answer an email than to play phone tag.  If you e-mail me, please put “GEO 3001” or “Global Change” in the subject line – so I know what class you are in.   Also, pretty please put your name in the email, so I know who I am replying to.


Earning the Grade You Want & (Lack of Significant) Extra Credit


If you are doing poorly in the class, the time to ask how you can do better is not right before, and especially not right after, the final.  If you do badly on the first or second test PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come to office hours or make an appointment to see me as soon as possible after that test, and I will help you devise strategies to study more effectively.


If there are events on campus (e.g. lectures) that are related to the course, I may give 2 or 3 points extra-credit if you attend.   Other than that, I will not give extra credit – so there is no point in asking.   Nor will I go back and change grades after the semester is over and grades have been submitted – you earn what you earn.   It is the only thing that is fair to all students in the course – I cannot give advancement opportunities to one I do not give to all.


Academic Integrity, Cheating and Plagiarism:


Cheating and plagiarism are done by pathetic and desperate people – don’t be one of them.    If you plagiarize on your research assignment, or cheat on an exam – you will receive at minimum a zero on that assignment, which instantly drops your score for the course by about two full letter grades.    If you find yourself in a desperate situation while taking a test or up against a deadline – turn in the best work you can do at the time.  Getting an F usually means you will get some points – getting caught cheating means you get zero.  Furthermore, depending on the severity of the case, I can choose to pursue harsher penalties, including assigning an F0 for the course or pursuing your expulsion from the university.


It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the FIU student handbook’s sections on cheating and plagiarism.  Also, if you need to know more about how to not plagiarize, please check out the following websites.


1) “Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (Indiana University)” at http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/plagiarism.html

2) “Paraphrase: Write it in Your Own Words (Purdue University)” at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/research/r_paraphr.html


Absences & Make-Up


Excused absences include serious illness; illness of a spouse or dependent; death of an immediate family member; University-sponsored trips; and major religious holy days.  It is your responsibility to inform me of the absence in advance of class by e-mail (and within 2 weeks of the start of class if it is a university trip or holy day), but no later than two class sessions after the missed class.  In order to have an absence excused, you must provide original documentation which I can keep.   If this is done, and I determine the absence to be excused, I will do my best make sure you make up what you missed.


Make-up exams will only be given in extreme circumstances.  The make-up exam will not be the same one given to those who took the test on the established date, and will be given during the final examination period, during which time you will take both the make-up exam and the final.    To sit a make-up exam, you must 1) provide documentation to me in class within two class periods of the missed exam addressing why your absence qualifies as excused 2) have that documentation accepted by me 3) email me asking to be given a make-up exam and 4) receive back an email from me confirming a make-up exam will be given.


Your choices to attend or not attend have consequences – just like they would at work.    I take my responsibilities and role as a teacher seriously; I hope you hold your role and responsibility as a student in equal respect.



Enjoy Your Semester of Global Change!