Urban Geography

GEO 3602, U01.  Fall 2009


Class Location: GC 278B   Time: 9:00-9:50 A.M.  M,W,F

Instructor:  Benjamin Smith   Email: bsmith@fiu.edu

Office: DM 437B Office Phone: 348-2074

Office Hours: M,W,F 8:30-8:50, 10:00-10:50, or by appointment

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



And if I make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere…


Cities are really important.  No other way to put it.   Much of our great progress as humans happens in, and even because of, cities.   Cities have been, are, and will continue to be where people of different backgrounds meet, where those with big dreams go, and concentrated numbers of like minded people will do the next big thing. 


Cities are places of great hope, where tens of millions of people every year go to find a better life.  They also are places of fear, where the problems of masses of people living on top of each other become all too apparent.


To say this is to make the geographical argument: that history and society unfold not on a featureless plane, but in a real, material world of difference.   And in that world of difference, cities are exceedingly important.



Covering cities, fact and theory


Urban geography is a course that tends to vary greatly based on the interests and expertise of the professor.  Some treat it mostly like a history course, explaining where cities came from, which one’s became large when, and why.  Others treat it like a course in urban planning, spending a lot of time highlighting models and theories about how to locate roads, attract businesses, minimize environmental impact, and so on.  Others focus on the cultural implications of cities: what it means that different people are put in the close proximity, and what are the societal impacts, good and bad, of this.


Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately) for you, whatever my interests may be, I want to try to cast as wide of a net as possible with this course.  It would be unfair for those going to grad school not to be exposed to planning theory or critical social theory about cities; it would also be unfair to those not going to grad school if they did not learn specific, interesting information about real cities throughout history across the world.



The Goals of the Course


1.       Understanding the evolution of the world urban system.   The world has a historical urban geography, and before students are able to theorize and express opinions about contemporary urban conditions, it is important they have a base-level knowledge of how cities emerged, where they emerged, how the distribution of and connections between urban centers has changed over time.  Furthermore, they should have an appreciation of the different types of issues faced by cities in the past vs. present, as well as in different parts of our contemporary world.


2.       Articulating major urban planning theories.   For those who plan careers in planning, design, urban environments, urban governance and/or policy it is important they are familiar with major theories about why cities grow relative to each other, how the internal spatial structure of cities shifts due to changes over time, and what theories are driving policies which attempt to alter urban dynamics.


3.       Considering how to make our cities better.  As students who attend an urban university, who will likely to continue living in cities in the future, it is a goal of this course to give them the tools to both critically analyze information they encounter concerning the city in which they live and be active members of their communities who can make their cities better.



Required Texts


Urbanization: An Introduction to Urban Geography (2nd Edition).   By Knox and McCarthy.  Prentice Hall. ISBN: 013142450



Important Dates


Monday, September 7 – No Class, Labor Day

Monday, September 28 – Exam One

Friday, October 16 – Last Day to Drop Course with DR grade

Monday, November 2 – Exam Two

Wednesday, October 21 Monday, November 9 – Local Project Due

Wednesday, November 25 – No Class, Study Day

Friday, November 27 – No Class, Thanksgiving Holiday

Monday, November 30 – Global Project Due

Sometime between December 7 & 11 – Final Exam




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


  75 points:  Miami Assignment

  75 points:  Global City Assignment

  50 points: Attendance and Participation 

100 points: Exam 1

100 points: Exam 2

100 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 short 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 many concepts will be built upon throughout the course of the semester.



Local & Global City Research Assignments 


Full instructions will be released soon, but I want you to utilize tools you learn in this course to better understand both the city you find yourself in now, as well as learn something about a major city elsewhere in the world.   Both assignments will be submitted in person and electronically via turnitin.com.  The local project will be due Wednesday, October 21, and the Global City project will be due Monday, November 30. Assignments turned in late will have points deducted.


Attendance and Participation Points & 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 book, will expand upon it as well.   Missing class means missing a lot of the material that will be on the test.   The same goes for the book – it explains in more detail the concepts covered in class.


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 or a brief homework assigned.  Other times, they will be unannounced – like having a quick individual quiz about the reading from the textbook that asks a few, really simple questions.  If the day’s topic 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.


For example, your first set of points will come when you print out a copy of the syllabus, and bring it to me signed next class.   Once I see it and check you off, it is yours to keep.


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.  


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 is my first time teaching this course, the schedule of readings and lectures will likely be in flux throughout the semester.   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.


However, unless there is a hurricane, you can count on exam days and project due dates as firmly set.


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 projects.  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 post any announcements (such as the unlikely event of a class cancelation), on this page as well.  Thus, if you have a question about the structure of the class (due dates, test structure, etc.), check the website, 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 3602” or “Urban Geography” 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 projects, 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 1.5 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.


Urban Geography – I want to be a part of it!