COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
UMBC is open. The physical campus is closed, but courses are now online and employees are working remotely.
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March 22, 2020

Dear GES undergraduate students,

We hope that you are healthy and safe. We GES faculty members strongly empathize with you on what a challenging and stressful time this is.

We know that many of you are facing stress regarding housing and food security, as well as added burdens of caring for family members (children or ill relatives), that may affect your ability to participate in classes. We are cognizant of these serious concerns, and we will be as flexible as we can in our expectations of our students (and of ourselves). At the same time, we will do everything we can to continue to deliver quality education. We are also committed to remaining personally connected with you via video platforms like Google Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom and WebEx, in the classroom, in advising and in working with you on independent projects.

As you’re likely aware via university messages, UMBC is working to keep up with the unfolding pandemic. Remaining off campus and practicing social distancing is critical to that effort. One public health expert commented that if you are not sure and are asking yourself if you should go somewhere, the answer is no.

Our status as of now: classes will be delivered online/remotely for the rest of the semester and all work is being conducted remotely, which means that everyone should plan on working remotely and not come to campus. We want to emphasize, however, that the education and business of the university continues, and essential personnel (e.g. facilities, security) remain on campus to make sure that university operations continue.

We would like to share the following information to help you navigate this new era and continue your vital university education:

  • Teaching: For the past 2 weeks, we faculty have been scrambling to prepare to teach online. We are working to retool our courses, assignments, and communication approaches. You may have received surveys from us regarding electronic resources you have and how you would most like to see your courses go forward for the rest of the spring term. We value your input as we work to make our courses work for you in these changing circumstances.

Please note that the university has links to information that should be helpful. The Online Instruction Resources section of UMBC’s COVID-19 web portal includes links to information for students and for faculty. These links include the Academic Continuity materials provided by our Division of Information Technology. Please do look at these links as they have some very helpful information.

  • Advising: Advising for Fall 2020 will begin on Monday, March 23, and will take place remotely. Scheduling appointments with faculty will be done as before, by consulting the calendars of GES faculty. To connect with the faculty member during the advising session, please work with them to determine a way to connect remotely, whether by Google Hangouts, Zoom or other platform. Some faculty will list their approaches on their calendars, and for others simply send them an email to work out a way to connect. Our faculty email addresses can be found on our GES faculty directory – just click the name of the faculty member and you’ll find it. We have also listed our email addresses at the end of this memo.

Other advising resources on campus include The Office of Academic and Pre-Professional Advising and the College of Arts Humanities and Social Science, with general CAHSS Academic Advisors James Hamilton ( and Rob Pawloski ( ready to assist.

  • Office hours: GES faculty will continue their current office hours schedules. If you wish to visit us during office hours or make an appointment with us, please contact us directly. As with advising, we will be able to connect with you (e.g. by sending you a Google Hangouts or zoom invitation) and meet with you remotely.
  • GIS laboratory access: For GES students taking GIS classes (e.g. GES 286, GES 386), Joe School and his student GIS technicians have arranged an innovative approach to access to the lab from your home computer using Remote Desktop. Your GIS course instructor will guide you on how to set this up in classes this coming week.
  • GES department businesscontinues, with our hard-working office staff working remotely. While your first points of contact will likely be your course instructors, our Office Manager, Robin Schmidbauer Heckathorn ( and our Admin Assistant, Donna Dwayer ( may also be contacted with logistical questions.

And, for broader department concerns, you may always contact the Dept Chair, Alan Yeakley (, and the Assoc Chair, Suzanne Braunschweig (

  • Research: If you are working with a faculty member in a laboratory setting or on a research project (e.g. GES 491 or as a research assistant), please check directly with them how to proceed. UMBC is now in a Research Maintenance Mode for all research and studio facilities. In this mode, access to research facilities should be limited to “the minimal personnel, if any, that require access to studio and research facilities in order to shut down or secure ongoing research projects.” As such, we have extremely limited access to labs, and most research will need to be done remotely. Your mentor can give you guidance on how to proceed.

If you have entered an abstract for URCAD (Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day) on April 24, we anticipate that this may still be held with posters and recorded talks submitted remotely. As with last year, GES faculty judge GES student presentations and give awards based on those that rank highest. And, even if URCAD does not go on at the university level, we will still conduct our review and give awards to posters at the department level. So, please continue to work with your faculty mentors on your presentations!

  • UMBC Library: While the physical library building will be closed until further notice, digital resources will continue to be available as usual, and reference librarians are available for video or phone meetings.

Overall, we are all facing many challenges, both students and faculty, that we did not anticipate when we started the spring semester. We understand the added burdens and general anxiety you are facing, as we feel it too. We want you to know that we are with you on this, and available to work with you in a flexible way to meet the challenges of taking classes and maintaining your academic paths. Working together, we can get through this.


Dena Aufseeser,

Matthew Baker,

Dawn Biehler,

Suzanne Braunschweig, Assoc Chair,

Erle Ellis,

Matthew Fagan,

Jeffrey Halverson,

Chris Hawn,

Maggie Holland,

David Lansing,

Dillon Mahmoudi,

Andy Miller,

Ashanté Reese,

Joe School,

Colin Studds,

Chris Swan,

Yolanda Valencia,

Alan Yeakley, Chair,


The Department of Geography & Environmental Systems is excited to announce the introduction of new tracks designed to help guide students when planning course selection and their future careers. You can check them out here.

A hallmark of the Department of Geography & Environmental Systems is its broadly integrative nature, drawing on the expertise of faculty with diverse backgrounds but with a common mission.

Research interests among current regular departmental faculty span a broad range of topics in earth systems science, ecosystem science, human geography and urban geography, and human dimensions of global change, with application of geospatial technology to research questions across all areas of interest. Despite the diversity of research and teaching interests, there is a common focus on the importance of coupled natural and human systems and on landscape pattern in relation to human activities and their environmental consequences, and we see this as a broad programmatic thrust for our graduate degree offerings. Research based in the Department of Geography and Environmental Systems involves interdisciplinary collaborative work of local, regional and international scope. Our department was recently featured on AGU TV:

The department offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Geography & Environmental Systems; an accelerated B.S./M.S. program; an undergraduate Certificate in GIScience; and a Professional Masters program in GIScience that is offered for working professionals at the Shady Grove campus in the suburbs of Washington D.C. All Ph.D. students are guaranteed at least two years of funding and most are supported throughout their graduate careers on some combination of externally funded research grants, teaching assistantships, fellowship awards, or agency employment. We do not guarantee support for M.S. students but many of our Masters students are able to find support from faculty research grants, public agencies, teaching assistantships, and other on-campus opportunities including the Shriver Center Peaceworkers program for returning Peace Corps volunteers.

We currently serve an undergraduate student population of approximately 280 majors in two degree programs (B.S. Environmental Science and Geography and B.A. in Geography and Environmental Studies) as well as about 1600-1800 students per year in our GES 100-level courses and another 600 in an interdisciplinary 100-level lab science course focusing on water that is taught by one of our faculty. These courses meet university distribution requirements in natural science, laboratory science, social science, and culture.

The department today can best be described as a community committed to interdisciplinary scholarship, to high quality teaching and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, and to mutual success and collaboration. Our faculty are active researchers and committed and talented educators. We are also known on campus for excellence in mentoring and advising students, for engaging both undergraduate and graduate students in research (including authorship on refereed journal papers), and for preparing students for success in graduate school and professional careers. Five of our current and recent graduates (two graduate students and three undergraduate students) have received Fulbright fellowships for study abroad in the last few years.