GEOG 30N: Environment and Society in a Changing World (Fall 2023)
Welcome to GEOG 30N! We look forward to getting to know you this semester. Please take the time to read the entire syllabus. We share critical information here that will help you succeed in the course, especially regarding assignment expectations and due dates.
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Department of Geography | Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
This course takes place entirely online, so please correspond via email. I will do my best to reply to emails within 2-3 business days. Before emailing with an administrative question, kindly check the course syllabus and any announcements made in Canvas. As many students tend to have the same questions, you may find it more convenient to use the course Q&A discussion board in Canvas (under Discussions). I will reply to these posts regularly (excluding weekends).
Also, when sending an email or Canvas message, please be sure to include "GEOG 30N" in the subject line, a salutation addressing me, and your name so I know who is contacting me.
Office Hours: I will also be available for virtual office hours by appointment. Please email me to set up a time.
Alejandra Bonilla Mena
Graduate Student (Ph.D.), Department of Geography | Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802
Class Support Services
Penn State Learning offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Penn State World Campus partners with Tutor.com to provide tutoring to Penn State World Campus students in supported courses. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.
GEOG 30N: Environment and Society in a Changing World (3 credits) GEOG 30N is an integrative study, inter-domain general education course. Students who started at Penn State prior to summer 2018 can apply these credits to either GS or GN requirements. The course also covers U.S. or international cultures requirements.
GEOG 30N can be applied toward Penn State's General Education "Social and Behavioral Sciences" (GS), "Natural Sciences" (GN), "United States Cultures," or "International Cultures" (IL) requirements.
This course introduces the study of sustainability and human-environment interactions from a geographic perspective. We examine both the influence of humanity on the environment and the influence of the environment on humanity, with attention to the sustainability of current human activities. We take a complex systems perspective on major environmental and societal challenges and examine linked human-environment issues in a variety of contexts. We emphasize the major individual and societal decisions which impact the environment and the ethical views implicit in the decisions. We explore key concepts such as scale, systems analysis, and individual and collective action, as well as various topical issues related to climate change, agriculture, biodiversity, and development. The key concepts above are cross-cutting and applicable to several topical issues; in turn, topical issues are strongly interrelated. By introducing cross-cutting key concepts and asking students to apply them across topical issues in human-environment systems familiar to them, this course encourages students to think both within and beyond the main topic of each unit, thereby integrating previous and new knowledge. Course assignments highlight both major themes in human-environment geography and the experience of what it is like to perform human-environment geography.
Where Is This Class Held/When Does It Meet?
All components of GEOG 30N will be conducted online. You do not have to be present at University Park campus at any point during the course, so long as you have reliable access to the Internet. There will be no set class meeting times, so students are responsible for setting aside time to complete the course work.
How Is The Course Structured?
There are 10 modules spread over three units that will be completed over the course of the 15-week semester. Each module contains readings, videos, and other material covered in the course. Each of the three units includes two written assignments and will conclude with an open book, online assessment. There is no final exam for this course.
Written assignments are due approximately every two or three weeks. You should plan ahead as these assignments require a deep grasp of the module material as well as independent research to complete. We recommend beginning work on them at least one week prior to the due date. Please check Canvas regularly to ensure that you are completing all written assignments and quizzes on time. Modules will be graded with feedback in a timely manner, generally within two weeks following their submission. Due dates for the assignments must be strictly followed.
What Do We Expect of You?
We expect that you will treat this course in the same manner you would a face-to-face section of an introductory level course. You should expect to spend the same amount of time on this course that you would spend in and out of class in your other courses. On average, that may be about eight hours per week. However, you will find your workload depends on your familiarity with the technology needed to take an online course and any past experience you have with the subject matter.
In our experience, the students who reach their goals in online courses are those that are able to motivate themselves to keep up with the coursework and those that take the opportunity to communicate with the instructor and their peers. We encourage you to ask as many questions as you would in a face-to-face class. If you are struggling with any aspect of the course, we can only help you if you ask.
Specific learning objectives for each module and assignment are detailed within each module.
Course Goals, Objectives, and Outcomes
Through completion of course modules, learning activities, and quizzes successful students will:
- understand foundational principles of nature-society geography;
- build a toolkit of key concepts and theories for analyzing human-environment systems;
- evaluate how biophysical and social environments are intertwined and shape one another;
- critique specific nature-society problems across a range of geographic contexts;
- develop possible solutions for addressing contemporary sustainability challenges.
Required Course Materials
All (other) materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access the online materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact Penn State IT Service Desk for World Campus students or Penn State IT Get Support (for students at all other campus locations).
Assignments and Grading
GEOG 30N will rely upon a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:
- Written Assignments provide you with an opportunity to synthesize the course concepts and supporting information you’ve learned in the class. These assignments will allow you to communicate your understanding of the material, demonstrate your critical thinking skills, and showcase your ability to analyze information. Each written assignment should be approximately 500-750 words in length, engage a minimum of three course concepts in bolded font, demonstrate quality academic writing skills, and include compelling arguments with supporting evidence. Rubrics are provided for each writing assignment to ensure the expectations for these assessments are clearly articulated to you.
- Automated Quizzes will allow you to practice your mastery of the concepts presented in the course readings and supporting materials. There are three quizzes you will be required to participate in throughout the semester. Each quiz consists of approximately 25 questions, is open book, and has a time limit of 60 minutes. These assessments are auto-graded by Canvas, so you will receive your scores immediately upon submission of your quiz.
- Citation Training Assignments will help you learn more about the basics of APA in-text citations and how to cite sources you use in your work appropriately. There are a total of three assignments associated with the training, two short quizzes and a discussion that requires a brief response.
You will earn a grade that reflects the extent to which you achieve the course learning objectives listed above. Below is a breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade.
|Assessment||Points||Total Points||% of Course Grade|
|Written Assignments (6)||50 points each||300||65%|
|Quizzes (3)||50 points each||150||32%|
|Citation Training (3)||15 points total||15||3%|
Make-up Quiz Policy
We expect students to plan for and to take all quizzes during the open period for each. In exceptional circumstances, make-up quizzes will only be granted through the approval of the course instructor for legitimate and excused absences. Prior notification and approval for a make-up quiz must be obtained by the student at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled quiz. Special circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
There is no grading curve in this course.
Late Written Assignments will be penalized at 10% per day. Assignments submitted more than seven days late automatically receive zero points. All assignments have precise (to the minute) deadlines that are understood in terms of Eastern Standard Time (EST) as applied in Penn State's resident campuses in Pennsylvania. Anything past the deadline is automatically late, even if it is just one minute late. Every 24 hours (to the minute) after the deadline, another day of late penalty is incurred.
We will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. The minimum scores for course grades are as follows.
|Letter||Minimum Points Needed to Earn this Grade|
Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)
GEOG 30N Course Schedule
Course length: 15 weeks
Below, you will find a list of topics covered and assignments due each week of the semester. Each week begins Monday and concludes Sunday. All assignments are due by the due dates listed in Canvas. Please check the Syllabus link in Canvas regularly to make sure you are not missing any due dates.
Course Information Quiz (required but not graded)
Initial Course Survey (required but not graded)
Module 1 - Geographic Perspectives
Citation Training (Part 1)
Module 2 - Human-Environment Systems
Citation Training (Part 2)
Module 3 - Environmental Ethics
|Written Assignment 1: Understanding the Role of Ethics|
Module 4 - Individual and Collective Action
|Week 6||Unit 1 (Modules 1-4) Review||
Written Assignment 2: Carbon Footprints and Individual and Collective Action
Module 5 - Development
|Unit 1 Quiz|
Module 6 - Food and Agriculture
Written Assignment 3: Development and Agriculture
Module 7 - Urban Planning
|Week 10||Unit 2 (Modules 5-7) Review||
Written Assignment 4: Sustainable Cities
|Week 11||Module 8 - Natural Hazards||Unit 2 Quiz|
|Week 12||Module 9 - Climate Change||Written Assignment 5: Vulnerability Reduction|
|Week 13||Module 10 - Biodiversity|
|Week 14||Module 10 Biodiversity, Continued||Written Assignment 6: Biodiversity|
|Week 15||Unit 3 (Modules 8-10) Review||Quiz 3|
Tips for Success in GEOG 30N
Pay extra attention to course announcements
Read all the email announcements and read the whole announcement when you do. Unlike face-to-face courses where instructors have more diverse means to get your attention, online courses typically have email as the only channel through which you can get news and reminders. Not paying full attention to the emails may result in your missing deadlines and opportunities, which will be detrimental to your grade.
In order to make the most out of this opportunity, you will need to be actively involved in this course.
Do the work on time
I see my role in this course as lead facilitator; that is, it is my job to help you achieve your educational objectives. I set deadlines to keep everyone on track to reach those goals. I think that if you do your best to adhere to those deadlines (for example, setting up a routine schedule when you work on the course), you will succeed. I strongly suggest setting a personal deadline that is earlier than the class deadline, which will help you avoid most issues that tend to cause delays. As described earlier in this syllabus, I am firm on deadlines. However, I do understand that emergencies may arise, and I am willing to work with you if I am informed (preferably ahead of time) and the reason was unavoidable.
Struggling? Get help!
There could be a case where you are paying full attention to the announcements and working hard for this course, but still somehow struggling. If this is you, please ask for help! The instructor can be a source of help. Let me know of your concerns (e.g., ways to improve your upcoming assignment) and the situations you want us to take into consideration when instructing and grading. Also, in case you didn't know, you can go to Penn State to get institutional yet individualized help! If you would like advice on writing, please go to Penn State Learning website for more resources (The Writing Center @ Penn State Learning). They give you a range of tutoring options from online tutoring to in-person meetings by appointment.
Additional Course Policies
The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as email and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course. Most importantly, do not use slang, informal language, or text messaging jargon when communicating via email or when posting to the discussion board. Emails and posts should never begin with "Hey" or similarly informal language.
Penn State E-mail Accounts
All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.
This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training for Students.
All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.
For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website.
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.
Change in Normal Campus Operations
In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
Reporting Educational Equity Concerns
Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Services include the following:
Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741
Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.
Connect Online with Caution
Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.
For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (for students at all other campus locations).
Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.
This site is considered a secure web site, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period. It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy. If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect
Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.
For additional information, see:
- Penn State Affirmative Action Nondiscrimination Statement
- Policy AD 85 Sexual and/or Gender-Based Harassment and Misconduct, Title IX
- Penn State Values
- Action Together: Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Penn State
- Assessment of the Living, Learning, and Working Environment (ALLWE) in EMS| Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.
If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Mandated Reporting Statement
Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.
Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.
Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.