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University Bulletin
Graduate Degree Programs

Geodesign (GEODZ)

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Degree Conferred:

M.P.S. in Geodesign


The Graduate Faculty


The Program

Geodesign is a rapidly emerging and powerful approach to spatial problem-solving that requires the synthesis of geographic knowledge and scientific data with the best practices of environmental design. Graduates from the Master in Professional Studies (M.P.S.) in Geodesign program will be prepared to take leadership roles in addressing complex environmental design problems in settings ranging from urban design to conservation planning.

The M.P.S. in Geodesign program’s goal is to provide practicing professionals with an advanced skill set in geodesign. They will learn to capitalize on the power of spatial knowledge and evolving technologies, identify opportunities that emerge to better inform the design, understand their relevance to particular situations and assist communities in designing alternative futures based on a unique process that brings all this information into focus.

The M.P.S in Geodesign program is intended specifically for professionals who are able to participate principally on a part-time basis and at a distance. It is offered exclusively through the World Campus.

Admission Requirements

Requirements listed here are in addition to general Graduate Council requirements stated in the GENERAL INFORMATION section of the Graduate Bulletin.
To be admitted to the program, applicants must be able to meet the following requirements:

  1. A completed online Graduate School application and payment of the application fee.
  2. Personal statement of background and interest in the program, including an outline of possible topic for the individual capstone project (maximum 3-pages).
  3. Official undergraduate transcript
  4. TOEFL scores (see below)
  5. Three (3) letters of recommendation

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), or from a comparable substitute examination, will be considered, but are not required for admission.

Applicants must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

Students with a 3.00 junior/senior average (on a 4.00 scale) will be considered for admission. The best-qualified applicants will be accepted up to the number of spaces available for new students. Exceptions to the minimum 3.00 grade-point average may be made for students with special backgrounds, abilities, and interests.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), with the exceptions noted below. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 550 for the paper-based test or a total score of 80 with a 19 on the speaking section for the internet-based test. The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5.

International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement who have received a baccalaureate or a graduate degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), England, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and Wales.

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships are not available. Financial aid opportunities for part-time students who participate through the World Campus are discussed at:

Degree Requirements

Students earn the M.P.S. in Geodesign degree by successfully completing a minimum 35 credits of course work, including a supervised individual study project. Course requirements include a minimum of 18 credits at the 500 level or above, with a minimum of 6 credits at the 500 level. Note that because most of the available elective courses are worth 3 credits, many students are likely to take at least 36 credits (9 elective credits) to complete their degree program. The individual study capstone project is the culminating experience for the graduate degree and requires the student to apply the geodesign framework to a real-world challenge, of his/ her choosing, in order to demonstrate aptitude in analytic, design and collaborative skills. For most students the project will culminate in a formal public presentation, attended by the student's adviser, who is member of the graduate faculty at Penn State. If the adviser is unable to attend, the department will send a representative from the graduate faculty. The presentation will take place at an appropriate professional conference, approved in consultation with the project adviser. Typically the presentation will be at an annual conference (at the national, regional or state level) of professional organizations, such as the American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association, ESRI User Conferences, or other suitable professional organization- affiliated venues. The final venue selection will be one that is mutually agreeable between the student and adviser as to location and appropriate level of professional rigor. Alternatively, students who will be unable to attend a conference, or have other professional objectives, may work with their adviser to get approval to write and submit a project report as an article for an appropriate peer-reviewed journal. The student will provide the adviser with the article, who will in turn recommend final submission to the journal. This will provide an alternative path to successfully complete the culminating experience. Presentations and papers are preceded by dress rehearsals that are open to all students in the program through Web and audio conferencing. As part of his or her individual studies, every student is expected to contribute a formal peer review of one other student's rehearsal.

An Advisory Board consisting of accomplished design, geography and planning professionals in government and industry, as well as Penn State faculty members in a variety of disciplines, guides the ongoing development of the curriculum. Based on taking courses on a part-time basis and at a distance, the curriculum will take at a minimum two-and-a-half years to complete.

Prescribed Courses:


511. Geodesign History, Theory, Principles (3)
822. GeoDesign Models I: Evaluation and Decision (3)
One of these two additional models courses:
824. GeoDesign Models II: Process and Impact (3)
826. GeoDesign Models III: Representation and Change (3)
842: Geodesign Studio I: Rural/Regional Challenges (6)
852: Geodesign Studio II: Urban/District-scale Challenges (6)
596A: Individual Studies-Geodesign Capstone Project Proposal and Peer Review (3)
596B: Individual Studies-Geodesign Capstone Project Dissemination (3)


In addition to the 27 required credits specified above, students must select three courses (at least 8 credits) of GEOG courses at the 400 level or higher; courses must be approved in advance by the student's adviser. A list of acceptable electives is maintained by the program office.


Lasted Revised by the Department: Spring Semester 2014

Blue Sheet Item #: 42-06

Review Date: 04/08/2014

Faculty linked: 8/14/14


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