ERS is Now the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment

This spring the Regents of the University of Michigan approved a change in department name for UM-Flint’s Earth & Resource Science. Starting with the Fall 2016 semester, they will be known as the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment (GPE). This change reflects the department’s focus on continuously serving students in relevant ways.

ERS’ two existing majors have been reconfigured into Environmental Science & Sustainability and Urban & Regional Planning. They will continue to offer minors in Environmental Science and Urban & Regional Planning (formerly City & Regional Planning); a certificate in Geographic Information Systems; and for prospective teachers the Integrated Science TCP, Social Studies TCP, and the Earth Science TCP minor.

The former ENV and RPL course prefixes will be discontinued. Instead, students should look for ESS (Environmental Science and Sustainability) or URP (Urban and Regional Planning) in future catalogs. The GEO prefix will remain and will be used for courses in Geographic Information Systems.

Dr. Marty Kaufman of the new GPE department teaches a class.

Dr. Marty Kaufman of the GPE Department.

Dr. Marty Kaufman, department chair, answered a few questions about the changes:

Why the new name?
The name change more accurately reflects what our curriculum addresses. A geographical approach has long been the foundation of our approach to the curriculum we provide. With the evolution of our faculty expertise through new hires into the urban and planning arena, it made sense to have the department name reflect our curricular approach and faculty expertise. Moreover, our students supported this change.

UM-Flint ERS students out in Flint conducting a field survey.

UM-Flint ERS students conducting a field survey.

Will you be offering new majors, minors, or certificates? Are any current areas of study being discontinued?
We have changed the names of our two majors and slightly modified their content. The most important change is the provision of a clear track for students interested in urban and regional planning, and multiple tracks for those interested in environmental science and sustainability. We have discontinued the minor in Physical Geography, as the required courses within the science track of the new Environmental Science and Sustainability major virtually duplicate those previously offered by the minor.

Will there be new courses?
We have new courses in the Urban and Regional Planning major. These courses were included because we are seeking national accreditation for the program. This accreditation will make UM-Flint a preferred destination for prospective students interested in Urban and Regional Planning.

UM-Flint ERS students out in the field.

UM-Flint ERS students out in the field.

Why are you moving in this new direction? How will it better serve students?
Our department has always tried to serve the best interest of our students. We frequently speak with our current and past students about the relevance of the curriculum, and we adapt as student interests and the marketplace change. These changes will help those students interested in planning or science attain a better focus on those disciplines, while receiving more comprehensive preparation for either the workplace or graduate school.

Will the role of the GIS Center be changing?

What research projects are in the future?
Our department has always been very active in research. Significant research will continue by our faculty in the areas of non-motorized transportation, environmental health,  water resources, remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems, community population loss, and sustainability.

For more information on the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment, visit their website. To research available courses, visit, and to register for an upcoming semester, visit