Why is this program offered jointly by NMSU and UNM, not one or the other?

  • First, the purpose of the joint program is to train students in both basic and applied geography. Few doctoral programs in geography offer a similar breadth of training.  A joint program structure is necessary because it enables students to access the faculties and facilities of two universities with distinct missions.  NMSU is the state’s land-grant university, and thus offers training in agricultural science and other applied sciences.  NMSU’s geography department emphasizes applied geography; its faculty have long records of using scientific practices and knowledge to solve current environmental and social problems.  UNM is the state’s principal research university; its geography faculty focus on basic research to develop new information and theories for understanding geographic phenomena.  Second, a joint program structure enables a more efficient use of state resources.  Since this is a program shared between institutions, there is less duplication in terms of resource allotment and management.


Will I be a UNM student or an NMSU student?

  • You’ll be a student at both universities. When applying for admission, each student must select a “home” campus, based on which department is best matched to the student’s interests.  However, to enter the program, student must be admitted to both universities (though only one application is required).  After admission, each student will reside principally in the city of their “home” campus, but has the option to spend time in residence on the other campus, if desired.  All students will be able to take classes on both campuses; many courses are offered via distance-learning, but others are available only in person.  Upon graduation, each student will receive a diploma endorsed by both universities, and students will have official transcripts from both universities.


What are the disadvantages of the joint doctoral program?

  • The only substantial disadvantage is that if a student chooses to take in-person courses at the non-home institution, they may need to relocate for a semester or deal with a long-distance, weekly commute. Las Cruces (home of NMSU) and Albuquerque (home of UNM) are attractive cities with full amenities, but they are over 200 miles apart.  The departments will work to help students bridge this spatial distance.


Do you offer the joint doctoral program online?

  • This is a personalized program that requires in-person interaction and research in our departmental labs and facilities.  Some courses are offered online to enable students from both campus to enroll in the same class, but it is not possible to complete degree requirements entirely online.


Do you offer evening or weekend classes?

  • Generally, no. Some classes may be offered during evening hours, but nearly all classes are offered weekdays, between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.


What are the course requirements for the joint doctoral program?

  • There are three required courses, Geography 601, 602, and 603, which must be taken in the first three semesters. In addition to these courses, each student must take 19 credits across three curricular areas, and 18 credits of dissertation research.  The specific courses a student must take within these areas are determined collaboratively between the student, their academic advisor, and their dissertation committee members.  The specific courses for each student are those deemed necessary to train the student adequately for their proposed dissertation research and career aspirations.


What classes should I take during my first year in the program?

  • New students must take Geography 601 during their first fall semester, and are strongly encouraged to take Geography 602 during the following spring semester. In addition to these classes, students can take up to 12 more credit-hours per semester.  Students are strongly discouraged from waiting to take Geography 602 until their second year in the program, because this will delay their progress.  Geography 602 is a prerequisite for Geography 603, the third required course, which students should take during their second fall semester.


How long will it take for me to finish the program?

  • The program is designed to take four years. Since this is a new program, we do not have a record that allows us to estimate the average time to completion.  In general, it is common for doctoral students enrolled in programs designed to take four years to take five or six years to complete degree requirements.  The main determinant of program length is the characteristics of the dissertation research.  Required coursework should reasonably be completed within two years. 


Can I transfer courses taken elsewhere for credit in the joint doctoral program?

  • Yes, but only up to 12 credits (about four courses). The only courses that can be transferred in are graduate-level courses that have not served to meet requirements for another degree, such as an M.S. or M.A.  Potentially qualified courses do not automatically transfer into the joint doctoral program.  A student must petition the program director at their home campus for courses to be transferred in; the program directors consult on all petitions, and may approve or disapprove any proposed course transfers. 


What courses can I take at each university in order to satisfy degree requirements?

  • Doctoral students may take any graduate-level course for degree credit. Many courses have been pre-approved within the degree curriculum, and other courses may be accepted at the discretion of the program directors.  Each student must complete a program of studies in collaboration with their dissertation advisor; the program of study lists the specific courses that must be taken to complete program requirements.  At both UNM and NMSU, graduate-level courses are numbered 500 or higher, although certain 400-level courses may also earn graduate credit.


What funding opportunities are there for students in the joint doctoral program?

  • We anticipate that all students admitted each year will be offered full funding. The specific terms of funding, including salary, benefits, allowable hours, and tuition and fees are determined by rules and guidelines set by a student’s home campus.  Graduate assistants are usually contracted to work no more than 20 hours per week (50% full-time equivalent).  Graduate assistants may be assigned a variety of tasks, which may include research, classroom teaching, and administrative support work.  Full funding is normally provided for four years for students who remain in good academic standing and make expected progress towards degree requirements.  Students may apply competitively for additional years of funding in order to complete the dissertation.


Are international students eligible to receive full funding support?

  • We seek to fund all students that are admitted.  More information for international students is available from UNM’s Global Education Office {insert hyperlink: https://geo.unm.edu/} and NMSU’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services {insert hyperlink: https://isss.nmsu.edu/}.


Are there other forms of funding support available for doctoral students?

  • Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships, fellowships, and research grants to augment their funding support. The department, the university, and other donors offer such funding on a competitive basis.  Competitions are conducted annually and require student applications.  Additionally, there are limited opportunities for funding during summer break, when graduate assistants may receive up to two months of support at up to 40 hours per week (100% full-time equivalent).  However, summertime funding depends entirely upon the availability of faculty-controlled research grants, and/or a student’s success in obtaining scholarships, fellowships, or grants.  


If I receive full funding support, can I also hold outside employment?

  • Fully funded graduate assistants are not allowed to hold outside employment, other than occasional consulting or freelance work that can be conducted at times that do not conflict with classes or any other aspect of the joint doctoral program.


If I keep my full-time job during the day and just take evening classes, can I complete my Ph.D.?

  • No, because it is impossible to complete required coursework only through evening courses. However, a student may work full time while enrolled in the program, as long as their work schedule can accommodate their course schedule.  Due to the academic demands of the program, students who work full time will likely progress slowly through the program.


Do you consider applications that don’t have a GRE score by the application deadline?

  • The faculty at UNM and NMSU decided in 2021 to delete the requirement for GRE scores, and these scores are no longer required as part of the application packet. 


Can I enter the joint doctoral program without having a Master’s degree first?

  • A Master’s degree is normally a requirement for admission to the joint doctoral program. Applicants enrolled in a Master’s degree program at the time of application may be admitted if completion of the degree is expected prior to entering the joint doctoral program. 


What GRE, GPA, and English proficiency scores are required for admission?  Is it possible to make exceptions to these requirements?

  • The admissions standards for the joint doctoral program are comparable to other geography Ph.D. programs. Applicants must have earned a grade-point average of at least 3.25 in prior graduate work.  As noted above, GRE scores are no longer required in the application packet. Exceptions are occasionally approved.  However, admission to the joint doctoral program is competitive and students not meeting minimum requirements are unlikely to be admitted. 
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must report a score from a test of English proficiency, such as the TOEFL, IELTS, PTE, CPE, or CAE examinations. Minimum acceptable scores for English proficiency tests are determined by the offices of international admissions at UNM {hyperlink: https://geo.unm.edu/admission/graduate/requirements/eng_language.html} and at NMSU {hyperlink: https://isss.nmsu.edu/index-8/}.  There are no exceptions possible for applicants whose English proficiency test scores do not meet these minimums.


How do I decide which institution to select as my “home” campus?

  • You should select the campus where your academic and personal needs will be best met. Perhaps the most important factors to consider are where your intended advisor is based, and where the selection of available courses best meets your interests.  Other factors that may be important are the location of your intended research location(s), where you or your family live, and your willingness and ability to travel between the two campuses.  


If I’m applying for NMSU (or UNM) to be my home campus, do I need to get in to UNM (or NMSU) as well?

  • You do not need to apply to both universities, but only to the intended home institution. However, since this is a joint program, the two departments work together to make admissions decisions.  Students must meet basic admissions requirements at both UNM {hyperlink: https://admissions.unm.edu/} and NMSU {hyperlink: https://admissions.nmsu.edu/}.  Applications that meet university-level requirements are given to the geography faculty of the home institution, who select the applicants they recommend for admission.  Finally, every application that is recommended for admission is reviewed by the geography faculty on the second campus, because all doctoral committees must include faculty members from both departments. Admission is offered to applicants who are selected by the home-campus faculty and approved by the faculty in the other department.


Do you admit new students in the spring semester?

  • We offer admission once per year, for students to begin at the beginning of the academic year in the fall semester.  The application deadline is January 15.


Can I start taking courses before I’ve been admitted to the program?

  • Yes, although NMSU and UNM have different rules about how non-matriculated students (those who have not been admitted to a degree program) can take classes. Classes you take as a non-matriculated student may be transferred into your degree program once you’re admitted into the joint doctoral program.  Taking graduate courses does not guarantee that you will gain admission to the program.  


When will I be notified of your decision about my application, including my application for a graduate assistantship?

  • Applications are reviewed by the two departments soon after the January 15 application deadline. We anticipate that offers of admission and funding will be made by February 15.  We ask applicants who are offered admission to accept or reject an offer of admission and funding within two weeks, so that we can offer unused funding to other students.  However, nearly all U.S. universities have agreed to allow applicants until April 15 to decide on offers of admission and funding. 


Can I postpone beginning my program for the year after the one for which I’ve been granted admission?

  • You may defer enrolment for one year, but any funding you are offered cannot be deferred.  If you wish to gain funding support and enter the program during a later academic year, you must reapply for admission and funding for that year.