Application Process

For more information on the joint doctoral program, contact Dr. Michaela Buenemann.

The New Mexico Doctoral Program in Geography (NMDPG) is new, and we plan to build the student body slowly.  We expect to admit only two or three students for each of the first several years of the program, building toward a consistent enrollment of about 15 students yearly by the mid-2020s.  In addition to doctoral students, the two department enroll sizeable cohorts of Master’s and undergraduate students. 

Students seeking entry into the NMDPG should be highly motivated individuals who want to learn mixed-methods geographic research.  The joint character of our program offers unique opportunities, but also requires logistical adjustments because students must select a “home” campus where they will be based during their enrollment.  Students can take courses on both campuses, and temporarily relocate between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, and change home campuses if desired, but during the application process potential students must select either NMSU or UNM as their home campus.  

How should you select a home campus?  Your decision should reflect both academic and personal considerations.  On the academic side, you must consider three main factors:

  • You will need to identify a dissertation advisor whose research interests align with yours, and whose expertise is appropriate to support your needs as you develop as a scholar. Ideally, your home campus will be where your intended advisor is a faculty member, so that you can easily meet with him/her as necessary.  We strongly encourage you to carefully review the expertise of the faculty members at NMSU and UNM, and discuss your interests with potential advisor before you apply to the program.
  • You should assess which campus offers the best selection of courses that complement your research interests. Many courses in our program are available for distance learning, but many more are in-person classes that you will need to attend physically.  Ideally, your home campus will be where you have ready access to the greatest range of courses that align with your interests and learning needs.  We strongly encourage you to carefully review the program curriculum and graduate catalogs for both UNM and NMSU.
  • You should consider where you intend to conduct your field research. In most cases, the location of your intended field site should have no bearing on your choice of home campus.  However, if you intend to conduct research in sites very close to one campus, it may be beneficial to choose it as your home campus. 

There are many possible personal considerations you should make in selecting a home campus.  Possible factors include where your family lives, where you have current employment, where you have housing, where you want to live, and many others.  Both Las Cruces and Albuquerque are great places to live, with lots of amenities.  We encourage you to learn what the cities have to offer by visiting the official websites of both Albuquerque and Las Cruces.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission to the doctoral program must meet the general requirements for admission to both universities, UNM and NMSU.  Admission also requires acceptance by the respective graduate deans and by both departments.  Applicants should have a strong background in geography or a related field.  A master‘s degree is normally a prerequisite for admission.  Those admitted to the program from non-geography majors may be required to take additional courses during their first year to remove deficiencies in their background.  Any deficiencies that are identified during application review will be identified in admissions offer letters to successful applicants.  Applicants should have completed undergraduate- or graduate-level coursework, or have relevant professional experience, that shows general familiarity with academic fields closely aligned with proposed research topics.  For instance, an applicant who is proposing to study geospatial data processing methods should have some training or experience in computer science.  

Admission Standards

The admissions standards for the joint doctoral program are comparable to other geography Ph.D. programs. The following standards apply to all applicants:  

  • Applicants must have earned a grade-point average of at least 3.25 in prior graduate work.
  • Applicants should have earned GRE scores that exceed the 50th percentile for each test component. This normally means scoring at least 150 on both the Verbal and Quantitative portions of the GRE, and 3.5 on the Analytical portion. 

Exceptions to these standards may be approved, if there is clear and sufficient justification for an exception.  However, admission to the joint doctoral program is competitive and students not meeting minimum standards 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 and at NMSU.  There are no exceptions possible for applicants whose English proficiency test scores do not meet these minimums.

Application Contents

The first step of the application process is for you to do research.  Learn about the two departments and their faculty as you develop your ideas for possible dissertation topics, and career pathways.  You will need to develop an application packet that showcases your skills and qualifications, and explains why you think grad school is for you, and why our program is the right fit for you.  As you develop your application, we strongly encourage you to contact faculty whose interests align with yours, as well as the graduate program directors in both departments: Dr. Michaela Buenemann at NMSU, and Dr. Chris Lippitt at UNM. 

You will need to compile several documents for your application, and submit these through the application portal at the home campus you’ve selected, whether NMSU or UNM.  Your application will comprise the following documents:

  • Official transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended
  • GRE scores, reported from the Educational Testing Service (ETS)
  • Scores from English proficiency tests, if English is not your first language
  • A current resume or curriculum vitae
  • A letter of intent, usually 2-3 pages long, that describes: 1) your background; 2) your interest in our program; 3) your intended research direction; and 4) your post-graduation career plans. Additionally, in your statement, you should identify your proposed faculty advisor, and your proposed home campus (UNM in Albuquerque, or NMSU in Las Cruces).
  • Contact information for three people who will provide a recommendation for you. You do not need to collect letters of recommendation from these people, who will be invited to complete their recommendations electronically.

The application deadline is January 15, so please plan ahead so that your application is completed and submitted before this deadline.  Incomplete applications are not reviewed.

Application Review Process

You must submit your application only to the intended home institution.  However, since this is a joint program, the two departments work together to make admissions decisions. 

There are several steps in the application review process.  First, students must meet basic admissions requirements at both UNM and NMSU These basic requirements are effectively the same at the two institutions.  Second, applications that meet university-level requirements are given to the geography faculty of the home institution, who select the applicants they recommend for admission.  Third, 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 supported by both the home-campus faculty and the faculty in the other department.  Finally, the home campus faculty determine funding offers for applicants who have been offered admission to their campus.

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.  

For any questions you might have on the application process, contact the doctoral program directors in either departments: Dr. Chris Lippitt at UNM, and Dr. Michaela Buenemann at NMSU.