Department history

The Department of Geography was formally established in 1963 when Victoria College (est. 1903) became the University of Victoria. Introductory Geography courses had been taught at the College since the late-1940s, but the significant expansion of a Liberal Arts program in Human and Physical Geography awaited the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, the department has focused on several areas of specialization, including Resources, the Human Environment, Biophysical, Geomatics, and most recently, Coastal Studies.

The growth and development of the department was nurtured on the old Lansdowne campus during the College and early-University eras by Charlie Howatson (1949-63), Bryan Farrell (1963-69), and Charlie Forward (1969-79). Considerable expansion in numbers of students, faculty, undergraduate courses, and a graduate program followed quickly after the department moved to the Cornett Building on the new Gordon Head campus in 1966.

Since then, the department has flourished under the leadership of Derek Sewell (1979-84), Colin Wood (1984-89), Mike Edgell (1989-99), Larry McCann (interim 1999-2000), Dan Smith (2000-08), and Phil Dearden (2009-13).

From teaching a few hundred undergraduate and several honours students in the early 1960s, at present, faculty members teach and mentor some 1,250 undergraduates and nearly 100 MA, MSc, or PhD students. In 2008, the department moved into expansive facilities in the newly-built Social Sciences and Mathematics Building, a great boon to its teaching and research activities.

Reflecting its diversity and leadership, the department has spawned several multi-disciplinary units on campus, for example, Environmental Studies (1974) and Pacific and Asian Studies (1975). It founded a Co-operative Education program in the late 1970s. Faculty members have developed strong inter-disciplinary teaching and research ties to departments in the Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Humanities, and participate in a growing number of research centres, including the Institute for Coastal and Oceans Research and the Centre on Aging.

In 2002, Environment Canada joined with the department to create the Water and Climate Impacts Research Centre. Other specialized centres, laboratories, and research groups are a distinguishing feature of the department's recent growth and global outreach in the early 21st century.