Justin

Justin Holman is CEO of TerraSeer, where he leads efforts to develop cutting edge sales forecasting and inventory optimization technology for the Automotive Aftermarket. Prior to joining TerraSeer, Justin managed corporate consulting for the Strategy & Analytics division at MapInfo Corporation, leading major projects for retail clients including The Home Depot, Darden Restaurants, Bridgestone-Firestone, Sainsbury’s and New York & Company. Before that, Justin served as Vice President of Software Development at LogicTools, now part of IBM's supply chain application software group. Justin holds a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College, a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon and an Executive Management certificate from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

42 Comments

  • Anusha 3 months ago

    It’s always great to see your rankings Mr. Justin Holman.

    • Justin 3 months ago

      Thank you Anusha!

      • Dave Macee 1 month ago

        … sorry, I meant to say Univ of Texas at Dallas, not Univ Dallas (a private?, catholic university). It’s Friday nite and I’m a bit inebriated. : P

    • Dave Macee 1 month ago

      I could’ve sworn Univ Florida excised their Geography Dept years ago. Nope. Still there. Not sure what transpired but I’m sure there was a major
      dustup. I’ll have to research what happened. Actually interesting as UFL also has a big data program of some type. Can’t beat FL state tuition but I’m honestly sick to death of Florida. Wish I could find a suburban university besides UB in Amherst. Don’t think I’d go back there for a million dollars. For a number of reasons.

      • Justin 4 weeks ago

        Hi Dave,
        I once considered Florida to be one of the top applied geography programs around. Grant Thrall was a real estate location guru. I know he left some time ago but not sure what else may have happened. Not sure what you mean by “suburban university” but I think there are plenty of options. What about Georgia, North Carolina? Lots of options out there.
        Best wishes,
        Justin

    • Dave Macee 1 month ago

      … also I don’t see Univ Dallas anywhere. Interesting.

      • Justin 4 weeks ago

        Dave,
        Good catch on UT-Dallas. It should be included here. The Dallas faculty, last time I checked, was absolutely top notch. And if you’re laser focused on spatial statistics this might be one of the very top programs in the US and the world. But, generally, I recommend attending a flagship research University (AAU member) where your graduate degree will be more broadly recognized and where the entire University faculty will be world class. I don’t mean to “diss” Dallas, it’s an R1 University and I’m sure many amazing things are happening. But, outside of Texas, many people will either assume you went to UT-Austin or that your degree is 2nd tier. Not that they know what they’re talking about but the (mis)perception will probably be there.
        Best wishes,
        Justin

  • SOMASHREE MAZUMDAR 3 months ago

    Thank you so much, sir for all the information ..one more thing how do we approach the research guide as I have tried emailing them but they never reply back .Please do help me with this as I wanted to do PhD in Geography for the past one year but not getting any positive reply from the guides.

    • Justin 3 months ago

      Hi Somashree,
      You’ll have to be persistent. And you might try different angles. For example, try emailing an admin person in the Department office for general information. If you get a prompt reply you could ask about contacting a particular professor. You could also send an old-fashioned letter and then follow up with emails simply asking if your letter was received. Unfortunately, research professors have to be skeptical of the many incoming email inquiries, so you’ll have to work harder to get their attention than I did in the 1990s.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Ben White 3 months ago

    So okay, hrmm….

    First of all I suggest splitting the list into several parts categories. The reason for this is that at the graduate level, you aren’t really looking for the best overall geography program (usually). Rather, you should be looking at the best program for the discipline of geography you want to study, e.g. Human/Physical/etc. If you need to list “overall” that could make sense then I’d just doing a matrix approach to your evaluation.

    The second problem is that you have ignored all of the international programs. This is a major flaw, particularly given advances in climate studies and Earth-space sciences overseas. Spain has interesting programs in GIS and data viz. England has superior programs. The Benelux has superior programs, as does Japan.
    Something to consider.

    I do agree this is an important list. I’d encourage you to work with it.

    –Ben

    • Justin 3 months ago

      So okay, hmmm, Ben. Thanks for your suggestions. Sorry my list is such a disappointment to you. If you go back and read my collection of program lists/rankings for the past several years and read through comments I think you’ll find some of these criticisms are addressed, at least in part.

      Your suggestion to rank programs by sub-discipline is problematic in my opinion because what you really need to identify are high-quality individual professors doing research within a particular field of inquiry. Sometimes the best potential research mentor is working within a department that wouldn’t make the short list for a particular sub-discipline. Plus, where do I draw the line on sub-disciplines? Breaking into Human/Physical/Technical might yield some noteworthy differences but many top programs would be listed in all three. Going further into sub-disciplinary expertise spins out of control quickly. Check the AAG guide for an example of how many specialties there are to cover, quality check the specialty list for accuracy and currency by department (it’s difficult to keep tabs on all the changes), and then ask prospective students whether said list is helpful or overwhelmingly complicated. Once you’ve done those three research tasks get back to me and we can discuss further.

      I agree that it would be nice to include international programs. And, as soon as someone offers to pay for the effort I’ll be glad to dive into the onerous task of compiling an international list. The problem with an international list is that it wouldn’t really be terribly helpful to the vast majority of my readers who are primarily interested in US programs. And, inevitably, I’d get a flurry of knee-jerk comments like yours explaining the flaws in my approach leading to the omission of their home department.

      So anyway, hmmm, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Dr Morbius 3 months ago

    Boston University doesn’t have a geography department or degree in geography anymore so it makes sense that BU was not ranked, but it is odd they left out Georgia

  • Justin Schoof 2 months ago

    Thanks for the interesting post. For clarification, Southern Illinois University (where I serve as chair) participates in an interdisciplinary doctoral program titled Environmental Resources and Policy. We do, however, have a very active Master of Science track in Geography. It would be nice to see a similar analysis focused on the MA/MS programs.

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Justin,
      Thanks for posting and for the clarification re SIU! I’d love to provide more info on MA/MS programs but it’s a big task. And, as I say in this post, I recommend students go to a PhD-granting geography department if possible.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Effrain 2 months ago

    Hi Justin,
    I am gonna be a transfer student for fall2018 from college to university. My major is GIS, so what school would you recommend for my undergraduate degree? I am in San Diego region, and one of my options now is sdsu. Thanks!

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Effrain,
      San Diego State University is an outstanding option. In fact, they should probably be included in my rankings because they do offer a PhD program, jointly with UCSB. You’re fortunate to have a world class opportunity right in your backyard. If you want to stay in Southern California, you could also consider UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, and even USC. University of Redlands is a private institution with strong ties to ESRI. Lots of terrific programs to check out within a few hours drive.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Valerie 2 months ago

    Hello Justin,
    In 2015 you also broke up programs by focus area. Do you know happen to know which of these programs focus on Spatial Analysis/Statistics or using GIS as part of a Data Science program?
    Thank you for your insight!
    Valerie

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Valerie,
      The 2015 focus area suggestions (programs otherwise not ranked) are still valid. I’m not aware of any Data Science programs containing a major spatial element. That would probably require some sort of dual Master’s with a geography and statistics department, or comparable.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

      • Valerie 2 months ago

        Thank you, I’ll take another look at the 2015 focus areas.
        Valerie

  • Jim 2 months ago

    Hi Justin, thanks for the great post. I’m a rising senior in high school in Oregon interested in studying geography/GIS and looking for recommendations. I know it doesnt matter too much for the undergraduate level, and that both Oregon state and UofO have quality departments, but between the two which is better. More specifically, I am interested in studying the environmental and human side of geography, so which school better caters to those interests. Also if you have any out of state recommendations please let me know, it’ll really help in my college search.

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Jim,
      If you’re interested in environmental/human geography go to Eugene. No question. Given your stated interests you won’t find a better program out of state. Oregon State has always had outstanding physical geography but they’re not really a player in human geography.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

      • Jim 2 months ago

        Thanks for the reply Justin. This kind of surprises me because I’d always heard OSU was good at STEM and I considered environmental geography to sort of fall into that category. I may be wrong here though. This really helped me on my college search. I was leaning toward OSU before this because of their EnviSci program (my second choice in major) but now I’m seriously considering Eugene.

        • Justin 2 months ago

          You can’t really go wrong here. OSU is absolutely a top notch University and if you want a more physical science type of education Corvallis may be the best place for you. But if your primary interest is human geography you should go to Eugene. Good luck!

  • Nolan 2 months ago

    Hi Justin, these lists have been very helpful! I’m just trying to get a sense of how competitive these Tier 1 programs are… I have a degree in Environmental Studies and Econ and am working at a climate change think tank – interested in human/environmental geography. With a strong CV, recommendations, and GRE but a meh undergrad GPA (3.25), how would you strike a balance between realistic and “reach” programs?

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Nolan,
      Your GPA won’t hold you back, especially if your GRE is really strong. A top GRE will get you noticed and then the admission committee will like your CV and recommendations enough that the 3.25 won’t be a hindrance. So, whether or not Tier 1 programs are a reach will depend on your GRE more than anything. Well, it will also depend on the competition among applicants. I would think applications would be down over previous years when the economy was significantly softer.
      Good luck!
      Best wishes,
      Justin

      • Nolan 2 months ago

        Hi Justin,
        Thanks for the reply – and interesting thought on competition among applicants. I never considered the effect of the economy.
        One more question: do you have any specific school recommendations for someone interested in environmental geography? AKA, the intersection of human and physical?
        Thanks!

  • Hogeun 2 months ago

    I totally agree with your point that GIS is the past. Obviously, the spatial data visualization and machine learning are the future. Since it is a fascinated post for student applying grad school, I would like to stress your point again who read this post. Dude, GIS is a basic, it was a fancy technic about ten years ago- think beyond.

  • Hannah 2 months ago

    Hey Justin,
    Thank you so much for these guides. They are like a lighthouse in a storm. When I first was looking at Master’s programs, I turned to your blog first for some insight into the Geography Master’s game as I had no idea what schools were good or bad as I was coming from an International Relations Bachelor’s program from a small program up North.

    Now that I’m nearing the end of my master’s program and considering a PhD. I was wondering if I could get your insight on which PhD programs focus on primarily the application of GIS technology to social problems. I have looked at various programs (most notably UCLA and GMU) which have professors which seem to either exclusively focus on the qualitative end OR on further working on GIS techniques (like using machine learning methods).

    Thank you for all the advice you’ve posted on your website !

    -H

    • Hannah 2 months ago

      Sorry I neglected to mention that I am interested in political geography. For example, analyzing the conflict in India and examining influential factors in ethnic conflict.

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Hannah,
      So glad my posts have helped you! Your best bet for PhD studies is to find a professor who’s doing the sort of research you want to do, or something very similar. Have you read this post? http://www.justinholman.com/2015/08/12/seven-steps-to-finding-the-right-geography-phd-program/
      Your choice of advisor is more critical (at least at the PhD level) than your choice of department/program. Let me know if this generates more questions. 🙂
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Kevin S. 2 months ago

    Hi Justin. My son and I have been reading your blog the last few years. William has been very interested in studying geography in college and now, as a senior in high school, he is more excited than ever to get on campus. My sister lives in Boston so we went there for spring break this year. Fortunately, William discovered that the AAG conference was there at the same time and signed up. He loved it. He met tons of students at the poster sessions and sat in at least 10 or 12 presentation sessions. There are a number of colleges he wants to consider based on what he learned at the conference. I have a couple questions for you as I try to be helpful in his process:
    1) How should a potential undergraduate be thinking about studying in a geography department with a strong graduate program? Seems like it would be great to get exposure to the graduate students and faculty at these top-notch schools. Any particular comments/advice on this question? Are there benefits to studying in an undergraduate-focused geography department (for example, Macalester, George Washington Univ., and Vermont are ones he has talked about) and then going to one of these great places for graduate school? At the AAG conference, he really enjoyed the transportation geography-focused presentations he attended that were led by folks from the University of Denver. He visited Clark while we were in Boston and he liked it a lot. He commented that the guy from Clark who led the information session “should be paid a million dollars per year” because he might be “the best in the country.” Minnesota was one of the first schools he visited a year ago when I took him along on a business trip and he has had it on his short list ever since. He tends to compare any large school to Minnesota. So far, despite many comparisons, it has stood the test of time. The last time we went to UCSB it was before he was really thinking about colleges, but my grandparents went there so it has been on his radar for a long time and he would love to visit the next time we are out there seeing relatives. We are going to drive down to UNC to check it out in a couple weeks. There is one professor he really likes at Illinois, but we have never been there. I am just making the point that most of the schools he has on his list are leaders from the graduate perspective. And so as to not leave out the undergraduate programs, he attended several sessions at AAG that included people from Macalester and GW. He was very impressed by the people he met at the conference and was bummed that he could not go to every session.
    2) Not to tax your expertise too much, but any thoughts on undergraduate schools he should consider that he might not know of? He would like to go to a school in a city. He seems very interested in how people interact with cities and how that influences transportation, politics, and the human experience. He loves cartography. He will lay on the floor and draw maps all day – mostly networks like subway, train, or air travel networks. If I had to pin him down, I’d say he approaches geography more from a social perspective than a scientific perspective. Thank you in advance for any comments you might offer.

    • Justin 2 months ago

      Hi Kevin,
      If William were my son I would have him apply to all the top schools and to apply for any scholarships that might be available to attend these schools. I would include UCSB, Penn State, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado and any others from the 2nd and 3rd tiers that might be of interest. Then I would sit back and see who offers the best “deal” in terms of scholarship money and opportunity (some scholarships might open doors to special programs and opportunities not afforded to just any student). Hopefully that would narrow it down to 2-3 top contenders. At that point, if you can manage it, it would be good to visit the short list programs and meet with a professor or two so William can ask specific questions and get a feel for where he’d like to study, both in terms of the geography program and in terms of being a young man on a college campus. You might be able to accomplish some of this in New Orleans at the 2018 AAG meeting but being on campus might be more important than meeting professors.
      Hope this helps. Good luck to William!
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Jennifer Lucene 1 month ago

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks so much for your help with this excellent site!

    I am an international student whose major is Geographic Information System (both M.S. and B.S.) in China. I got my master degree in 2011 and has been worked for several years with several different jobs. Right now, I am a Java Developer for the back end of website for around 1 year. I really wanna pursue a doctoral degree in the field of big data, spatial analysis, or health geography in U.S.. And My GRE score is 155verbal+170Quantitative+3Writing. My TOEFL is 91 in total (19 in speaking section). My GPA is 3.4 for B.S. and 3.75 for M.S.. Besides, I have one publication about agricultural and environmental geography (first author published in 2014, sci). Can you give me some suggestions on choosing universities? I really got confused on which universities I can qualify. Can you suggest universities both on the website you list and others you don’t list here?

    Thanks a million!
    Best wishes!!

    • Justin 1 month ago

      Hi Jennifer,
      For GIScience + Health I recommend Illinois and Buffalo. Also take a look at North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado. It’s difficult to comment on your chances of admission. Overall, my guess is application volume will be down as the job market is relatively strong, so chances might be good. But it all depends on the applicant pool at each school. Good luck!
      Best wishes,
      Justin

  • Billy Burton 3 weeks ago

    Hi Justin,

    Firstly, thank you so much for compiling such a comprehensive list after all these years, they’re wonderful. I once considered doing it myself, but then I found yours!

    I applied last year to a few top schools, and I got into one but was unsuccessful with the others. I decided to wait a while, build up some experience and reapply a little later down the line. I’m now very well-versed in the world of US Geography PhDs etc!

    My issues is that I have a real niche research area, and I’m really struggling to find an appropriate home for me at the graduate level. My research interest lies in Disaster Risk Reduction/Response/Recovery, Drones/Remote Sensing and Humanitarian/development initiatives. I’m also a competent physical Geographer. I have a BSc in Geography from a top UK school, and I have the option of doing a MSc at UCL next year, but my heart is really set on US universities.

    I don’t suppose you can think of a good home for me? I considered the Stanford IPER program, and I heard Colorado Boulder has a disaster focus, but other than that I’m really stuck!
    Thank you for your time!

  • Kyle 3 weeks ago

    Hi,

    My name is Kyle and I am a recent graduate with a BA degree in Latin American Studies. I am thinking of going to graduate school in human geography. I was wondering what my chances would be for a tier 1 school? I have a 3.76 gpa, am near fluent in Spanish, and can very likely get good recommendation letters. I am also currently employed in a small research position in a Latin American country and my research now would be similar to what I would want to study. The only problem is the GRE — I have not taken the GRE yet but I know that I am terrible on standardized tests like the SAT and would probably not do as well on the GRE. What type of scores would I need on the GRE to have a good chance with tier 1 school (mixed with the rest of what I wrote) and if I get bad GRE results, do I still have a chance?

    Aside from that, what schools that you listed would be best for human geography (most likely would study something related to fair trade and rural social movements, Latin America focused).

    Thanks 🙂
    Kyle

    • Justin 3 weeks ago

      Hi Kyle,
      I don’t know what GRE scores you need. It will vary by program and depends on the applicant pool. It’s not impossible to gain admission with a poor GRE, just more difficult. You’ll need to convince the admissions committee you have the goods. One way to sway things your way is to spend time figuring out what professors/departments would be a particularly good fit with your interests and highlighting the fit in your application letter(s). Finally, gaining admission to a Tier 1 program is the wrong goal. Your goal should be to find the best possible research mentor. That person may be at the University of New Mexico. Don’t let these rankings serve as your only criteria for targeting program. Also, you should know that if your ultimate objective is a PhD you can usually move from a relatively unknown Master’s program to a solid or top-tier PhD program if you have the support of faculty who supervised your thesis work.
      Best wishes,
      Justin

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