Peter Nelson

Professor of Geography

 Fall 2017: Monday 1:30-2:50, Thursday 9-11
 McCardell Bicentennial Hall 313



Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1343 - The Migrant Experience      

The Migrant Experience
Migration is a powerful force shaping both individual identities and composition of communities. Some scholars have argued that mobility increasingly defines what it means to be modern. In this course, we will explore migration experiences through literary works ranging from The Grapes of Wrath to How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents. We will supplement these works of literature with selections of research articles from the social sciences that engage the questions and situations depicted in the works of fiction. Through readings, class discussions, and an array of writing assignments, we will gain a deep understanding of the migration experience as well as how scholars from different disciplines approach migration as an object of study. 3 hrs. sem. CW NOR SOC

Spring 2017

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GEOG 0100 - Place And Society      

Place and Society: Local to Global
This course is an introduction to how geographers view the world and contribute to our understanding of it. Where do the phenomena of human experience occur? Why are they there? What is the significance? These questions are fundamental for explaining the world at different scales from the global to the local. Throughout, we will focus on the spatial basis of society, its continual reorganization through time, and how various human and environmental problems can be usefully analyzed from a geographic perspective. (Open only to first-year students and sophomores) 3 hrs. lect./3 hrs. lab DED SOC

Fall 2013, Spring 2017, Fall 2017

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GEOG 0211 - The Global Economy      

The Global Economy
Today’s economy is increasingly global, as business functions are dispersed across many diverse spaces and at different spatial scales. In this course we will gain an understanding of the forces that combine to shape contemporary economies across space through an examination of both theoretical approaches to economic geography as well as empirical case studies. Students in the course will learn: neoclassical theories from economic geography that describe the spatial distribution of various economic activities at a local scale; how regional economies develop over time and gain/lose competitive advantage; and the origins of globalization and different strategies corporations use to expand into different areas. This course will combine lectures, hands-on exercises, and discussions/debates so that students have the opportunity to engage the material in a variety of ways. 3 hrs. lect. AMR NOR SOC

Spring 2014, Spring 2018

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GEOG 0212 - Urban Geography      

Urban Geography
Urban landscapes are the expression of economic, political, and socio-cultural processes layered on top of each other in particular time-space contexts. In this course, students will theoretically and empirically examine the complex and dynamic urban landscape. Students will gain a theoretical understanding of the location of cities within a larger global economic system of cities, along with the internal organization of economic, cultural, and social functions within cities. We will also examine the processes behind contemporary urban issues such as homelessness, boosterism, urban renewal, gentrification, poverty, and crime. 3 hrs. lect. AMR NOR SOC

Fall 2017

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GEOG 0213 - Population Geography      

Population Geography
Through a combination of lectures, readings, and exercises, this course provides background and analytical experience in the spatial dimensions of population dynamics. Students will theoretically and empirically examine geographic variations in natural increase, domestic and international migration, infant mortality, disease, and hunger. Topics will include the intersection of settlement-environment-disease, circular migration systems, cultural influences on demographic processes, and linkages between international and domestic migration flows. We will also assess various policy options and their effectiveness in addressing important demographic issues. The exercises will expose students to the vast amount of population data publicly available and introduce them to techniques used to examine and assess population related issues. AMR DED NOR SOC

Spring 2015, Spring 2018

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GEOG 0216 - Rural Geography      

Rural Geography
This course explores the intersection between demographic, economic, cultural, and environmental forces on the rural landscape in both advanced economies and LDCs. Students will be exposed to theoretical and empirical approaches to rural development in different international and regional contexts, as well as problems associated with these development paradigms. Particular attention will be paid to neoliberal economic policies and their impacts on rural areas, and the course will frequently draw on examples from New England and North America. Additionally, the world is becoming increasingly urbanized, so we will examine the ways people come to know rural areas through the media, literature, and travel. This course includes opportunity for service learning. (Formerly GEOG 0221) 3 hrs. lect. NOR SOC

Fall 2016

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GEOG 0413 - Seminar: Population Geography      

Seminar in Population Geography: Migration in the Twenty-first Century
On average, 20 percent of the U.S. population changes residence in any given year, yet the scale, geography, motivations, and impacts of these movements are highly variable, making migration an incredibly pervasive and complex phenomenon. Furthermore, international immigration continues to attract considerable academic, political, and media attention. This course will explore contemporary approaches to migration studies emphasizing the important insights and contributions of geographers. How have geographers examined migration, and how have geographical approaches changed over time? In what ways has technology influenced the motivations, frequency, and implications of migration behavior? What are the different impacts of migration on individuals, households, and communities? And, what are the new innovations in scholarly approaches to migration? Through a combination of readings from contemporary migration literature, discussions, and analyses, students in this seminar will gain an appreciation for and understanding of this incredibly rich and complex phenomena of migration. (Open to second semester juniors and seniors only; others by waiver) 3 hrs. sem.

Fall 2014, Fall 2016

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GEOG 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
A one-credit intensive research project developed under the direction of a faculty member. Junior majors only. (Approval Required)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018

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GEOG 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
A one-credit intensive research project developed under the direction of a faculty member. Senior majors only. (Approval Required)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018

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GEOG 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students with a departmental GPA of 3.3 or higher are eligible to complete a two-credit senior thesis. In order to complete a senior thesis, students must have a proposal approved by a primary thesis advisor and a secondary departmental reader prior to registering for the first 0701 credit. Upon completion of the thesis, thesis students will present their work in a public seminar and defend the thesis in front of the departmental faculty. Thesis presentations and defenses will typically take place during the final week of classes or the examination period. Upon completion of the presentation and defense, the primary advisor and secondary departmental reader will be responsible for evaluating and grading the thesis. It is strongly encouraged that students considering a thesis discuss their ideas with an advisor during the semester prior to registering for formal thesis credits. (Approval only)

Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018

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Research Interests

Economic geography
Population migration
Rural restructuring
Urban-rural linkages


Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle
MA, University of Washington, Seattle
BA, Dartmouth College

Selected Publications

Nelson, L., L. Trautman, P. Nelson. 2015. Latino Immigrants and Rural Gentrification: Race, "Illegality," and Precarious Labor Regimes in the United States. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105:4, 841-858.

Nelson, P. 2011. Commentary: Special Issue of GeoJournal on Amenity Migration, Exurbia, and Emerging Rural Landscapes. GeoJournal 76, 445-446.

Nelson, L. and P. Nelson. 2011. The global rural: Gentrification and linked migration in the United States. Progress in Human Geography. 35, 441-459.

Nelson, P. A. Oberg, L. Nelson. 2010. Rural gentrification and linked migration in the United States.  Journal of Rural Studies. 26:4, 343-352.

Nelson, P.B. and J. Cromartie. 2009. Baby boom migration and its impact on Rural America.  USDA, Economic Research Report #79.

Nelson, P. A. W. Lee, L. Nelson. 2009. Linking Baby Boomer and Latino Migration into rural America – a multi-scaled approach.  Population, Space and Place. 15, 277-293.

Nelson, P. 2008. Life course influences on nonearnings income migration in the United States. Environment and Planning A 40, 2149-2168.

Book Chapters and other Published Reports

Nelson, P. (forthcoming). The geography of rural aging in regional context. In Rural Aging in the 21st Century. Edited by Nina Glasgow and Edna Berry. Springer.

Barker, D. , A. Bonds, J. Devine, L. Jarosz, V. Lawson, L. Nelson, and P. Nelson. 2011. Rural Geographies. In Seattle Geographies, edited by Richard Morrill and Michael Brown. Seattle : University of Washington Press, 71-86.

Nelson, Peter B. 2006. Geographic perspectives on amenity migration across the United States: national, regional, and local perspectives.  In The Amenity Migrants: seeking and sustaining mountains and their cultures.  Edited by Lawrence Moss. Wallingford, UK: CABI press.

Book Reviews

Localist Movements in a Global Economy: Sustainability, Justice, and Urban Development in the United States, by David J. Hess. 2009. Series: Urban and Industrial Environments. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. In Journal of Regional Science 51,1: 210-211. 2011.


Amenities and Rural Development: Theory, Methods, and Public Policy, by Gary Green , Steven Deller, and David Marcouiller.  In Growth and Change 38, 2: 332-336. 2007.

Grants and Fellowships

National Science Foundation with Lise Nelson (no relation) (2009-2012) – Linked migration and changing labor markets in the rural United States - $340,000 to study labor market change in rural areas attracting large numbers of retiring baby boomers and Latino immigrants.

USDA Cooperative Agreement with John Cromartie (2006-2008) – Department of Agriculture. $50,000 to study the effects of baby boom migration on the size and characteristics of rural populations.

Recent Press

Program in Environmental Studies

Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest
531 College Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753