Guidelines for MGIS Students

Department of Geography Graduate Program

Departmental regulations

This information concerning the course-based Masters of GIS graduate degree program supplements the Academic Regulations detailed in the graduate calendar. The graduate calendar defines common rules and regulations for all graduate students at the University of Calgary. The additional regulations below are specific to students enrolled in the MGIS Program in the Department of Geography.

The MGIS graduate program is administered by the Department Head and the Graduate Program Director (Course based programs) in the Department of Geography.


Course-based program

MGIS students are required to take ten courses in their program. These ten courses must include the five core courses (see below). The remaining five options will be chosen by the student with approval from their Graduate Program Director, and will generally either build on the student's GIS skills or enhance their knowledge of their application specialty.


To enter the Core Courses (GIS: GEOG 647, Remote Sensing: GEOG 633, Spatial Modelling/Statistics: GEOG 639) the student must possess a strong background (e.g., minimum of one intermediate-level undergraduate course) and hands-on experience with the topics. The equivalent prerequisite would be two undergraduate courses for each core course topic area. If this background is lacking, the student must complete the "upgrade" course before enrolling in the advanced core course. These upgrade courses will count toward the ten courses taken in the program.

Core courses

The five mandatory "core" courses that each student in the MGIS program must take are:

  • Geog 647: Advanced Research and Applications in GIS
  • Geog 633: Research and Applications on Remote Sensing
  • Geog 639: Advanced Spatial Analysis and Modelling
  • Geog 681: MGIS Project: Theoretical Issues
  • Geog 683: MGIS Project: Application

Upgrade courses

Students without a strong GIS or remote sensing background will use their option courses to build their spatial analysis skills and experience.

  • Geog 684: Fundamentals of Remote Sensing
  • Geog 686: Applied Statistics and Geospatial Analysis
  • Geog 682: Fundamentals of Geospatial Information Science

Student report procedures

The First Term Progress Report is due in the fifth month of the student's program. The Annual Progress Report must be submitted annually every September until all program requirements are complete.

First Term Progress Report

At the end of their first term in program, all new graduate students are required to submit a First Term Progress Report and, if requested, meet with the Graduate Program Director.

Annual Progress Report

The Annual Progress Report is a requirement of the Department of Geography. The purpose of this report is to provide an opportunity for the student and their supervisor to review and discuss matters pertaining to their progress in the program. The review is meant to ensure the student receives evaluation and feedback of their progress in the MGIS Program, including guidance to improve their performance. It also provides an opportunity for the Department of Geography to monitor the progress and success of the students within the program.

Comprehensive oral examination and exit requirements

The advisor is responsible for scheduling the final comprehensive oral examination, at the student's request, once all course requirements are fulfilled.

Course work requirements

All course work must be completed with final grades finalized before the exam can be scheduled. This includes Geog 681 and Geog 683.

Examination Committee

The Examination Committee consists of the student’s advisor and two qualified examiners. The advisor is the Chair of the committee. Examiners that are external to the Geography Department must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.

Date and time

Normally, two weeks before the examination is to take place, the advisor is to arrange with the Graduate Program Advisor the date, time and location of examination. The advisor is to provide the Graduate Program Advisor with the names and contact information of the other examination committee members.

Formal notification

The Graduate Advisor will provide the examination committee members with the formal notification of examination and information on the courses the student has taken as part of their program. Course outlines/syllabi of the courses taken by the student can also be provided, on request.

Final project delivery

The student is to supply the examination committee members with their MGIS final project, once the formal notification has been distributed. The final project is normally delivered to the examination committee two weeks in advance of the oral exam, however, it may be requested earlier from a committee member under certain circumstances.


The comprehensive examination is designed to determine if the student has achieved a comprehensive understanding of the breadth of topics covered throughout their course work of their program.


The MGIS final project represents a major component of the student’s effort in the program and can serve as inspiration for questions for examiners. However, examiners are also expected to pursue questioning in any of the courses taken by the students. Normally, emphasis will be placed on the three core areas (i.e. GIS, Remote Sensing, Spatial Statistics). The chair of the examination committee is responsible for ensuring that questions remain relevant to the program

Oral evaluation

As the MGIS final project has already been graded in the Geog 681 and Geog 683 courses, the examination committee is NOT evaluating the project, only the performance of the student in the oral comprehensive examination.

Project presentation

The student may give a short presentation (15 minute maximum) on their MGIS final project before the questioning begins.

Time limit

Questioning must be completed within two hours of the start of the exam.

Pass or fail

The outcome of the exam is either Pass or Fail. In the event of a Fail, a decision must be made on whether to allow a re-take of the exam (only one permitted) or to withdraw the student from the program. If a re-take is recommended it must be scheduled no later than six months from the original exam.

Notification of results

Immediately following the oral exam, the student will be verbally notified of the results. If the result of the exam is a Fail, the student will be officially informed of the outcome in writing by the Graduate Program Director.

Final submissions

Within one month of the examination, the student must submit the following to the Graduate Program Advisor: (i) one digital copy of the MGIS final project, (ii) one digital copy of the final project poster. All keys, lab cards and any other University property must be returned.

Requirements satisfied

Upon successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination AND completion of all Post Examination requirements, the department will notify the Faculty of Graduate Studies that all requirements for the MGIS degree program have been satisfied.

Appeal policies and procedures

All students have the right to appeal decisions regarding their program requirements. In all cases of appeal the student must first consult the supervisor for guidance. If the concern cannot be resolved with the supervisor, students may submit a written appeal to the Graduate Program Director or Head of the Department. Written appeals must clearly articulate why the student believes a decision was unfair or made in error and must be supported with evidence. The department will respond to student appeals within 10 business days. If the student is not satisfied with the judgement by the department, they may advance their appeal to the faculty (students should consult the Graduate Calendar for details on appeals processes).

General information / administrative policies

Office space

The student's supervisor is responsible for providing office space to thesis-based graduate students who require it for the program-related activities. Normally, thesis-based students are provided office space within their supervisor’s research space. 

Keys / lab access

Access is provided to office/lab space as required.

Long distance calls

The department absorbs the cost of monthly rental on the office telephones. All long-distance calls are considered as personal charges. For information regarding long distance access, please contact the Department Manager.

Postal services

Graduate students have a shared space for incoming mail in the Geography Main Office. Incoming mail can be addressed to you, c/o Department of Geography, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4. All incoming mail should be related to program activities.

Graduate program contacts

Contact us for any questions you may have about the programs we offer..

Graduate Program Advisors

Ask me about graduate program advising

For Thesis-based students: Denise Retzlaff

For Course-based students: Federica Gowen»

Graduate Program Directors

Ask me about graduate degree requirements

For Thesis-based programs:

Dr. Gwendolyn Blue 

For Course-based programs:

Dr. Yvonne Martin


View some commonly asked questions you may have about applying for graduate studies in the Department of Geography.

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