Spatial Studies Minor

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Meet some of our students & alumni in the Spatial Studies minor

The USC Dornsife interdisciplinary Spatial Studies minor can leverage the impact you have with any major of your choice.  With this minor, you can use spatial thinking, analysis, modeling, and mapping skills to interpret and present information, especially complex data, in any discipline and career path.  Link spatial competency with majors in architecture, business, engineering, health, the humanities, journalism, the sciences, public policy, and the social sciences to stand out in the marketplace and in graduate studies.

The Spatial Studies minor requires a minimum of 20 units, consisting of one lower-division elective, three required courses, and an upper-division elective.


Major culture types, nomadic hunters and herders, peasant and tribal societies, sophisticated kingdoms; social, political, economic, and religious institutions.
Archaeology as the means of investigating our shared human past, from the origins of humanity to the foundations of current civilization.
Visual communication techniques applicable to the design of the built environment; drawing, photography, modeling.
Introduction to the ways architecture represents aspirations of culture, satisfies practical and spiritual needs, shapes the social and urban environment, and helps preserve the planet.
An examination of the physical and biological laws that influence agriculture, pollution, population dynamics (including humans), climate, biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function.
Methods and techniques employed in modern archaeological research, including the tools and principles of allied scientific fields and the impact of analytical and technological advances.
Impact of civilization on planet earth, and impact of earth's natural evolution on society: earthquakes, volcanism, landslides, floods, global warming, acid rain, groundwater depletion and pollution; mineral and fossil fuel depletion, formation of the ozone hole.
Climate systems from the beginning of earth history to the present; tools and techniques used to reconstruct prehistoric climate records; effects of climate variations on development of life forms on earth.
A thematic approach to California history from precontact to present; focus on peoples, environment, economic, social, and cultural development, politics, and rise to global influence.
The urban context for planning and policy decisions. Socioeconomic, physical, and spatial structure of cities: and the underlying demographic, economic, and social processes that drive their ongoing transformation.
Examination of the challenges of environmental problem-solving at the personal, local, national and global scales, focused on the issue of climate change.
Los Angeles as a metaphor for the American Dream, exploring the city's history and potential futures, including economic opportunity, social justice, spatial organization, and environmental sustainability.
Sociological and demographic concepts focusing on the causes of disease, health, and wellness. Empirical analysis of population composition and its connection to health.
The influence of sustainability science on public policy and vice versa in the context of social/ethical theories, analytical methods and solutions. Lecture and laboratory.
Introduction to the complex relationship between human development and natural hazards, which are increasingly causing damage and displacement to human populations throughout the world. Lecture and discussion.
An exploration of earth's water, ranging from water properties, chemistry, and pollution, to groundwater dynamics, watershed processes, and oceanic-atmospheric circulation. Implications for past and future societies. Lecture and laboratory.


Role of maps and spatial reasoning in the production and use of geographic information for representing and analyzing human and environmental activities and events.
The various ways in which geography can be used to acquire, represent, organize, analyze, model and visualize information. Laboratories are organized around ArcGIS software suite. Recommended preparation: SSCI 301L.
Fundamentals of spatial modeling and remote sensing and how to use GIS customization and programming to streamline complex spatial analysis and modeling workflows. Prerequisite: SSCI 382L.


Training of archaeology students in the use of GIS through the understanding of basic principles and theoretical restrictions of geospatial sciences.
Critical observation of the architecture of public buildings and places and the importance of design in promoting a better contemporary public life.
Emphasis on photographic storytelling in print, video and Web-based media; understanding of visual thinking and imagery techniques.
Introduction to graphic design, photodocumentation, and geographic information systems as employed in planning, policy, and development. Visual explanations. Computer and by-hand applications.
Basic GIS concepts, ArcView and other GIS software, planning applications and databases, basic cartography; students select, research and prepare a planning GIS analysis project.
Students examine images of urban America and use the camera to produce visual representation in their analysis of social relations.
Conceptual foundations and techniques of statistics and how they can be used with geographic data to produce actionable information across spatial science domains.
Intensive experience in local public agency, private firm, or nonprofit agency engaged in applied geospatial analysis, modeling and mapping work. Graded CR/NC.

Learning Objectives

1. Learn how geographically referenced data can be gathered and organized to support a large number and variety of collaborative projects.

2. Learn how to perform spatial analysis and modeling to create new knowledge across a variety of disciplines and application domains.

3. Learn how to make maps that synthesize and communicate new knowledge about places and people.

Research and Conference Opportunities

Work with world-class faculty from the USC Dornsife College of Letters. Whether in the studio, lab, or in the field, Spatial Studies minors benefit from unique faculty collaborations and an interdisciplinary approach that mark the emergence of the spatial sciences as one of the leading enabling disciplines in the 21st century.

Spatial Studies minors conduct research on complex social and environmental issues and can present their research at symposia and conferences.

Spatial Studies Minor Advisement

Talk with Dr. Laura Loyola, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Spatial Sciences Institute about how a Spatial Studies minor can enhance your graduate school and career options. E-mail her or call her at (213) 740-5612.