Politics, Geography and International Studies

University Center Exterior

Midwest Undergraduate Geography Symposium

Since 2005, MUGS has been hosted annually by a rotation of geography programs in the Midwest, beginning with Macalester College. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus will host for the second time in 2024.  This conference showcases various aspects of undergraduate geography research, presented by students from colleges and universities in the upper Midwest.

Updates will be shared here on the event page. 

Registration and Abstract Submission

Registration is now closed.


All are welcome to attend! Registration is required of all attendees by April 19, 2024. Please use one of the following methods:

1) Register and pay online using the "Register" button on this page, or
2) Submit this registration form, and send a check for conference fees ($19 per person) payable to UW-River Falls to:

UWRF Geography
410 S. 3rd Street
River Falls, WI 54022

Abstract Submission

Abstracts are required from all students presenting a paper and/ or participating in the poster session and must be received by April 6, 2024. Please submit abstracts using the "Submit Abstract" button on this page.


Schools may send one check for all participants following the instructions above.  Those in your group may complete the reservation and abstract submission forms individually following the instructions on this page, or schools may opt to send registration and abstract form information for all participants in a spreadsheet via email to Please reach out with any questions!

Conference Schedule

8:30 - 9 am: Check-in, Light Morning Refreshments
9 - 10:20 am: Session One - Paper Presentations
10:30 - 11:50 am: Session Two - Paper Presentations
12 - 1:20 pm: Lunch and Keynote Address
1:30 - 2 pm: Poster Q & A Session
2:10 - 3:30 pm: Session Three - Paper Presentations


Keynote Address

Map to the Future: Spatial Science, Cartography, and AI
Ian Muehlenhaus, Ph.D.

This presentation explores the transformative impact that artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing will have on cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Beginning with a historical perspective on the evolution of mapping technologies from manual tools to advanced GIS, the discussion shifts to the coming integration of AI. AI will play an increasing role in enhancing GIS functionalities, automating processes, and refining data analyses. The talk will address the benefits and challenges AI technologies pose, including ethical implications and the potential impact of these technologies on the labor market. It will be noted that with any good there is bad – this isn’t techno utopian nor doom-and-gloom. It will be up to today’s young scholars to decide how these AI tools are used, because one thing is certain: AI technology and growth is inevitable. Attendees will gain insights into several probable futures for GIS, cartography, and the geographic sciences stemming from AI and technological developments. An example of the new Map Doctor GPT app will be shown, illustrating how simple AI tools are already changing the cartographic education playing field.

Ian Muehlenhaus works for Esri as a senior product engineer. Beginning as an undergraduate geography student at the University of Minnesota–Duluth, Ian got hooked and went on to earn his master’s at Penn State, and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Before joining Esri two years ago, Ian had 15-plus years of research, teaching, and university administration experience. His research interests originally focused on international geopolitics and persuasive cartography. Today, Ian publishes on pan-scalar map design and works daily on AI integration into GIS software. He is the International Cartographic Association’s Commission on Map Design Chair, through which he developed and released Map Doctor GPT – an app to help people receive immediate, expert-informed feedback on maps designs. Ian lives in Andover, Minnesota, and spends his free time culling buckthorn and doing jigsaw puzzles.

Directions & Parking

University Center
University of Wisconsin - River Falls
501 Wild Rose Ave.
River Falls, WI 54022

Google Maps Directions

Free parking is available on city streets and on campus. Campus permit and meter parking lots will not be enforced the day of the conference.  Suggested parking near the University Center includes: B, F, G, T and U Lots. Ample street parking will also be available across the street from campus, north of Cascade Ave.

The University Center building is #20 on the Campus Map.

Campus Map


Rooms are available at the Radisson Hotel River Falls for the nights of 4/26/24 and 4/27/24 at a rate of $129 per night + tax (present tax identification at check-in if exempt).

Call (715) 403-4006 to make your reservation in the MUGS conference block by March 22, 2024.

Additional hotels in River Falls include:

Country Inn River Falls
1525 Commerce Ct.
River Falls, WI 54022

Econo Lodge
1207 St. Croix St.
River Falls, WI 54022

Contact Us

Politics, Geography and International Studies
M-F, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
355-356 Kleinpell Fine Arts
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