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Geography and City and Regional Planning

Meet the Chair

Dr. Michelle Calvarese

Dr. Calvarese was born outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  After high school, she attended Villanova University, majoring in Geography.  As the first in her family to receive a college degree, she then pursued an M.A. in Geography from West Chester University.  Her thesis focused on urbanization of Native Americans in the United States and she researched the economic and political forces that created dual societies in their new urban environments.  

After completion of her M.A., Dr. Calvarese continued in academics and started her Ph.D. at Texas A & M University.  While still a human geographer, her research shifted to examining the place-specific economic, political, and cultural variables that determine diffusion patterns of disease.  Her dissertation focused on HIV/AIDS diffusion in Uganda. She spent several months collecting data in Kampala, Uganda and neighboring towns and villages.

After completing her Ph.D. fieldwork, Dr. Calvarese began a cross-regional analysis and completed fieldwork in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.  It was during this research that she began noticing connections to disease diffusion and myth and ritual, particularly those relating to beauty.  She has since then been exploring global perceptions of beauty. In 2000, Dr. Calvarese moved to Fresno where she began her teaching career at Fresno State.

Another aspect of human geography that Dr. Calvarese is very passionate about is planning.  How we plan our communities affects every aspect of the human experience. She has taught introductory, as well as case study courses for the department. Her main focus is helping to create a bridge between planners and developers rather than maintaining an adversarial relationship.

Outside of academics, Dr. Calvarese is also an entrepreneur.  She believes that real-world experiences must be brought into the classroom.  She often connects her own experiences to lectures as well as offering students the opportunity to work on real projects.  She ensures that majors have the skills and internship experiences needed to make them employable after graduation.

If you would like to talk to Dr. Calvarese about pursuing a degree in Geography or City & Regional Planning, she can be reached by email at