The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has taken transformative steps to fortify its reputation as the leader in marine education and research along the Gulf of Mexico with the formation of a new School of Ocean Science and Technology (SOST).
The new school, housed within the College of Science and Technology, brings together marine-related research and education programs under one administration and harnesses elements from key areas of the University including the Division of Marine Science (DMS) based at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County; the USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (GCRL) and Division of Coastal Sciences in Ocean Springs, Miss; and the University’s fleet of five research vessels.
The fleet includes the new 60- foot R/V Jim Franks, completed in February 2016, and the 135-foot R/V Point Sur, acquired by the University in February 2015. The R/V Point Sur is the only oceanographic class research vessel home-ported in the northern Gulf of Mexico east of the Mississippi River.
“Through the new School of Ocean Science and Technology, the University will position itself as a national leader in marine science research,” said Dr. Steven R. Moser, USM provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Our faculty and staff in the school will continue to provide high-quality educational and research opportunities in the northern Gulf of Mexico, allowing us to better understand our coastal resources and the associated impacts those resources have on our economy and community.”
Dr. Monty Graham, chair of the Division of Marine Science and interim director of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, will serve as the school’s director. Graham points out that the establishment of the new school reflects the nexus between USM’s identified center of excellence in marine science and education with an emphasis on stakeholder engagement and economic development.
“The ultimate goal of the School of Ocean Science and Technology is to increase productivity of USM’s research, education and economic development enterprises through enhanced coordination of research and education programs, improved opportunities for external funding, and increased focus on community and industry relations,” Graham said. “Factors we are using to gauge our success are increased graduate and undergraduate enrollment, increased scholarly output by faculty, and meeting the educated workforce needs of the growing blue economy on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Michael Jones, president of The Maritime Alliance – a non-profit based in San Diego whose mission is to promote blue jobs and blue tech around the world – applauds USM for what he believes the new school will provide for the Gulf Coast region’s environmental and economic sustainability.
“It is important and timely to see USM organize its already significant marine science efforts into a new School of Ocean Science and Technology to better focus on the vibrant Gulf Coast’s blue economy,” Jones said. “Enhanced interaction between academia, industry and policy makers at new, state-of-the- art facilities will promote innovation, better prepare the entrepreneurs and workforce of tomorrow, and create exciting growth opportunities for the region.
For more information about the University’s School of Ocean Science and Technology, visit www.usm.edu/ocean.
Continued Online at news.usm.edu